TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - The Indiana State University baseball team plated five runs in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back on a rainy Saturday at Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium, defeating the visiting Missouri State University Bears by a score of 10-3 in front of 511 fans.
Senior Joe Rodriguez (5-1) picked up the victory on Saturday, tossing six innings on the mound while striking out eight batters, scattering five hits and allowing three runs. Six Sycamores took the mound against the Bears, with the combination of Rodriguez, junior Brett Merkley, senior Scott Harlan, sophomore Brandon Flora, sophomore Brandon Dorsett and freshman Tyler Browning forcing Missouri State to leave 15 runners on base during the game.
Indiana State (29-12, 8-5 MVC) broke the game open early, scoring five times in the bottom of the first frame. Senior Ryan Strausborger led off the inning with a single through the right side of the infield before moving to third on a double by sophomore Kyle Burnam. Senior Luke Fieser came to the plate next and grounded out to third, but the ball hit off MSU third baseman Curt Courtwright's glove letting Fieser reach on an error and allowing Strausborger to score from third. The play continued as the ball bounced to MSU's Travis McComack at short who attempted to get Burnam moving up from second to third, but the throw was out of Courtwright's reach and went into the Sycamore dugout, pushing Burnam home and Fieser to second base.
After freshman Robby Ort drew a walk, fellow freshman Jeremy Lucas picked up an RBI with a single through the left side of the infield to score Fieser from second. A walk by senior Tyler Graham loaded the bases, before junior Phil Liniger and senior Grant Grgurich tallied back-to-back RBI ground outs to put ISU in front 5-0 after one inning.
Missouri State (17-24, 3-8 MVC) got on the board in the top of the second inning, with designated hitter Tyler Paxson scoring on a bases loaded ground out by MSU catcher Brett Marshall.
ISU came back with three more runs in the bottom of the third inning, taking advantage of another error by the Missouri State defense. With one out, the Sycamores placed a perfect hit-and-run play together to put Graham at third and Liniger on first base. Grgurich delivered the first run of the inning on a ground out to second base. ISU put runners back on the corners with a single by senior Ben Ferrell, bringing Strausborger to the plate. Both Liniger and Ferrell would score to give ISU an 8-1 lead when McComack's throw from the hole between second and third went over the head of the MSU first baseman when attempting to get Strausborger at first base.
After the Bears cut the lead to 8-3 after the top of the seventh inning, the Sycamores scored two of their own in the bottom of the eighth on RBIs from Strausborger and Burnam.
Strausborger, Burnam, Lucas and Ferrell all picked up a pair of hits on Saturday, with Grgurich tallying two RBIs on ground outs.
The Sycamores will look for the series sweep on Sunday, with junior Jason Van Skike (3-1, 4.09 ERA) taking the mound against MSU's junior south paw Aaron Meade (1-3, 3.70 ERA). First pitch is set for 1:00 p.m. at Bob Warn Field and can be heard live on ESPN Radio AM 1130 & 1300.
Indiana State will also be honoring eight seniors on Sunday, as Ben Caple, Ben Ferrell, Tyler Graham, Grant Grgurich, Scott Harlan, Kevin Mann, Joe Rodriguez and Ryan Strausborger will all be playing their final games at Bob Warn Field. Senior Day festivities will begin approximately 30 minutes prior to first pitch.