With a swinging strikeout of Southern Illinois’ outfielder Nick Johnson, Illinois State closer Jeremy Rhoades capped off an unlikely comeback and secured what, just a few months earlier, seemed like an improbable regular season title for his school. For the first time Illinois State’s history, they are regular season Missouri Valley Conference champions. However, just a few months prior, this season seemed like a “rebuilding year” for the team from Normal, IL. Before April 3rd, the Redbirds were just 12-14 overall and came off an embarrassing 20-2 loss to in-state rival Eastern Illinois. However, after April 3rd, the Redbirds embarked on what will be remembered as perhaps the greatest in-season turn-around in school history: the Redbirds went 24-4 through the end of the season, including a school-record 12-game winning streak. The Redbirds compiled a league-best 2.76 ERA in conference games, tallying 12 complete games (which was three more than the rest of the conference combined) including 10 shutouts (the previous Illinois State record was 4).
However, Illinois State’s first outright regular season championship almost didn’t happen. Trailing 8-6 in the top of the ninth inning on Saturday, the Redbirds were able to load the bases with no outs against MVC saves leader Todd Eaton. A sacrifice fly by senior Chad Hinshaw and RBI single by third baseman Zac Johnson tied up the game and the Redbirds went ahead on an RBI single in the tenth from true freshman Jack Czeszewski—his first hit since March 12th. Closer Jeremy Rhoades picked up the win with 4.1 innings of perfect relief. With the victory, the Redbirds have secured the number one seed in the Missouri Valley tournament next week, which coincidentally they will be hosting.
Creighton secured the No. 3 seed with a 6-3 victory over Missouri State at home. The Jays capitalized on a three-run third inning and some terrific pitching from their bullpen to take the finale of a hard fought series which saw them win the opener on a walk-off single from sophomore Kevin Lamb, only to lose Friday’s game on a go-ahead RBI single from Eric Cheray in the top of the ninth.
Elsewhere in the Valley, Indiana State finished their season with a series victory over Bradley—capped off by a 16-7 victory on Saturday which saw senior Robby Ort become the Indiana State career leader in RBI. As well, Wichita State wrapped up their regular season with a sweep of Big Ten foe Northwestern.
CBD Players of the Week:
Indiana State – 1B Robby Ort, 4-13, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R
Illinois State – RHP Dan Savas, W(9-0); CG, 4H, 0 R, 6 BB, 8 K
With the regular season now in the books, it is time to acknowledge this season’s top performers with the 2013 College Baseball Daily MVC Awards:
College Baseball Daily All-MVC First Team:
C Tyler Baker, WSU (.324, 10 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 41 RBI, 34 R)
1B Casey Gillaspie, WSU (.303, 14 2B, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 44 R, .445 OBP)
2B Jake Peter, CU (.345, 10 2B, 5 3B, 35 RBI)
SS Brett Kay, ILS (.309, 9 2B, 3 3B, 43 R, 32 RBI)
3B Zac Johnson, ILS (.322, 14 2B, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 48 R)
DH Robby Ort, INS (.311, 9 2B, 6 3B, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 10 SB)
OF Mike Tauchman, BU (.427, 15 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 40 RBI, .601 slg)
OF Eric Aguilera, ILS (.360, 77 H, 14 2B, 7 HR, 54 RBI)
OF Austin Montgomery, SIU (.349, 76 H, 17 2B, 7 HR, 46 RBI, .541 slg)
SP Nick Petree, MSU (8-1 ERA, 1.63 ERA, 94.0 IP, 18 BB, 107 K, 2 CG)
SP Chris Razo, ILS (7-1, 1.53 ERA, 76.1 IP, 69 K, 5 CG, 4 SV)
SP Sean Manaea, INS (5-4, 1.47 ERA, 73.1 IP, 27 BB, 93 K, CG)
RP Jeremy Rhoades, ILS (5 SV, 2-1, 0.77 ERA, 35 IP, 9 BB, 32 K)
RP Brandon Peterson, WSU (9 SV, 3-1, 1.24 ERA, 36.1 IP, 14 BB, 39 K)
College Baseball Daily All-MVC Second Team:
C Matt Jones, SIU (.302, 14 2B, 4 HR, 42 RBI, 35 R)
1B Kyle Stanton, ILS (.342, 18 2B, 3 HR, 39 RBI)
2B Eric Cheray, MSU (.306, 26 R, 16 RBI, 40 BB, .458 OBP)
SS Jake Welch, SIU (.321, 76 H, 51 R, 10 2B, 20 SB)
3B Koby Kraemer, INS (.295, 15 2B, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 28 R, .380 OBP)
DH Brock Stewart, ILS (.303, 8 2B, 3 HR, 33 RBI)
OF Kevin Kaczmarski, UE (.346, 13 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 45 R, 15 SB)
OF Tate Matheny, MSU (.342, 75 H, 14 2B, 4 HR, 39 R, 26 RBI)
OF Garrett Bayliff, WSU (.381, 80 H, 9 2B, 33 R, 32 RBI, 11 SB)
SP Dan Savas, ILS (9-0, 1.97 ERA, 91.1 IP, 86 K, 4 CG, 2 SO)
SP Cale Elam, WSU (6-3, 2.40 ERA, 82.1 IP, 26 BB, 65 K, 1 SO)
SP Kyle Lloyd, UE (7-3, 2.74 ERA, 85.1 IP, 30 BB, 94 K, 2 CG)
RP Jake Naumann, UE (8 SV, 2-1, 1.29 ERA, 21 IP, 3 BB, 14 K)
RP Bryan Sova, CU (4 SV, 1-2, 2.48 ERA, 32.2 IP, 3 BB, 20 K)
2013 College Baseball Daily MVC Pitcher of the Year – Sr. RHP Chris Razo, Illinois State
When Illinois State senior Chris Razo’s final season started, he thought he would be coming in at the end of games and shutting the door as the Redbirds’ closer. Yet after two months it became apparent that the senior was most needed at the beginning of games. So Razo became a starter, signaling a turn-around for Illinois State’s entire season. Razo started only nine games this season, but went 7-1 with 5 complete games, compiling a miniscule 1.53 ERA on the season. Perhaps no pitcher was more important to his team than Razo, and his transition to starter was perhaps one of the biggest reasons that Illinois State was able to transform what looked like a lost season into a Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship.
2013 College Baseball Daily MVC Player of the Year – Sr. LF Mike Tauchman, Bradley
Bradley senior Mike Tauchman has put together one of the truly historic seasons in Missouri Valley Conference history. Tauchman, whose .427 batting average led the nation, also led the MVC in slugging (.601) and on base percentage (.518). Tauchman was second in the MVC in runs scored (51), stolen bases (28) and triples (5).
2013 College Baseball Daily MVC Freshman of the Year – CF Tate Matheny, Missouri State
Missouri State centerfielder Tate Matheny was the heart of the Bears’ offense this season. The freshman led his team in batting average (.342), hits (75), runs scored (39), homeruns (4) and slugging percentage (.470). These marks also ranked first amongst Valley freshmen.
2013 College Baseball Daily MVC Coach of the Year – Mark Kingston, Illinois State
While Illinois State was picked to finish tied for third in the pre-season polls, through March it seemed like the Redbirds wouldn’t even manage that. However, the Redbirds, who entered April below .500, put together one of the more memorable stretches of winning baseball in Valley history by going 24-4 to finish the season. Credit goes to Mark Kingston and his coaching staff who were able to deftly handle injuries and mix and match personnel to transform their ball club and capture their second Missouri Valley Conference title in just four seasons at the helm.