CHARLESTON, S.C. - Clutch hitting and strong work out of the bullpen has carried the Indiana State University baseball team during the 2010 season and it showed again today, as the Sycamores scored two runs in the ninth inning and shut down two late rallies from The Citadel for a 4-2 win on Sunday, and their second straight road series win, at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park in Charleston, S.C.
Senior Ben Ferrell drove in the winning run in the series finale, plating freshman Jeremy Lucas in the top of the ninth inning. The bullpen combination of senior Kevin Mann, sophomore Brandon Dorsett and freshman Tyler Browning entered the game late and completed the final seven outs of the game to secure the series win.
"I could see it in [the team's] eyes that they weren't going to lose the game heading into the ninth," said head coach Rick Heller. "I could see that they were going to find a way to win it off their closer.
"I'm really happy with our team and how we played in the third game of the series. We played hard every inning all weekend and improved from last week. We got three quality starts from our starters and our guys never gave up. To beat a team at their place that entered the weekend near the top-10 in RPI was great. Hopefully we can carry this into next week against Wichita State at home."
The game remained scoreless through the first three innings on Sunday, before the Sycamores (20-9) drew first blood with a single run in the fourth inning. Freshman Robby Ort led off the inning with a double into the right-center field gap and would cross the plate when freshman Jake Hartley came to the plate. Hartley grounded a ball to second base, but an errant throw from the Bulldog defender allow Ort to round third and cross the plate for a one-run Sycamore lead.
The Sycamores would tack on another run the following inning, thanks to the pressure of senior Ryan Strausborger on the base paths. With one-out and senior Grant Grgurich on second base, Strausborger slapped a ball into the hole between second and third base, allowing Strausborger to reach first base when Grgurich was cut down attempting to advance to third. As Strausborger took his lead off the first base bag, a misplaced throw from Bulldog starting pitcher Michael Clevinger allowed Strausborger to reach third base as the ball trickled down the right field line. Strausborger would cross the plate on a wild pitch from Clevinger later in the inning, giving ISU a 2-0 lead.
That lead would hold until the seventh inning when ISU starting pitcher Jason Van Skike ran into some trouble. The Citadel (23-11) scored two runs in the inning, on an RBI ground out from Grant Richards and a double from William Ladd.
Van Skike was lifted with two outs in the inning, giving way to senior Scott Harlan, who gave up a walk, before Mann forced a ground out to end the inning tied 2-2.
After the Sycamores could not push any runs across in the eighth, the Bulldogs threatened again. This time Dorsett stepped up for the ISU pitching staff, retiring a pair of batters with two men on base to keep the game knotted at 2-2.
The Sycamores were not going to let Sunday's game go past regulation, however, plating two runs in the top of the ninth inning. Lucas began the Sycamore rally with a single to right field before the West Vigo High School alum moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior Phil Liniger and over to third on a fly ball to right field by fellow WVHS alum Jordan Pearson. Ferrell would drive in the winning run on Sunday, as Lucas scored on a single to right field to put ISU in front 3-2. Indiana State did not settle for the one-run lead, with Strausborger tallying a single before sophomore Kyle Burnam drove in Ferrell from second with a single of his own for a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
"We were put in the same situation at Creighton," said Ferrell. "We knew that we could hit the guy that The Citadel put out there. We've been doing it all year. We have a never quit mentality on this team and we were confident that we could score a couple runs late to go up."
Browning made sure there were no late-inning heroics from The Citadel on Sunday, throwing just nine pitches to set down the first three batters he faced for his fifth save of the season.
"I was really happy with the bullpen today," said head coach Heller. "Joe [Rodriguez] toughed it out yesterday so that we had everyone back today and feeling good. [Brandon] Dorsett was huge in the situation that he was in, [Kevin] Mann did well and [Tyler] Browning was back today with a live fastball, throwing well to pick up the save. It was great for Tyler to come out and shut the door."
"This was a big win for us," said Ferrell. "Coming into probably the biggest conference series of the year with Wichita State, winning two out of three games at The Citadel helps our confidence out a lot."
The Sycamores will stay on the road for one more game before returning to Bob Warn Field to host the Shockers, when they travel to Chicago on Wednesday for a non-conference game with Chicago State. First pitch between Indiana State and Chicago State is set for 4:00 p.m. ET.