CHARLESTON, Ill. – Indiana State freshman left hander Ryan Keaffaber won his first game as a Sycamore and senior catcher Mike Fitzgerald went 3-for-3 at the plate as the Sycamores defeated the Eastern Illinois Panthers 6-4 in a mid-week non-conference game Tuesday.
Indiana State (24-10) will continue their non-conference road swing this weekend when they travel to Buffalo, N.Y., to take on Canisius College in a three game series. Eastern Illinois fell to 11-25 with the loss.
Keaffaber started his second game of the season and went 7.2 innings in allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out six and walking one. Nick Kolarik took over in the eighth and finished the game, allowing a run on one hit while striking out three.
“We have had him on starting pitcher counts since earlier this year,” Mitch Hannahs, Indiana State baseball coach, said. “He is going to start a few games for us later this season and did a good job tonight.”
Jacob Hayes got Indiana State rolling as he walked with two and advanced to second on a single to center from Mike Fitzgerald. Manuel Estevez followed with a single to left to record his fifth RBI of the season as Hayes scored to put the Sycamores up 1-0.
Eastern tied the game in the bottom of the first on a Caleb Howell lead-off single, a Mitch Gasbarro sacrifice bunt, a wild pitch, and a ground out to first by Demetra Taylor.
The Sycamores regained the advantage in the top of the second. Tyler Wampler led off with a walk, went to second on Connor McClain’s sacrifice bunt, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Derek Hannah’s team high 23rd RBI of the season, a sacrifice fly to center.
The Panthers had an opportunity to tie or take the lead in the bottom half of the second after Jason Scholl doubled to lead off the inning. Frankie Perrone reached on a hit that smacked the front side of first base and bounced back into play putting runners at the corner.
After Cameron Berra flew out to short centerfield, Keaffaber had an 0-2 count on Marshawn Taylor when he threw wide past Fitzgerald. Scholl attempted to score from third but Fitzgerald recovered, picked up the ball and tossed it to Keaffaber who tagged Scholl out at the plate. Perrone advanced to third during the action but was left stranded as Taylor struck out looking on the next pitch.
Indiana State used that defensive effort to keep their offensive going in the third. Hayes led off with a walk, his second of the game, and raced around to score as Fitzgerald doubled off the center field fence, his sixth double of the second and his 20th RBI of the season. Two outs later Wampler tripled off the centerfield fence to score Fitzgerald as the Sycamores went up 4-1.
After four innings of scoreless action, Indiana State struck again with two runs in the top of the eighth. Fitzgerald led off the inning with a walk and stole his sixth base of the season in eight tries. Wampler walked with two outs before Connor McClain ripped a shot down the fight field line and off the fence to score both runners.
Eastern Illinois also scored twice in their half of the eighth on doubles by Gasbarro and Valach, a ground out, and a wild pitch.
After holding the Sycamores scoreless in the top of the ninth, the Panthers made a run at Indiana State in the bottom half as Berra ended up at second after reaching on an error and scored on a Howell’s single to center. That was it for Eastern Illinois as the Sycamores were able to retire the side for the win.
The Sycamores scored six times on seven hits against six Eastern Illinois pitchers. Fitzgerald led the Sycamores with a double and two singles while Wampler had a triple, McClain a double, and Curry and Estevez had a single each.