PEORIA, Ill. - The Indiana State baseball team moved one step closer to securing the third seed in next week's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with a 7-3 win on Friday against the Bradley Braves. The Sycamores broke a 2-2 tie with one run in the seventh inning before scoring five runs over the final three innings to defeat the Braves.
Indiana State (33-16, 10-9 MVC) struck first on Friday, scoring a single run in the top of the fourth inning. To lead off the inning, sophomore Kyle Burnam, senior Luke Fieser and freshman Robby Ort all tallied singles, with Ort's driving in Burnam from second base. The Sycamores could not get any more runs out of the inning, however, as BU starter Joe Bircher struck out two batters and caught Fieser coming home on an attempted squeeze bunt by senior Tyler Graham to get out of the jam.
That slim lead did not last long, as Bradley (19-30, 7-13 MVC) scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth on a two-RBI double down the left field line by designated hitter Brad Kimball to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.
The Sycamores knotted the game back up in the following inning, doing all of their work with two outs. Senior Ryan Strausborger reached first with a bunt single to Bircher on the mound, who then threw the ball into right field allowing Strausborger to continue to second. After Burnam drew a walk and Strausborger stole third, Fieser singled through the left side of the infield to tie the game at 2-2.
The game remained tied until the seventh when the Sycamores took the lead against the Bradley bullpen. Strausborger greeted BU reliever Brad Altbach with a double into the left field corner on the first pitch of the at-bat. Strausborger would move to third on a passed ball before Burnam drove him in with a sacrifice fly to left field to give ISU a 3-2 lead.
Indiana State added three more insurance runs in the top of the eighth inning, with freshman Jordan Pearson taking part in all three runs. With freshman Jeremy Lucas and Graham on base with one out, the West Vigo High School graduate laced a single over the head of Rob Elliott at third base to plate two runs. After a single by senior Ben Ferrell and a pop out by Strausborger, Burnam came to plate with runners on first and second with two outs. Burnam grounded a ball into the hole between first and second base that a diving second baseman Matt Fritz kept on the infield, but Pearson never stopped running from second base and, with the help of an excellent hook-slide, just beat the throw home to put the Sycamores in front 6-2.
ISU would tack on one more run in the top of the ninth inning, when Lucas drove in senior Grant Grgurich from second base.
Senior Joe Rodriguez improved to 7-1 on the mound by pitching eight innings on Friday. The ISU south paw struck out eight batters while walking just one.
Fieser and Lucas led ISU at the plate on Friday, with each tallying three hits. Burnam and Pearson each drove in two runs at the plate to assist ISU in the win.
The Sycamores will look to lock up the third seed in the MVC Tournament with a win on Saturday. Regardless on games currently in progress on Friday and outcomes on Saturday, a win over Bradley tomorrow will give Indiana State the third seed on Tuesday. ISU will send junior Jason Van Skike (3-3, 4.66 ERA) to the mound against Bradley's Kori Jensen (5-3, 6.75 ERA).
Postgame comments from head coach Rick Heller:
Postgame comments from senior Luke Fieser: