Birds Rally and Hang on for Series-Clinching Win, 11-9
May 8, 2010
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Illinois State used nine unanswered runs to erase a 7-1 deficit and received another shut down effort from the back end of its bullpen to hang on for an 11-9 win over Missouri State at Hammons Field Saturday afternoon. Ryan Court was 2-for-4 with five RBI in the game while helping the Redbirds clinch their first series win over the Bears on the road since 2001.
Illinois State (23-18, 11-3 MVC) faced a 7-1 deficit after three innings, but evened the tally with six runs in the top of the fourth - the last three on an opposite field, three-run blast just inside the right field foul pole by Court. The Redbirds added three more in the top of the sixth to complete the scoring swing and called in their left-handed bullpen duo - Ryan Copeland and Kenny Long - when the Bears (18-27, 4-10 MVC) pulled within two runs with no outs and the bases loaded in the sixth.
Copeland induced a ground ball to get the first out of the inning at home and got Curt Courtwright to ground into a potential double play to short but the ball was mishandled and a run scored to make it 10-9. Copeland struck out the next two batters to end the threat and wrapped three strikeouts around a triple in the seventh, his only hit allowed in two innings. Long struck out the side in the eighth and worked around a pair of leadoff singles in the ninth to record his second save of the series and seventh of the season. The two southpaws combined for 10 of Illinois State's 15 strikeouts.
Missouri State jumped on the board first with a run in the second inning off Redbird starter Brad Sorkin, but did the most damage in the bottom of the third after sending 12 batters to the plate. Aaron Conway had two hits in the inning, stole two bases and drove in two runs. Conway finished the contest 3-for-5.
Court provided Illinois State's first run of the game on a sacrifice fly in the top of the third, but the Redbirds found themselves trailing by six after stranding five runners in scoring position through the first three innings. The Redbirds loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth with nobody out and inched closer, 7-2, after Kevin Tokarski walked to push Tyler McNeely across. Missouri State starter Aaron Meade then struck out Chad Hinshaw and Matt Mirabal, and looked like he would escape the jam with two strikes against Anthony Ruffolo but the Illinois State senior delivered a two-RBI single. Court cleared the bases and tied the game with his home run in the next at-bat.
Court's single in the sixth added two more runs to the Redbirds' total and McNeely squeezed him home later in the inning to give ISU a 10-7 lead. Illinoiss State scratched across another run in the ninth after an error with the bases loaded allowed Brett Kay to score. Ruffolo (3), Zach Amrein (2), Court (2), Tokarski (2) and Ty Wiesemyer (2) each had multiple hits for the Redbirds. Jim Sajewich earned the win, his first of the season.
Courtwright (2), Kevin Medrano (2), and Barrett Noirfalise (2) joined Conway with multiple-hit efforts. Grant Gordon was saddled with the loss for the Bears despite pitching effectively in the game's last three innings.
The series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m. with Illinois State's JD Learnard expected to start against Missouri State's Pat Doyle.
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