NORMAL, Ill. – The sixth-seeded Indiana State baseball team opened the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with a 4-3 victory over the No. 3 Creighton Bluejays from Duffy Bass Field in Normal, Ill., on Tuesday morning.
With the victory, Indiana State (25-23) advances to face No. 7 Southern Illinois on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. (ET). The Salukis topped No. 2 Wichita State, 5-1, behind a complete game from senior left-handed pitcher Cody Forsythe.
Junior Sean Manaea was set to start the game for Indiana State, but was lifted from the game after feeling tightness in his left shoulder when throwing warmup pitches in the bottom of the first inning. Junior Josh Negele (3-1) went on the start the game for the Sycamores, tossing a career-high 5.1 innings while allowing seven hits and one run with four strikeouts.
Indiana State took the lead in the second inning, as Creighton starter Tommy Strunc walked four batters in the frame. Sophomore Landon Curry picked up a RBI in the inning, grounding out with the bases loaded to plate junior Mike Fitzgerald from third. Strunc (7-3) was pulled with two outs in the second inning, as Creighton (30-17) and Indiana State both had to turn to their bullpens early in the game.
The Sycamores added another run in the third inning as redshirt sophomore Connor McClain (single) and Fitzgerald (double) both reached with one out before redshirt sophomore Jacob Hayes grounded out to second for a 2-0 ISU lead.
Negele pitched into the sixth inning on Tuesday, before Creighton tallied three consecutive singles with one out. The Bluejays touched the scoreboard on a sacrifice fly by Alex Staehely.
The Sycamore bullpen was able to work around trouble in each of the final four innings, as the Bluejays left two runners on base in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Indiana State tacked on two key insurance runs in the top of the eighth inning, as redshirt senior Koby Kraemer and Fitzgerald both hit solo home runs to left field to push ISU’s lead to 4-1 over CU. Those runs loomed large as the Bluejays rallied in the bottom of the ninth, plating two runs on a two-out single to left-center by Mike Gerber. Redshirt sophomore Greg Kuhlman earned his second save of the season in the ninth, as Staehely grounded out to Kraemer at third base to end the game.
Curry (2-for-5, RBI) and Fitzgerald (2-for-3, RBI) both tallied multi-hit games for Indiana State with both Fitzgerald and Kraemer hitting their third home run of the season. The Sycamores have hit 12 home runs during the 2013 season, six in their first 44 games and six in their last four games since last Thursday against Bradley.
Indiana State improves to 5-1 under fourth-year head coach Rick Heller in the 9:00 a.m. game at the conference tournament, including three wins over Creighton.
Wednesday’s game against the Salukis can be heard live on the Nelligan Sports Marketing Radio Network and on WPRS AM 1440 with live video provided by the Missouri Valley Conference through ESPN3.com. First pitch against either the Shockers or Salukis is set for 5:00 p.m. (ET), 4:00 p.m. locally in Normal.