Late Rally Lifts Redbirds to Series Sweep over Salukis

April 18, 2010

Box Score

NORMAL, Ill. - They did it again. Illinois State scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to hand Southern Illinois another late-inning loss, 9-7, at Duffy Bass Field Sunday afternoon, while earning its second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference series sweep.

Illinois State (18-15, 8-1 MVC) used walk-off hits to win each of the first two games of the series and scored its go-ahead runs in the team's last at-bat Sunday - this time in the bottom of the eighth inning. The win marks Illinois State's sixth straight in Valley play, all against Creighton and Southern Illinois - teams that swept the Redbirds last season.

Kevin Tokarski

The Redbirds entered the bottom of the eighth trailing the Salukis (16-20, 5-7 MVC), 7-5, but pushed across four runs with two outs to take the lead. Jake Thornton split up a pair of Illinois State strikeouts and started the rally with a single up the middle. Ryan Court singled to move Thornton to third and Ty Wiesemeyer's pinch-hit double down the left field line cut the deficit to a single run. Kevin Tokarski delivered a two-run double in the next at-bat to give Illinois State an 8-7 lead and then scored the ninth run for the Redbirds after an error by the Saluki shortstop.

The double by Tokarski was his second of the day and part of a 4-for-5 performance by the Downers Grove, Ill., native. Tokarski, who also scored and drove in three runs, has 20 doubles on the season to tie for third all-time on the Illinois State single season list. Matt Mirabal was 3-for-5 for Illinois State with a run scored and an RBI, and Redbird outfielders Thornton (2) and Chad Hinshaw (2) both had multiple hits. Illinois State senior designated hitter Anthony Ruffolo drove in three runs Sunday to complete a six-RBI series.

Southern Illinois scored all seven runs in the first four innings off Illinois State pitchers Ryan Camp and Cam Verbeke. Tyler Bullock hit a two-run home run with two outs in the first inning, his third home run of the series and eighth of the season. The Salukis led 6-0 after two and a half innings but Ruffolo tripled with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, part of a four run inning for ISU.

Ryan Copeland pitched Illinois State's first scoreless frame in the top of the fifth inning and limited Southern Illinois to just one hit over three total innings before the Redbirds turned the ball over to Kenny Long. Tokarksi doubled and scored a run in the seventh to pull the Redbirds within two and Long retired all three batters he faced in the bottom half to set up the deciding eighth. Long (4-2) worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth to close out the win, his third in three games.

Michael Stalter and Brian Bajer each had two hits for the Salukis, who were out-hit 15-8 in the contest. Chris Murphy and Bullock both drove in a pair of runs for SIU. Saluki reliever Kellen Candau (2-2) was tagged with the loss.

Illinois State faces a pair of Big Ten opponents on the road during the mid-week before hosting St. Xavier for a doubleheader during the Redbirds' conference bye week at Duffy Bass Field Sunday (April 25). The Redbirds travel to Illinois for a 6:05 p.m. game Tuesday and visit Northwestern at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, TRC gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.