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Sycamores Win Seventh Straight MVC Game, Defeat Salukis 5-4
Courtesy:ISU Athletics
Courtesy: ISU Athletics
Brady Shoemaker was 4-for-4 with a home run...

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. Indiana State headed into Friday’s series opener against Southern Illinois winners of six straight Missouri Valley Conference games.  Thanks to a strong pitching effort from starter Eric Valdez and some timely hitting, the Sycamores (21-13, 8-3 MVC) picked up a 5-4 win over the Salukis (15-21, 3-6 MVC) for their seventh-straight conference win.


The seven-game Valley winning streak is the team’s longest since 1998, when they also put together a seven-game run.  Valdez (3-2) was the catalyst on the mound, as he allowed just three earned runs on six hits while striking out six Salukis in 8.1 innings on the mound.  Matt Shelton later came on in the ninth inning and got the final two outs for his third save of the season.  SIU starter Adam Curynski (1-4) suffered the loss, after giving up four runs (two earned) on seven hits in six innings of work.


ISU took an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning thanks to a clutch two-out rally at the dish.  Bronco Lafrenz singled to left field to kick off the rally and Brian Jett was hit by a Curynski pitch to give the Sycamores a couple of base runners.  Ben Ferrell then singled to center field, which allowed Lafrenz to score from second base and Jett advance a base.  Ryan Strausborger was up next and reached on a fielding error by SIU third baseman Tony Lepore, which allowed Jett to score from second base as the ball trickled into left field.


The Salukis got back into the game in the top of the fifth inning on a solo home run to right field off the bat of Tyler Bullock, which cut the score to 2-1.  The Salukis then had a chance to take the lead in the top of the sixth, but Valdez got out of a bases-loaded jam to hold onto the one-run lead for his squad.


That one run-lead would grow into a three-run advantage in the bottom of the sixth inning, when ISU scored two runs on two hits and another costly SIU error.  Luke Fieser doubled to center field to lead off the inning and Tyler Graham singled up the middle to advance Fieser to third.  Lafrenz then drove in Fieser with a sacrifice fly to deep center field as Graham advanced to second.  Jett followed and grounded out to first base which advanced Graham to third with two outs.  With two outs, Ferrell laid down a surprise bunt that was fielded by Curynski, who threw the throw to first in the dirt which allowed Ferrell to reach on the error and Graham score from third for the fourth run of the game for the Sycamores.


A solo home run over the right field wall off the bat of Brady Shoemaker, his sixth of the season, later extended the ISU lead to 5-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning.  The score would stay there until the top of the ninth inning, when the Salukis attempted to mount a late comeback.


After getting the first out of the inning, Valdez walked Chris Serritella and surrendered a double to Aaron Roberts to give the Salukis runners on second and third with just one out.  That ended the day for Valdez, who gave the ball to Shelton to close out the game.  However, Bullock struck again as he crushed his second home run of the game, this time a three-run shot over the right field wall, to cut the ISU lead to 5-4.  With the bases cleared, Shelton settled down and struck out Jordan Sivertsen and forced Lepore to ground out to shortstop to end the game and pick up his third save of the season and a win for the Sycamores.


Shoemaker finished the game 4-for-4 with a run scored and a RBI for the Sycamores, while Graham chipped in with two hits and a run scored in the win.  Bullock led the way for the Salukis with the two home runs and all four RBI in the game.


The Sycamores and the Salukis will wrap up their three-game series on Saturday with a doubleheader set to begin at 2 p.m. EST at Sycamore Field.  Right-hander Jake Petricka (4-1) will take the hill in the first game for the Sycamores and lefty Joe Rodriguez (4-1) will close out the series for ISU in the second game of the day, which will start approximately a half our after the completion of game one.

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