Nine-Run Ninth Lifts Redbirds to First Win, 15-8
Feb. 21, 2010
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - It was a win Mark Kingston will never forget. Illinois State used a nine-run ninth inning to rally past Austin Peay, 15-8, in the final game of the Riverview Inn Classic at Raymond C. Hand Park, and gave Kingston his first win as a collegiate head coach Sunday afternoon.
Illinois State (1-2) entered the ninth inning trailing 8-6 after giving up a lead for the third-consecutive day, but the Redbirds sent 13 batters to plate and scored nine runs on five hits in the final frame. Kevin Tokarski drove in two runs with a bases-loaded double to left center to tie the game and Anthony Ruffolo was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to provide the go-ahead tally. Jim Sajewich closed the game by pitching a scoreless ninth.
"It feels good," Kingston said of the win. "It was a long day and it looked at one point like it may not go our way again, but the kids stuck with our process that we talk about all the time. Brett Thaden did a tremendous job leading off that inning and getting on base, the next guy got on base and then we had an opportunity to get a bunt down and it turned into a bases loaded situation.
"I think that was the key - every guy did exactly what they needed to do in that ninth inning and because of it, we ended up with a nine spot. I don't think you can predict things like that but we're very happy that it happened obviously, and we got our first win of the season."
Corey Maines started for Illinois State and struck out six batters in four innings but left with the score tied, 2-2. Redbird reliever Kenny Long struck out three batters in the fifth after surrendering a leadoff single but needed help after notching another strike out and giving up a run in the fifth to move Austin Peay (2-1) ahead 5-4.
Illinois State answered with four runs in the top of the seventh, including a pair on a two-run shot to right center by Ruffolo, but the Governors charged back with four of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Illinois State led early in Friday's season-opening loss to Austin Peay and saw a 7-0 lead evaporate over the final four innings against Iowa Saturday, but the Redbirds didn't give up when facing the two-run deficit with just three outs left.
"We've been scrapping for a win these last two days," Ruffolo said. "It was good to see our bullpen do much better today and it's good for the guys to get that first win. It was very important for us to get that out of the way. I'm very happy."
Tokarski went 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. He reached base six times from the Illinois State leadoff position. Matt Mirabal and Brett Kay each had two hits, including singles during the ninth inning rally. Mirabal tied Ruffolo for the team-lead with three RBI. Cam Verbeke earned the win after 1.2 innings of relief, the first win of his career. The Redbird pitching staff combined for 15 strikeouts.
The Redbirds return to Bloomington-Normal for the week before leaving for Florida and the RussMatt Invitational (Feb. 27-March 1) in Winterhaven, Fla. Illinois State will compete against Northeastern (Feb. 27), St. Bonaventure (Feb. 28), Duquesne (Feb. 28) and Western Michigan (March 1) during the three-day event.
GoRedbirds.com: Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, TRC gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.