We have reached the mid-way point in the Missouri Valley conference series schedule, with some unexpected results this season. With their second straight conference sweep, the Illinois State Redbirds—who were picked to finish fourth in the pre-season standings—have surprised many throughout the Valley by shooting to the top of the standings after compiling a 9-3 record. To no one’s surprise, right behind them sit Missouri State and Wichita State tied for second. The Bears were able to pick up another series victory by outlasting a scrappy Evansville team, while the Shockers slugged their way past Southern Illinois to add two more wins to their record. Fourth place Creighton played their out of conference weekend against the trio of Nebraska, Rutgers and #24 Oklahoma State in Omaha. Indiana State’s weekend series against UT Martin was canceled due to rain.
Perhaps the biggest surprise this season has been the stratification of teams into what ultimately amounts to two divisions. While Wichita State, Missouri State, Ill. State, and Creighton sit comfortably in the top-half, the remaining teams are a good distance away from even approaching them (Indiana State and Evansville are 3.5 games back of fourth place). While Evansville has been on the short-end of many one-run decisions, to say Indiana State has struggled at the plate would be an understatement. The Sycamores are hitting .241 as a team and rank last in almost every offensive category in the Valley. While they have been buoyed by strong pitching, it remains to be seen whether the team that was picked to finish third in the conference can even manage that this season.
College Baseball Daily Players of the Week:
Illinois State – SS Bret Kay, 9-15, 3B, 2 2B, 6 R, 4 RBI,
Evansville – RHP Kyle Lloyd W(6-2); CG, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, 12 K
Missouri State Escapes Evansville with Two
Missouri State (27-11, 11-4) traveled to Evansville (16-29, 7-8) this weekend and was able to take two out of three from the Aces. Game one’s match-up of MSU’s Nick Petree and UE’s Kyle Freeland turned out to be a high scoring affair. Freeland (3-7) lasted only two and two-thirds innings, allowing seven runs (six earned) on seven hits and five walks. Petree (7-1) also faced some trouble early. Pitching with a 6-1 lead in the second inning, Petree began to fall behind every hitter he faced. He subsequently allowed a back-to-back double and triple, followed up by a sac fly which allowed the Aces to get themselves back in the game. In the third, Petree began to regain his composure as all three outs came by way of the K. However he was not helped by his defense who allowed the inning to continue after a would-be double-play was botched at first. Aces’ first baseman Jonathan Ramon repaid the gift with a two RBI double into the left center field gap. Although this made the game 7-5, Petree found his stuff and didn’t allow another base runner until the ninth inning. Meanwhile, his offense had their way with Evansville’s pitching registering eleven hits and nine walks en route to scoring nine runs. Leftfielder Keenen Maddox went 3-4 with 3 RBI and freshman Tate Matheny notched his fourth homerun of the season.
While game two was a testament to the type of potential Evansville has flashed this season, with starter Kyle Lloyd putting up a complete game 12-strikeout performance en route to a 2-1 walk-off win. Lloyd (6-2) allowed just one run on five hits and two walks to keep his team in the game as they faced MSU’s freshman phenom Jonathan Harris. Harris, who had won eight straight decisions coming into the game, finally received a no decision after a performance that any other day would have given him his ninth straight win. Harris went seven innings allowing one run on four hits, three walks and six strikeouts. With Harris gone, the Aces seemed to have a gameplan against Bears’ reliever Grant Gordon swinging early in often. Of the eight batters Gordon faced in the game, five put the ball in to play on the first or second pitch of the at-bat. The free swinging almost led to the go-ahead run being scored in the bottom of the eighth, however with men on the corners, Ramon grounded into an inning ending double play. In the bottom of the ninth, Gordon hit shortstop Shain Showers with one out. After the runner advanced to second on a ground ball, redshirt junior Nick Hathcoat pushed a ball over the second baseman’s head into short right field. Showers ultimately beat the throw home by Dylan Becker (who always seems to be on the throwing end of walk-off plays at the plate) and the Aces walked off with the win.
If game two was a testament to the Aces potential, game three was a microcosm of their season. Aces starter Josh Biggs gave a gritty performance, eating up 7.2 innings allowing just two earned runs. However, one of those earned runs was an eighth inning homerun to Keenen Maddox which proved to be the go-ahead score. On the mound for the Bears, Andy Cheray went 6.1 innings allowing just one run on four hits, a walk and five strikeouts. Yet it was senior reliever Erik Shannahan (2-0) who earned the W after tossing 2.2 innings of one-hit relief, K-ing four. Once again, the Aces got solid pitching from their starter, keeping them in the game, but could not string together the hits in order to score runs. With Sunday’s loss, nine of the Aces last eleven losses have come by two runs or less.
Missouri State – LF Keenen Maddox, 5-11, HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 2 R
Evansville – RHP Kyle Lloyd W(6-2); CG, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, 12 K
Wichita State Takes Two at Southern Illinois
The Shockers (26-20, 11-4) took two of three at Southern Illinois (20-23, 3-12) to remain in the top three in the MVC. The series started with the Salukis taking a 5-0 lead in the sixth inning, and narrowly escaping with a 5-4 win. The Salukis were able to jump out ahead early when the left side of the Shocker infield seemingly forgot how to field the ball. Three errors and four hits later, SIU had a 4-0 lead and WSU starter Cale Elam was out of the game. On the mound for the Salukis senior Cody Forsythe was perfect through five innings. Forsythe (2-3) finished the game with two runs (one earned) on three hits, a walk and four strike outs in seven innings of work. Coach Ken Henderson turned the ball over to closer Todd Eaton in the 8th inning to pick up the save. Eaton ran into trouble allowing one run to score on a Casey Gillaspie RBI single. After Gillaspie was pinch ran for, DH Johnny Coy hit a 2-0 fastball through the left side to put runners on first and second, and Micah Green took a 2-0 pitch down the line to left to plate one more. The next batter, catcher Tyler Baker took his 2-0 pitch deep to center, but ultimately in to the glove of Reggie Troggio to end the rally. Despite allowing a double to third baseman Tanner Kirk in the ninth, Eaton was able to pitch out of trouble and close out the game for the Salukis.
In a rain-soaked game two, the Wichita State again tallied three errors, but this time the Salukis managed four costly errors of their own to do themselves in by the score of 8-4. The game was tied at four going into the top of the seventh, but the Salukis put together back-to-back errors that allowed the go ahead run to score and ultimately cost them the game. Rightfielder Garret Bayliff went 3-6 and Casey Gillaspie scored three runs in the game.
Four shockers had two-hit games in Sunday’s rubber match and senior TJ McGreevy gave four innings of scoreless relief to take the series with a 5-2 win. The game got away from the Salukis in the top of the sixth, as Johnny Coy led off the inning with a Ryan Rosthenhausler overthrow of first base. Two batters later, SIU actually had Coy in a run-down between third and home, however instead of throwing around the 6’ 7” Coy, Saluki catcher Matt Jones managed to hit the runner in the helmet with the ball, which allowed Coy to score and left the bases loaded. This in-turn allowed a single from Garret Bayliff to plate two and put the game, and series, firmly out of reach of the Salukis.
Wichita State – RF Garret Bayliff, 7-15, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R, SB
Southern Illinois – LHP Cody Forsythe W(2-3); 7.0 IP, 3 H, ER (2 R), BB, 4 K
Illinois State Sweeps Bradley, Takes First in MVC
Illinois State (27-16, 9-3) swept its way to the top of the Valley with its second straight sweep—this time against in-state foe Bradley (14-25, 1-14). In game one, Redbird senior Chris Razo continued his domination as a starter this season, tossing a complete game shut-out to pilot his team to the 4-0 victory. Razo (5-0), scattered seven hits and matched two walks with nine strikeouts. Shortstop Brett Kay started a torrid weekend with a 3-5 day, adding an RBI and two runs scored.
The Braves actually got out in front of ISU 5-0 in game two, however, as has been the case for Bradley this year, errors (five of them) combined with inconsistent pitching ultimately allowed their opponents to claw their way back and eventually out the Braves away 9-5. Down 5-0 with two outs in the top of the sixth, the Redbirds got four consecutive runners on base thanks to two walks and two Braves’ fieldering errors which led to two unearned runs. Catcher Mike Hollenbeck followed this up with a two RBI single to cut the lead to one. The Redbirds went ahead in the eighth thanks to a five run inning, the dagger coming via a Bret Kay bases-clearing triple. Relievers JD Learnard (2-3) and Jeremy Rhoades combined for four scoreless innings of relief. SS Bret Kay had his second three-hit game of the series, while left-fielder Mike Tauchman gave a terrify 4-4 performance at the plate for Bradley.
The Redbirds completed the sweep with an 8-5 victory on Sunday. Brett Kay finished his terrific weekend with his third three-hit game in the series and Eric Aguilera notched his MVC-leading seventh home run of the season. Redbirds closer Jeremy Rhoades also saw his streak of 24.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run come to an end after allowing an RBI single to pinch-hitter Elliot Ashbeck in the ninth.
Illinois State – SS Bret Kay, 9-15, 3B, 2 2B, 6 R, 4 RBI,
RHP Chris Razo W(5-0); CG, 7 H, 2 BB, 9 K
Bradley – LF Mike Tauchman, 6-11, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, SB
Creighton Beats Nebraska, Rutgers; Falls to #24 Oklahoma State
Creighton (24-10, 8-4) stayed home this weekend for their “TD Ameritrade Classic” tournament. In game one the Jays edged out in-state rival Nebraska (19-21) 5-3 in front of a crowd of 8,395. The Jays tagged Cornhusker starter Christian DeLeon (5-3) for ten hits and four runs before he was chased with one out in the seventh inning. This was more than enough for CU starter Tommy Strunc (6-1) who allowed just two runs on five hits in six innings of work.
The Jays capped off an exciting win against Rutgers 3-2 in extras on Saturday. The Jays tied up the game in the bottom of the ninth on a single from second baseman Jake Peter. In the bottom of the eleventh lead-off man Brad McKewon singled to centerfield and advanced to second on a bunt. First baseman Reagan Fowler pulled his pitch from reliever Nate Roe down he first baseline allowing McKewon to easily score with the game winning run. All this was thanks to the Jays’ bullpen who pieced together 6.2 innings of scoreless relief after starter Nick Musec was chased from the game.
The Jays barely dropped Sunday’s finale against #24 Oklahoma State, allowing an unearned, go ahead run in the top of the ninth for the Cowboys (32-11) to cap a 4-0 weekend in Omaha. Five CU hitters had two or more hits in the ball game, but the Creighton pitching staff couldn’t keep the Cowboys off the board, allowing three runs in the final two frames.
Creighton plays a midweek game against visiting Kansas State before rejoining conference play next weekend when they travel to Normal, IL to take on Illinois State.
3B Federico Castagnini 5-10, 3 RBI, R, 3 BB
2B Jake Peter, 6-15, 2B, 4 RBI, R, SB