Redbirds Pitch Way to Series Win Over Indiana State
May 1, 2011
NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State's pitching was strong in a Sunday rubber match, guiding the Redbirds (27-13, 7-5 MVC) to a 4-1 win over Indiana State (22-20, 5-7 MVC) to take the series 2-1. J.D. Learnard allowed just one run and Justin Hauer bridged the gap to Kenny Long for a historic save.
Learnard kept Indiana State off the scoreboard until there were two outs in the sixth inning and allowed just four hits to earn his fifth win of the year. Learnard allowed just one earned run in a start for the third time this season. Hauer struck out two in one inning of relief. Long allowed one hit and struck out three in a four-out save, giving him 13 in his career. Long moved past former Redbird Jeremy Accardo for the school's all-time saves record.
Josh Colon was 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, matching the three-hit performance he had against Wichita State last Friday. For the series, Colon was 7-for-9 with two RBI and two runs scored. Ryan Court was 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. Kevin Tokarski and Tyler McNeely each had a pair of hits for the Redbirds.
Illinois State stranded three runners through the first three innings before pushing two across in the fourth. Colon hit a single past the diving third basemen to score Court for the first run of the game. Amrein then roped a double down the right field line that bounced into the corner behind the bullpen, scoring Colon all the way from first.
Learnard cruised through the first five innings, allowing just two Sycamores to reach base on a hit and a walk. He received some help from his defense to stay on point. No. 9 hitter Jordan Pearson recorded the first Sycamore hit with a single in the third, but was thrown out trying to steal second base by Mirabal. In the fifth inning, Kyle Burnam drove a ball deep to center field, but Chad Hinshaw ran it down and made a nice over the shoulder catch right in front of the warning track.
Illinois State faced three pitchers in the fifth inning and loaded the bases with two outs, but Mike Hollenbeck struck out swinging and the Redbirds stayed ahead, 2-0.
Learnard ran into trouble for the first time in the top of the sixth inning, with a single and a walk putting runners on first and second with one out. Sycamore leadoff batter Lucas Hileman grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat and keep Learnard's shutout intact. The shutout came to an end in the next inning when a double and a single put runners on the corners with one out. Learnard got a ground ball to second, but it was hit too slowly for the Redbirds to turn another double play and a run scored. Justin Hauer came on in relief after that and recorded a strikeout to end the inning.
Hollenbeck came up again with runners in scoring position and two outs in the seventh inning, but Indiana State chose to intentionally walk him and face Colon. The move seemed strange given Colon's hot bat in the series, but Blake Drake made Colon miss on two fastballs. He then threw a breaking ball in the dirt that bounced away from the catcher, allowing Hinshaw to score from second. Colon ended up walking and relief pitcher Brandon Flora struck out Zach Amrein looking to end the Redbird threat.
Bryan Huff led off the eighth inning with a line drive single to center and advanced to second on a single Tokarski to the pitcher. With Mirabal batting, a pitch in the dirt deflected away from Indiana State catcher Jermey Lucas. Huff took off for second and the throw from Lucas skipped past the third baseman, allowing Huff to come home with the fourth run.
A fielding error by Colon and a bunt single down the third baseline brought the tying run to the plate for Indiana State with no outs in the ninth inning and the heart of the order due up. Long got the next two batters with a foul out to first and a strikeout. Jon Hedges hit a groundball deep in the hole at short that Colon couldn't reach, but was able to recover before a run could score. Long sealed the victory by striking out Tyler Wampler looking.
Illinois State is back at home next weekend for a three-game series against Missouri State. The series opens Friday at 4:30 p.m.
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