Birds Take Series Opener Over Missouri State, 7-5
May 7, 2010
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Missouri State's pitching staff may have won the strikeout contest at Hammons Field Friday night, but the Illinois State pitching staff received just enough run support to help the Redbirds snap a 13-game road losing streak to the Bears, 7-5, and remain at the top of the Missouri Valley Conference standings.
Mike Kickham fanned a career-best 14 batters as the Bears (18-26, 4-9 MVC) retired 17 Redbirds (22-18, 10-3 MVC) on strikeouts. Illinois State starter Corey Maines struck out 10 batters to tie his career-high and watched as Ryan Copeland and Kenny Long combined to strike out six more in three scoreless innings of relief. Maines settled down after allowing five runs in the first three innings and posted three scoreless before turning a 5-5 ballgame over to the Illinois State bullpen. Copeland earned the win and Long worked out of a jam with two runners in scoring position in the ninth to close out the Redbirds first win at Springfield since March 29, 2002, and notched his sixth save of the season.
Kickham was dominant through the first four innings, allowing just one earned run and striking out 11. Kickham's only hits allowed during those innings were an RBI single to Jake Thornton in the second and a two-run blast by Kevin Tokarski in the third. Despite the scoring, Missouri State still led 5-3 going into the fifth, but Evan Kohli's solo shot to start the frame ignited the Redbirds.
Illinois State sent eight batters to the plate in the fifth and scratched across two runs, including the game-tying run on an RBI single by Anthony Ruffolo, and got a hit and at least two men aboard in each of the next three innings. The Redbirds surged ahead in the bottom of the eighth - another inning with eight plate appearances - on a two-RBI single by Matt Mirabal off Murphy that eventually turned into the game-winning hit.
Maines struggled through the first two innings as Missouri State sent 13 batters to the plate and scored four runs, and allowed a solo shot to Keenen Maddox in the third before notching his first scoreless frame in the fourth. Maines allowed just two base runners in his final two innings of work and Copeland was equally impressive with four strikeouts in his first two innings of relief. Copeland walked the leadoff hitter in the ninth, struck out Aaron Conway, then allowed a double to Kevin Medrano before Long closed the game. The 16 strikeouts by the Redbird pitchers was a season-high.
Tokarski went 4-for-5 in the contest and scored three runs in addition to his two RBI. Kohli's home run was his first since March 1 against Western Michigan, and the senior first baseman walked twice and scored two runs. Ruffolo was 2-for-4 with a walk.
Medrano and Curt Courtwright each tallied two hits for Missouri State. Travis McComack, Medrano, Christian Overstreet and Maddox all had RBIs. Blake Barber pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Bears.
The series continues Saturday at 2 p.m. with Pat Doyle (MSU) and Brad Sorkin (ISU) starting for their respective teams.
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