Power Display Blasts Redbirds Past Evansville 8-3
April 29, 2006
EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Home runs have not been a staple for the Illinois State baseball team and coming into Saturday's second game of a three-game weekend series with the Evansville Purple Aces, the Redbirds had managed just one long ball in Missouri Valley Conference play. However, the `Birds found their home run stroke on Saturday as two home runs propelled ISU (15-26, 6-8 MVC) to a 8-3 win over UE (26-19, 9-8 MVC) at Braun Stadium.
Matt Brinkman (2-5) suffered the loss for Evansville, as the starter gave up five earned runs on seven hits in five innings of work. Junior Kitt Kopach (3-6), who has fallen on hard times in some of his starts throughout the season, earned the victory by giving up just two runs on eight hits in six innings pitched.
ISU head coach Jim Brownlee was excited to see Kopach get a much deserved win.
"Kitt really deserved to get this win today," said Brownlee. "He's had starts this year that he deserved to win and we couldn't get it done offensively. But, he stayed true to his style and fought through some early control problems to really earn this victory for us. We needed this win to stay out of the cellar in the Valley, and Kitt's performance was exactly what we needed today."
The Purple Aces struck first with two runs on two hits in the bottom of the first inning. With runners on second and third base with no outs, a two-run single by Kasey Wahl brought in Jim Viscomi and Kern Watts and gave Evansville a 2-0 advantage over the Redbirds after the first inning.
The 2-0 score held up until the top of the fifth inning when the Redbirds tied the game at 2-2. Kyle O'Brien led off the inning with his third home run of the season, a line shot over the right field wall, to give ISU its first run of the game and cut the Evansville lead in half at 2-1. Later in the inning, Matt Bolt kept the inning alive with a two-out single and then stole second base to give the Redbirds a runner in scoring position. Jesse Griswold then followed with a line single to left field, scoring Bolt from second base and tying the score 2-2.
Bolt and the `Birds would then proceed to slug their way to the lead in the top of the sixth inning. ISU loaded the bases to start the inning and the go-ahead run came across the plate in the form of Kevin Dubler after O'Brien was hit by a pitch. After a force out a home, the bases were still loaded for the Redbirds with one out when Chris Frank flew out to left field, scoring Nick Crist on a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-2. Bolt then stepped up to the plate and launched a three-run home run over the right field wall, his first home run of the season, to balloon the lead to 7-2. ISU would add one more on a Ryan Anetsberger double to deep center field that scored Jesse Griswold to make the score 8-2.
Evansville had chances to score throughout the rest of the game and added a run in the bottom of the eighth inning on a pinch-hit home run by Jeff Zelenovich to cut the lead to 8-3. However, the Purple Aces' run scoring opportunities were shut down by Sorce, and the Aces were defeated 8-3 to even the series at 1-1.
Bolt finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBI to continue his hot hitting over the last month, all while extending his hitting streak to seven games. Brownlee is glad to see that Bolt has finally returned to the hitter he knew he was.
"Matt really struggled early in the year, but he has worked hard and really turned it around in the last month or so," said Brownlee. "His home run today shows that he is back and that he is still a very good collegiate hitter. If Matt continues to keep hitting, he is the type of player that can win games for us and really carry us the rest of the way."
Griswold and O'Brien each added two hits for the Redbirds, who snapped a three-game losing streak with the win on Saturday. Evansville left 15 runners on base in the loss to ISU, but Wahl did his part with his two RBI to lead the Aces.
Freshman Jim Sajewich (1-4) will attempt to earn the Redbirds a series win when he takes the mound in the 1 p.m. series finale on Sunday at Braun Stadium.