TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - The Indiana State University baseball team has saved their best for last over the team's previous three games, scoring game-winning runs during their final at-bats during each game. The Sycamores did it once on Tuesday against Saint Louis and twice again on Friday, securing two wins, 5-4 in game one and 3-2 in game two, over Western Michigan on their final trips to the plate.
In game one, the Broncos (2-13) took an early lead with three runs in the first inning against ISU starter Jason Van Skike. Indiana State (10-5) would cut the lead to two runs after the third inning with a single run in the inning. With two outs, senior Luke Fieser reached base on a single to third base. With senior Tyler Graham at the plate, Fieser would steal second before Graham drew a walk. Junior Phil Liniger, who was returning to the Sycamore lineup after missing the team's previous two games, plated Fieser with a single through the left side of the infield to make the score 3-1.
The Sycamores tied the score during the next inning, scoring first when senior Ryan Strausborger crossed the plate on a throwing error by the WMU pitcher. After being hit by a pitch, Bronco pitcher Casey Webber attempted to pick off Strausborger at first base, but threw the ball past first and down into the right field bullpen, allowing Strausborger to hustle home all the way from first base. Sophomore Kyle Burnam followed with a walk and moved to third on a double by Fieser. Burnam would be brought home when Graham singled to first base to tie the score at 3-3.
Western Michigan took the lead again in the following inning, with a single run in the top of the fifth. The score would remain 4-3 until the bottom of eighth when the Sycamores mounted a rally. Strausborger drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on a single by Burnam. Just as he did on Tuesday, Fieser delivered the winning hit, driving in both Strausborger and Burnam with a single to centerfield.
Freshman Tyler Browning entered to close out the game, pitching a perfect ninth inning for his second save of the season. Senior Kevin Mann (4-0) picked up his fourth victory in relief by tossing two innings on the mound, allowing just one WMU hit. Van Skike started the game, and tossed six innings on the mound, allowing five hits and four runs while striking out four batters and walking three.
In game two, the Sycamores used three sacrifice flies, one in the second, one in the fifth and another in the eighth, to pull out a 3-2 victory.
Fieser reached base on an error in the second, and proceeded to steal second before moving to third on a groundout by freshman Robby Ort. Liniger drove in Fieser when he hit the Sycamores' first sacrifice fly of the game when he came to the plate next.
WMU took the lead in the fourth with a pair of runs, before ISU tied the game on a sacrifice fly by freshman Jordan Pearson. Ort, Liniger and freshman Jeremy Lucas loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back-to-back singles before Pearson came to the plate to drive in Ort to tie the game.
The score remained knotted at 2-2 until the eighth rolled around once again, with Pearson starting off the inning with a single up the middle of the infield. Pearson would steal second base and advance to third on a sacrifice bunt from senior Grant Grgurich. Strausborger hit the third sacrifice fly of the game for ISU to drive in Pearson to give the Sycamores a 3-2 lead.
Browning entered the game again and struck out the side to earn his second save of the day and third of the season. Jacob Petricka (2-3) earned the victory for ISU, tossing eight innings on the mound, scattering eight hits while striking out five and allowing two walks.
Over the doubleheader, Fieser tallied four hits at the plate and a pair of RBI. Liniger also picked up a pair of RBI in his first two games back in the ISU lineup. The Sycamores were active again on the base paths, going 8-8 in stolen bases, with Fieser, Graham and Burnam all stealing a pair of bags. On the mound, Browning picked up two saves and five strikeouts over two innings on the rubber.
Due to the expectation of poor weather entering the Terre Haute area on Saturday night, the Sycamores and Broncos will play a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 12:00 p.m. (Noon). Senior south paw Joe Rodriguez will start game one against righty Billy Morrison of WMU. Both teams have yet to announce a starting pitcher for game two. Game one can be heard live on 89.7 FM WISU and also online at http://www.indstate.edu/wisu, while game two can just be heard online.