WICHITA, Kan. - The Indiana State baseball team is in survive and advance mode for the remainder of the 2010 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and made it through their first game elimination game with a 9-7 over the Creighton Bluejays. ISU scored six runs over the final three innings of the contest to secure the victory and advance to another game on Thursday against Illinois State.
Indiana State (35-18) began the scoring in a game for the first time in the MVC Tournament, plating three runs in the top of the third inning. Senior Tyler Graham led off the inning with a double into the right-center field gap before swiping third base. With one out, senior Ben Ferrell singled to center field to bring home Graham and open the scoring in the inning. Ferrell would move over to third when senior Ryan Strausborger doubled down the left field line, before both runners would score on a throwing error by Creighton second baseman Alex Staehely. Sophomore Kyle Burnam picked up an RBI by grounding out to second, but Staehely's throw to first base went over the head of Ian Dike and into the Sycamore dugout to allow Strausborger to score as well, giving ISU a 3-0 lead.
That lead did not last long, as Creighton (27-25) responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Shortstop Elliot Soto picked up an RBI with a single through the middle of the infielder before left fielder Trevor Adams hit his ninth home run of the season, a two-run shot, over the left field fence to tie the score at 3-3.
Burnam made an outstanding defensive play in left field in the bottom of the fourth inning to keep the game tied at 3-3. With two outs in the inning Staehely hit a pitch from ISU starter Jason Van Skike deep to left field, but Burnam tracked the ball all the way and took a home run away from Staehely with a leaping grab at the wall.
Burnam came up with a big play at the plate in the top of the seventh inning for the Sycamores, driving in the first of two runs of the inning, as ISU took a 5-4 after the frame. Strausborger drew the first walk of the game by a Sycamore batter with one out before moving up to second on his 40th steal of the season. That brought Burnam to the plate, who knocked a ground rule double down the left field line to plate Strausborger and tie the game.
Senior Luke Fieser put runners on the corners with a single to shallow center field before freshman Robby Ort brought Burnam home by beating out a potential double play ground ball. Dike fielded the ball and flipped it to Soto at second base but the return throw was just wide of the bag and pulled the covering CU pitcher Bobby Lackovic off the bag as Ort hustled down the first base line to make it 5-4 in favor of the Sycamores.
The Sycamores continued to add to their lead in the eighth and ninth innings, scoring three runs in the eighth and one run in the ninth. Strausborger, Fieser and Ort all tallied RBIs in the eighth with Ferrell lacing an RBI double in the ninth for ISU's final run of the game.
It was good that Indiana State continued to score late in the ball game as Creighton attempted a rally in the bottom of the ninth as Adams hit his second home run of the day, this time a three-run shot, to cut the ISU lead to 9-7. But that was as close at the Bluejays could get, as sophomore Brandon Flora and senior Scott Harlan each forced one ground out to end the game.
Van Skike started and went five innings on Thursday, allowing four hits and four runs (three earned) while striking out a season-high eight batters. Senior Kevin Mann (5-1) kept ISU in the game and earned the victory, tossing three shutout innings. Harlan picked up the save by recording the final out of the game, his second save of the season.
Burnam led the way at the plate on Thursday, going 3-5 with a pair of RBI and runs scored to go along with the catch to take a home run away from Staehely. Ort and Ferrell also picked up two RBIs at the plate, while Strausborger stole two bases and scored three times. Of the 14 hits that the ISU offense produced, seven of them went for extra bases, all doubles.
With the win, ISU advances to play again tonight against the Illinois State Redbirds. The game will follow the elimination game between Evansville and Missouri State that began at 2:05 p.m. ET. ISU will send junior Blake Drake (3-0, 7.56 ERA) to the mound against Illinois State's Brad Sorkin (4-1, 5.74 ERA).