TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - The Indiana State University baseball team picked up its first Missouri Valley Conference win of the season after splitting a pair of games on Saturday with the visiting Illinois State University Redbirds at Bob Warn Field in front of 229 fans.
For much of the 2010 season it has been the Sycamores (14-7, 1-2 MVC) that have fallen behind early and found a way to come back late and win the close games, but that's exactly what the Redbirds (11-10, 2-1 MVC) were able to do in game one of the doubleheader.
Indiana State took an early four-run lead after two innings, thanks to five runs in the bottom of the second inning. With one out, freshman Steve Ball and senior Grant Grgurich knocked back-to-back singles before freshman Jeremy Lucas was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Senior Ben Ferrell brought Ball and Grgurich home with a two-RBI single to left-center field. Senior Ryan Strausborger and sophomore Kyle Burnam tallied back-to-back RBIs when they came to plate, with Strausborger hitting a single through the left side of the infield and Burnam reaching first base on fielder's choice with a successful squeeze bunt. Strausborger would score the fifth run of the inning by stealing third base and scoring on a passed ball by the Illinois State catcher.
The Redbirds chipped away at the Indiana State lead with single runs in the top of the third and fourth innings before the Sycamores scored another run of their own in the bottom of the fourth.
Strausborger led off the inning by being hit by a pitch, would move to second base on a Burnam walk and to third base on a fielder's choice by senior Tyler Graham. Senior Luke Fieser drove Strausborger in with a groundout to put Indiana State up 6-3 after four innings.
Illinois State tied the game with three runs in the top of the next inning. The game would remain tied until the Sycamores regained the lead with a run in the bottom of the seventh.
With one out, Lucas lined a pitch to left field that the Illinois State outfielder could not handle, allowing Lucas to reach second base on the error. Ferrell would pick up his third RBI of the game by driving in Lucas with a single to center field.
Indiana State remained in front 7-6 until the ninth when Illinois State was able to score two runs on the Sycamores' freshman closer Tyler Browning (0-1) and senior Scott Harlan to take the first game of the doubleheader.
Senior Joe Rodriguez started the game for the Sycamores, throwing a season-high 126 pitches. Rodriguez scattered nine Redbird hits over eight innings, allowing six runs (four earned) while striking out six batters.
In game two, the Sycamores again took an early lead, but were able to hold the lead for the remainder of the game to win 9-3 in the nightcap.
Indiana State plated four runs in the bottom of the second inning to take the early lead. Lucas led off the inning with a single and moved to third on a single to right-center by Grgurich. Freshman Jordan Pearson drove in his fellow West Vigo High School alum, Lucas, with an RBI bunt single down the third base line. Grgurich and Pearson would move up a base on a sacrifice bunt by Ferrell and would both cross the plate on a triple to left-center field by Strausborger. Burnam came to the plate next and drove in Strausborger with a sacrifice fly to center field to make the score 4-0 in favor of the Sycamores.
The Sycamores tallied two more runs in both the bottom of the fourth and seventh innings to stay out in front of the Redbirds in game two. Burnam and freshman Robby Ort knocked RBI singles in the fourth while Grgurich hit a two-RBI single in the seventh with the bases loaded. Indiana State tacked on one more run in the bottom of the eighth when Graham drove in Burnam with an RBI double.
Junior Jason Van Skike (3-0), senior Kevin Mann and Harlan combined to limit the Redbirds to seven hits in the second game. Van Skike started the game and tossed the first 6.1 innings on Saturday, allowing three runs (two earned) while striking out six.
On the day, Strausborger led Indiana State at the plate, going 7-10 with a pair of doubles and a triple. Strausborger, Ferrell and Burnam all tallied three RBI each, with Strausborger also scoring four runs.
The Sycamores will wrap up their March homestand on Tuesday with a non-conference matchup with the Cougars of Chicago State. First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. at Bob Warn Field.