TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Ryan Keaffaber recorded his sixth save in seven opportunities this season as the Indiana State Sycamores held off a rally by the visiting Western Illinois Leathernecks Monday for a 7-4 victory on Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium.
Keaffaber was the fourth Indiana State pitcher of the day and came on with two outs in the ninth and the tying run at the plate. The freshman left hander had two strikes on the Leathernecks Nathan Pollock when WIU attempted a double steal. Keaffaber caught WIU’s Chris Tschida on a pickoff attempt and Sycamore first baseman Manuel Estevez tagged him for the final out of the game.
“We kind of let it get away from us late in the game,” Mitch Hannahs, Sycamore baseball coach, said. “We just didn’t close the game the way we should. There is much more we have to work on with this team.”
Senior left hander Kurt Kudrecki (2-1) earned the win as he went 7.2 innings in allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits while striking out two and walking one. The Leathernecks were only able to get one runner aboard through the first five innings against the Sycamore starter. Trent Lunsford and Nick Kolarik each worked in relief.
Neither team was able to get a man on board through the first two and a half innings but the Sycamores exploded for three runs on three hits and a Leatherneck error in the third to take the lead for good. Brian Romero led off the frame with a single and advanced after Estevez was hit by a pitch and Derek Hannahs reached on a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. Landon Curry scored one with an RBI single, another scored when Cody Zimmerman reached on an error and the third when Jacob Hayes hit into a double play.
Indiana State scored three more times in the fifth to take a 6-0 lead. Hannahs led off the inning by reaching on a Leatherneck error and went to third on a one-out single up the middle by Zimmerman. Hannahs scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Hayes. Mike Fitzgerald then came up and hit his second home run of the season, a two-run shot over the left field fence, to give the Sycamores a commanding lead.
The Leathernecks got a run back in the sixth but the Sycamores got that back in their half of the inning when Estevez cracked out the first hit of his Indiana State career, a solo home run over the left field fence.
Western Illinois fought back with a single run in the eighth and then mounted a charge in the ninth, scoring twice with two outs and had runners at first and second after back-to-back singles. Keaffaber stopped the Leathernecks rally with two strikes to the batter and his first successful pick off of the season.
Curry and Hannahs had three singles each for Indiana State while Fitzgerald had a double and a home run, Zimmerman, Wampler, and Romero two singles each, and Estevez a home run.
Indiana State (12-1) is off to the best start in the program’s history through the first 13 games and is close to the best start through 17 games which was posted by the 1979 squad. That team started the year 4-2 and then won 11 straight for a 15-2 mark.
The current team has now won 12 straight games since opening the season with a 4-0 loss to Auburn in Port Charlotte, Fla., which are four short of the school record of16 straight set by the 1987 team.
This is the second straight series sweep of the young season after taking three in New Orleans and three in their home opening series against the Leathernecks.
The Sycamores are scheduled to host the SIU Edwardsville Cougars at 3 p.m. (ET) Wednesday before departing for another weekend road series as Indiana State visits UNC-Wilmington.