Sycamore maples overtake Salukis to advance to MVC baseball semifinals at Indiana State Sports activities
When participating in the Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament, Southern Illinois was ranked 33rd in Division I. The wind was blowing straight into the midfield of SIU’s Itchy Jones Field. It was meant to be a day of insult.
What did Indiana State do in the competition of its winners against the powerful tournament organizers? It took a page from the phrasebook. When in Carbondale, do like the Salukis. Mash it – just do it better than them.
And that is exactly what the Sycamores did. ISU and SIU even had 11 base hits each, but not in runs as the Sycamores took a hard-fought 11-8 win to advance to a semi-final Saturday of the MVC tournament.
“We had to get them back for what they did to us,” said ISU shortstop Jordan Schaffer about the series win that SIU had won at Bob Warn Field in early May. “We worked hard on a better one [plate] Approach. We wanted to change that here in this tournament. “
This semi-final is part of a reconfigured schedule as the rain affected much of Thursday’s tournament schedule.
ISU (29-17) will play against Dallas Baptist on Saturday at 12:00 noon EDT, also 2-0 in the tournament. The winner will advance to the championship round on Sunday. The loser Saturday will play again at 4 p.m. EDT in an elimination game against the survivor of the SIU-Valparaiso elimination night game on Friday.
ISU coach Mitch Hannahs feels the Sycamores are getting their bearings after being out of whack late in the MVC regular season.
“When Connor Cline missed the rotation for three weeks and we had to mend it together? We get some rhythm back as a team. We didn’t hit that much and we didn’t play very well because we got the guys up in the pecking order. That took a toll, but I feel like we’ve settled in. We had some good ABs, ”said Hannahs.
The competition on Friday was tense for its 3 hours and 46 minutes. At the end of the half innings there were six changes in leadership and two draws – all before the sixth inning when the ISU finally broke through but felt by no means safe.
Every sycamore on the grid had a base hit or an RBI.
“We knew it would be difficult to get in. It’s your park. They beat us three out of four in our park. We had to concentrate up and down in the line-up. It wouldn’t take a people or two to win it. It had to be a full team effort, ”said ISU center fielder Sean Ross.
A sycamore stood out – Schaffer, the one-off West Vigo star from Terre Haute.
The junior was 3 against 4 with four runs. Two of these runs were via the two solo home runs he made, including one on the first pitch of the game.
“We knew it was going to be an exchange today,” said Schaffer, who had his first two-homer game. “These homers were both at big points in the game. We wanted to be aggressive against their fastballs. “
As good as the sycamore maples were on the plate, SIU was no worse. His shortstop, Nick Neville, also scored two home runs. Just like when the SIU took three out of four sycamores at Bob Warn Field in early May, the Salukis put constant pressure on the sycamore pitching.
Even so, there were some hill heroes. One was reliever Will Buraconak. With an IS-4 deficit of 5-4 in the fifth inning and Salukis on the second and third with an out, he induced a strikeout and flyout to get the Sycamores out of trouble. Connor Fenlong then held the Salukis on a run for 22/3 innings until he ran out of gas in ninth place, but by then the ISU had a lead of five runs.
Buraconak’s relief efforts took some of the steam off the Salukis and changed the dynamics of the competition.
“I knew they would get up and try to hit home runs. I knew there was a big swing in the game. It’s a situation where the bases are loaded and a hot guy is up, but I went on strikes and the defense did the rest, ”said Burconak.
Of the 18 half-innings, only six ended goalless in a battle royale.
Schaffer’s first home run was answered by Neville’s two runs in the bottom half of the first run. An RBI single by Sean Ross and a solo home run by Max Wright put ISU 3-2 in the middle of fourth place.
The Salukis (39-19) took the lead 4-3 in the fourth with a solo home race from Neville and an RBI single from Evan Martin. Both teams scored the fifth goal, but the Sycamores finally scored a breakthrough in the sixth.
Tanner Lewis lost control when he went to Brian Fuentes and hit Miguel Rivera. After a sacrifice that put both in goal position, Dominic Cusamano linked the game with a 4-3 groundout. Then came Ross, who hadn’t scored well lately. However, Ross slammed a single to the left to bring the ISU to 6-5.
ISU maintained the rating. Fuentes had an important single in the seventh with two outs and two runs to increase the ISU’s lead to 8-5. SIU scored one in the seventh, but ISU added three insurance runs in the ninth to make it 11-6.
The Salukis never stopped threatening. A unique homer with two runs by JT Weber threw ISU’s lead on three. However, Tyler Grauer closed the door on the Salukis and knocked out thugs Neville and Philip Archer to claim a major ISU victory.
“If you win games like this, you’ll want to go back to the park,” said Hannahs.
ISU used six pitchers in the game. Hannahs said he tends to start Tristan Weaver on Saturday.