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Missouri Valley Conference Weekend Recap (April 29th-May 1st)

By: John Lockwood

With more than half the teams of the Missouri Valley heading into Friday within one game of each other for first place, this weekend’s series gave some teams the chance to distance themselves from the rest of the pack in the conference standings. Creighton (30-10, 8-3) did just that, taking all three from a visiting Bradley (20-21, 2-9) at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, and putting themselves into sole possession of first with their 8-3 conference record. While in any other season I would have said that Southern Illinois (16-27, 7-5) would just be hoping to survive their series against a visiting Wichita State (28-19, 7-5), this year it was SIU who was ahead in the standings. However, the Shockers still took two of three from the Salukis, evening up both teams at 7-5 records—good for second place in the conference. Tied with them is Illinois State (26-13, 6-5), whose crowing of new all-time wins and saves leaders during their series win over visiting Indiana State (22-19, 4-7) brings to light their recent emergence as the best pitching team in the MVC. Right behind the Redbirds, Salukis and Shockers, in third place, is Missouri State (24-17, 6-5) who dropped two of two at Evansville (24-15, 5-6), as a resurgent Purple Aces team attempts to make a second-half run in the conference standings.

CBD MVC Players of the Week:

CU – SS Jimmy Swift, 7-13, HR, 4 2B, 9 RBI, 3 R

SIU – So. LHP Cody Forsythe, W (6-3); CG, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

Wichita State at Southern Illinois: Shockers Take Two of Three from SIU

The Shockers took game one of their series at Southern Illinois 9-6, thanks to catcher Chris O’Brien and centerfielder Kevin Hall’s three-RBI days. Defense was nowhere to be found in game one, as the Shockers capitalized on two infield errors to score two unearned runs as part of three-run top of the second. Much to the ire of Coach Stephenson, the Shockers defense gave those runs (and more) right back in the bottom of the inning, as the Salukis scored four unearned runs on two Wichita errors and a wild pitch. The Shockers would add three more in the fourth on four consecutive singles, and then trade two runs with the Salukis in the seventh to put the Shocks ahead for good. WSU starter Charlie Lowell (8-4), despite not being helped at all by his fielders, struck out 10 on the day and was only held to two earned runs for his eighth win of the season. Salukis’ starter Cameron Maldonado did not fare as well against his former team, only lasting four and two thirds, while allowing eleven hits and six runs (four earned) to drop to 3-6 on the season.

The Salukis and Shockers finished the series with a split double-header on Saturday, as the Shockers took home the series win. Game two saw a match-up of stand-out lefties in the MVC as SIU’s Cody Forsythe bested the Shockers’ Brian Flynn in Southern Illinois’ 4-3 win. Flynn (4-2) went a complete game eight innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out five. On the other side of the mound, Forsythe (6-3) also went the distance, allowing just one earned run on five hits, while punching out five and not allowing a walk. Each pitcher hit two batters. The Salukis got on the board in the second courtesy of a Blake Pinnon two-run single, and added two more in the eighth on a 2-RBI single by Nick Johnson. The Shockers kept the score at 2-1 for most of the game, and mounted a ninth inning rally by scoring two unearned runs, but outfielder Don Lambert grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

The Shockers clinched the series later that day, wining 11-5 in Saturday’s rubber match. Leftfielder Micah Green single-handedly out-scored SIU, knocking in a career-high 7 RBI with a grand slam in the second, a sac-fly in the fourth, a bases-loaded walk in the fifth, and an RBI single in the seventh. Second baseman Walker Davidson added 2 RBI on a 3-5 day. Freshman lefty Aaron LeBrie tossed 3.1 innings of one-hit relief to pick up his second win of the season.

Notables:

SIU – So. LHP Cody Forsythe, W (6-3); CG, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

WSU – LF Micah Green, 3-9, GS, 7 RBI, 2 R,

Evansville at Missouri State: Evansville Takes Series 2-0, Sunday’s Finale Rained Out

The Purple Aces took two out of two from Missouri State this weekend, as Coach Carroll’s squad won their second (and second straight) conference series of the season. Friday Night, the Bears got out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, and then didn’t score all game as the Aces received a solid outing from sophomore starter Kyle Lloyd in their 3-1 win to open the series. Lloyd (4-4) tossed eight innings and only allowed one unearned run on three hits and three walks, while third baseman Trent Copeland continued his torrid conference season with a 3-4 game. The Bears could not seem to get anything going against the righty, as only the first three hitters in the line-up managed to get into the ‘hit’ column. Closer Jake Naumann picked up his third save of the season.

The Aces clinched the series with a down-to-the-wire victory on Saturday, 5-4. Trent Copeland had another 3-4 day, with a double and two runs scored, as five Purple Aces had multi-hit days. Evansville got out to a 4-1 lead by the sixth inning, but the Bears pulled to within one in the top of the inning thanks to a 2-run homer by junior Brent Seifert, his eighth of the year. The Aces would add another run on a Jared Baehl triple which scored Copeland in the seventh, but the Bears would answer right back with one of their own on a Luke Voit RBI single through the left side in the top of the eighth. Things got interesting in the ninth as second baseman Kevin Medrano singled to load the bases with one out off of the Aces’ Naumann. However, the sophomore closer bore down and got right-fielder Spiker Helms to ground into a game ending double-play and allow Naumann to pick up save number four on the season.

UE – So. RHP Kyle Lloyd, W(4-4); 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

Jr. 3B Trent Copeland, 6-8, 2 2B, RBI, 3 R

Indiana State at Illinois State: Redbirds Take Two from Sycamores

It was a historic weekend for two Illinois State pitchers, as starter Corey Maines was crowned ISU’s all-time wins leader on Friday night, and closer Kenny Long was crowned the Redbirds’ all-time saves leader on Sunday.

Freshman DH Mike Hollenbeck powered the Redbirds to an 8-2 win in the series opener, knocking in a career-high five RBI as part of a 2-4 day. MVC wins leader Corey Maines (8-1) had another strong outing despite giving up eight hits and a walk, going 6.2 innings, surrendering no earned runs, and striking out nine. With the win, Maines moved past Doug Boehm as Illinois State’s all-time wins leader (22). Sycamore left fielder Kyle Burnham, who had a solid series, went 3-3 with an RBI double. Illinois State catcher Matt Mirabal went 3-5 with three runs scored.

The Sycamores bounced back in Saturday’s game two, winning 3-1 behind a solid outing from starter Sean Manaea. Despite allowing four free-passes, Manaea (4-3) only gave up three hits and struck out five through seven innings. On the other side, freshman righty Dan Savas had an uncharacteristically erratic start, also allowing four walks, but put together a strong outing for his team going six, and allowing only two runs on three hits. The big blow for the Redbirds came in the sixth inning, when Burnham, with no one on, hit a fly-ball that got caught in the jet stream and carried over the left-field fence to put his team up 2-1. The Sycamores would add an unearned run in the seventh to make it a 3-1 game. Redbirds’ left fielder Tyler McNeely hit a solo homer in the bottom of the second for his team-leading ninth of the season.

Despite leaving 13 runners on base and some shoddy defense along the way, the Redbirds’ pitching staff was able to shut down the Sycamore offense and allow Illinois State to clinch the series with a 4-1 game three win. Sophomore JD Learnard tossed 6.2 solid innings, allowing just one run on four hits. Reliever Justin Hauer continues to dominate the MVC, striking out two in an inning of relief work, while closer Kenny Long was able to make-up for some defensive miscues and particularly questionable umpiring calls by fanning three—including getting first baseman Jon Hedges to strike out with the bases loaded in the ninth. Long picked up his fourth save of the season, and 13th lifetime, which moved him past current Baltimore Orioles reliever Jeremy Accardo for the ISU career saves record. Shortstop Josh Colon went 3-3 on the day, and compiled a .550 average on the weekend. Credit the Redbirds’ pitching staff for keeping their team in every game this series, as the ‘Birds compiled a team ERA of 1.00 on the weekend, for a MVC-best 3.21 team ERA.

Notables:

INS – Fr. LHP Sean Manaea, W(4-3); 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K
ILS – Sr. RHP Corey Maines, W(8-1); 6.2 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, BB, 9 K

Bradley at Creighton: Jays’ Sweep in Omaha

Creighton took advantage of hosting last-place Bradley, taking all three from the Braves at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

Creighton got off to a fast start scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning en route to an opening 7-3 win. Bradley starter Joe Bircher was unable to replicate the success from his last start, as he only lasted five innings giving up four runs (only two earned) on eight hits. Right-fielder Trever Adams was 4-4 on the day, while shortstop Jimmy Swift went 3-4, with a double and two runs batted in. Left-handed starter Ty Blach was solid as usual, going six innings allowing two runs on seven disparate hits while striking out seven.

It was more of the same in game two, as Swift and Adams each went deep in the Jays’ 10-1 thrashing of the Braves. Adams’ solo homer came in the second and Swift’s two-run shot in the eighth. Starter Jonas Dufek, thanks to an over-abundance of run support, tossed a discreet eight innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk while fanning seven. Centerfielder Joey Bowens had 3-3 day with two runs scored and two batted in, while Adams continued to tear-up the Braves going 3-5.

Creighton then capped-off the sweep Sunday, run-ruling the Braves 16-6 in seven innings. Oddly, this game seemed to be a Bradley route at the outset: the Braves scored five in the fourth inning to take a 6-0 lead. However, the Jays scored all of their runs in the last three innings, including an eight-run seventh to put the Braves away for good. DH Michael Mutcheson went 3-5 on the day, with a three-run homerun and five runs batted in. Bradley closer Justin Ziegler only managed two outs as he gave up eight earned runs on seven hits and walk.

CU – SS Jimmy Swift, 7-13, HR, 4 2B, 9 RBI, 3 R
Sr. RF Trever Adams, 10-14, HR, 3B, 6 RBI, 4 R