ISU baseball team enjoys big season on diamond

One of the prime amenities available to Terre Haute residents is life in a college town. Though this city differs from others more often associated with that distinction, Terre Haute possesses plenty to enjoy.

A prime local attribute — Indiana State University baseball — grabbed a spotlight on a regional stage last weekend. The Sycamores generated lots of thrills in that moment.

ISU reached college baseball's "big dance" after winning the Missouri Valley Conference postseason tournament in dramatic fashion. The Sycamores won that tourney and an NCAA Division I Tournament berth by winning four consecutive elimination games two weekends ago at Normal, Ill. That championship performance sent ISU to the NCAA Nashville Regional in Tennessee. The Sycamores received the No. 2 seed in a four-team field that included the nation's second-ranked team overall — host Vanderbilt University.

Though ISU did not win the regional, the Sycamores proved their worthiness as one of the country's Top 25 college baseball teams.

Indiana State scored victories over McNeese State and Ohio State at Nashville last weekend. The losses that prevented the Sycamores from advancing to the final 16 both came at the hands of powerful Vanderbilt — 8-5 in a regional semifinal, and 12-1 in Sunday night's finals round.

Nonetheless, Coach Mitch Hannahs' team finished the 2019 season with a 43-18 record, the program's best in nearly three decades.

The stellar postseason run is no fluke. The Sycamores also qualified for the Division I NCAA Tournament most recently in 2014 and 2012. The 21st-century berths revived a strong program history that included NCAA Tournament berths in 1995, 1989, 1987, 1986, 1984, 1983 and 1979. The season that gave future ISU teams legitimate hopes that "anything can happen" was 1986, when Coach Bob Warn's club reached the pinnacle — the College World Series.

Could that happen again in the near future? ISU's performance in this season shows the program is within striking distance of such lofty feats.

The team plays nearly a dozen and a half games each season at Bob Warn Field. Numerous future major leaguers have performed at that ballpark, from the Montreal Expos' Wally Johnson and Chicago Cubs' Bill Hayes in the 1970s to current Oakland A's pitcher Sean Manaea. Only time will tell whether any of the 2019 Sycamores will reach the bigs, but either way those student-athletes have shown the community a good time this season.

As a result, Hauteans can look forward to next spring with high hopes. In the meantime, Coach Hannahs and his players deserve a final round of applause from the town.