The leadoff bullets were flying around at Evansville’s Charles Braun Stadium as Indiana State and Evansville locked up in a Missouri Valley Conference baseball series decider on Sunday.
It was Evansville who managed to score some hits with their leadoff shots, while the Sycamores couldn’t find the mark.
Evansville had its leadoff runner on in seven of eight innings, and on three of the occasions the Purple Aces got their runner home. It proved to be enough as the Aces won the game and the series with a 5-2 victory.
It was a frustrating day for the Sycamores. ISU right fielder Jacob Hayes, who went 2 for 4 with a triple, illustrated it best.
“I was talking to Landon [Curry] in the outfield during a pitching change. Their center fielder? We played him pull all weekend and he gets a double down the left-field line. The next time we shift and he hits it into the right-center gap. Everything we tried to do, they did the opposite. It was one of those days,” Hayes said.
ISU (15-6, 1-2) had its chances too. The Sycamores had their leadoff runner on four times and in two other innings had runners in scoring position, but ISU couldn’t string together the hits needed to make enough out of it. ISU also couldn’t take advantage of its speed on the basepaths.
“We had opportunities and the one thing to remember is that it’s a learning curve. We didn’t utilize our speed this weekend and it hurt us,” ISU coach Mitch Hannahs said. “It’s something we have to do, even when we’re behind in games. We have to hit and run, we have to steal bases, we have to do little things.”
ISU starter Kurt Kudrecki didn’t pitch poorly despite the leadoff hitter success for the Aces.
Kudrecki allowed four runs in five-plus innings of work — three were scored in Evansville’s big three-run sixth.
“The one thing we did very well [Saturday] that we struggled with [Sunday] was controlling the inner portion of the plate. That inability to control the inside corner allowed them to lean over and get some pretty good swings,” Hannahs said.
Evansville got on the board in the second with a leadoff triple by Boomer Synek — he went 4 for 4 — and sacrifice fly by Jonathan Ramon. The Aces added one more in the third when Jarod Perry led off with a single and scored on a Kevin Kaczmarski sky-high double that was inches fair down the left-field line to make it 2-0.
ISU’s best chance for a response went by the boards in the fourth. Hayes led off with triple, but was stranded at third as the Sycamores couldn’t advance him.
Evansville (12-7, 2-1) broke it open in the sixth. The Aces opened the inning with three base hits — a double by Kaczmarski, a RBI single by Kyle Pollack and a single by Synek. Pollack scored on a groundout and Synek came home on a RBI single by Eric McKibban to make it 5-0.
ISU got one back in the sixth when Jeff Zahn doubled and scored on a wild pitch. Mike Fitzgerald’s solo home run to right made it 5-2 in the eighth. ISU had the tying run at the plate in the ninth, but couldn’t get the breakthrough hit.
Derek Hannahs was the only other ISU player besides Hayes with a multi-hit game, as he went 3 for 4.
It’s ISU’s first series loss of the year. The Sycamores host Indiana on Wednesday and Illinois State in their first Missouri Valley Conference home series on Friday.
Hayes is confident that the Sycamores will bounce back from their first bit of adversity.
“The coaches have done a good job getting us to hate the taste of losing. I think we’re really going to respond well. I think losing the series will put a spark in us,” Hayes said.
INDIANA STATE (ab-h-r-bi) — Curry cf 5-0-1-0, Zimmerman 3b 5-0-0-0, Hayes rf 4-0-2-0, Fitzgerald c 2-1-1-1, Romero dh 4-0-0-0, Wampler ss 4-0-0-0, Zahn 1b 4-1-1-0, Hannahs 2b 4-0-3-0, McClain lf 2-0-0-0. Totals 34-2-8-1.
EVANSVILLE (ab-h-r-bi) — Jyawook lf 2-0-1-0, Mahon 3b 2-0-0-0, Kaczmarski cf 4-1-2-1, Pollock c 4-1-2-1, Synek 2b 4-2-40, Ramon dh 3-0-0-2, McKibban 1b 4-0-1-1, Showers ss 4-0-0-0, Perry rf 2-1-1-0. Totals 34-2-8-1.
Indiana State 000 000 110 — 2
Evansville 011 003 00x — 5
DP — ISU 2, UE 1. LOB — ISU 9, UE 6. 2B — Zahn (3), Kaczmarski 2 (10). 3B — Hayes (4), Synek (1). HR — Fitzgerald (3). S — Jyawook (1), Mahon 2 (3). SF — Ramon (2).
Indiana State IP H R ER BB SO
Kudrecki (L, 3-2) 5 7 4 4 1 0
Keaffaber 3 4 1 1 0 0
Evansville IP H R ER BB SO
Isom (W, 2-1) 5 3 0 0 2 3
Miller 1 1 0 0 0 0
Gilligan 1 2 1 1 0 0
Johns (S 6) 2 2 1 1 1 0
WP — Gilligan (1), Johns (2). HBP — by Miller (Fitzgerald), by Keaffaber (Perry). A — 209. T — 2:24.
Next — ISU (15-6, 1-2) plays host to Indiana on Wednesday. Evansville (12-7, 2-1) plays host to Austin Peay on Tuesday.