CHARLESTON, S.C. - Senior south paw Joe Rodriguez led the Indiana State University baseball team to an 11-7 win over the host Citadel Bulldogs, knotting the non-conference series at one game apiece, at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park in Charleston, S.C. in front of 456 fans.
Rodriguez (3-1) nearly tossed a complete game on Saturday, going 8.2 innings in the center of diamond. The senior left-handed pitcher scattered nine hits during his time on the mound, allowing seven runs (five earned), while striking out a season-best nine batters and throwing a total of 144 pitches during the game.
"I'm a little sore," said Rodriguez, when asked how his arm was feeling after the game. "Lots of guys are stepping up with the bats and the defense made some really good plays behind me. As long as we keep doing what we can, we're going to give our opponents a hard time."
"This was a really good win for us," said head coach Rick Heller. "We beat a good team and a good pitcher. The offense stepped up after Joe [Rodriguez] struggled early so that he could fight though it."
The Bulldogs (23-10) took the early lead on Saturday, plating a single run in the bottom of the first inning on a single by shortstop Kyle Jordan.
Indiana State (19-9) would tie the game in the top of the third inning, taking advantage of an error by the Bulldog outfield. With one out, senior Ben Ferrell hit a fly ball to center field that glanced off the fielder's glove, allowing Ferrell to finish the play at third base. Senior Ryan Strausborger picked up the RBI as the next batter to plate, grounding out to the shortstop to tie the game at 1-1. The Citadel would retake the lead in the bottom of the inning, scoring a pair of unearned runs.
Rodriguez settled in after the third and the Sycamores' offense got it rolling too, with ISU taking the lead again in the fourth by placing four runs on the board. Freshman Robby Ort and junior Phil Liniger both reached base with one out, Ort drawing a walk and Liniger being hit by a pitch. Freshman Jeremy Lucas drove in the first run of the inning with a double to right field. After freshman Jake Hartley drew a walk to load the bases, senior Grant Grgurich tallied two RBIs with a double into the right-center field gap with Ferrell knocking in the final run of the inning on a sacrifice fly to right field to plate Hartley, giving ISU a 5-3 lead.
The Sycamores would add to their lead in the sixth inning again, scoring three runs on RBIs from Strausborger, senior Luke Fieser and Ort for an 8-3 Sycamore lead.
As the Sycamores continued to score at the plate, Rodriguez continued to set them down when he was on the mound. After allowing the two unearned runs in the third inning, Rodriguez allowed just two hits and two walks from the fourth inning through the eighth. The Sycamores would plate two more runs on RBIs from Fieser and Liniger in the eighth inning with the final ISU run of the day being scored on an RBI ground out by Ferrell in the ninth.
Rodriguez almost executed the first Sycamore complete game of the season, but ran into trouble in the ninth. Junior JT Stenftenagel came in out of the pen to record in the final out of the game to secure the Indiana State win.
The Sycamores and Bulldogs will play the rubber match of their three-game series on Sunday, with first pitch set for noon at Riley Park. ISU will send junior Jason Van Skike (3-0, 4.42 ERA) to the mound against The Citadel's Michael Clevinger (2-2, 7.51 ERA). The game can be heard live online at http://www.indstate.edu/wisu.