Redbirds Sweep Aces With 4-3 Victory
May 21, 2011
NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State baseball team scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning and those runs proved to be enough, as the Redbirds (35-16, 13-8 MVC) swept the final regular-season series against the Evansville Purple Aces (28-23, 7-13 MVC) with a 4-3 win Saturday on Senior Day at Duffy Bass Field.
With the win, the Redbirds secured the No. 3 seed in the 2011 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Championship in Omaha, Neb. ISU will begin play at the tournament Tuesday, March 24, against No. 6 seed Indiana State, with first pitch at 9 a.m.
Senior Tyler McNeely led the way for the Redbirds with a 3-for-4 effort, with two doubles and a RBI in his final game at home. Josh Colon and Brock Stewart each chipped in a pair of hits for ISU in the victory as well and Kevin Tokarski drove in and scored a run on the day. ISU starter JD Learnard (8-2) picked up the win in a pre-determined three-inning outing, after he allowed just one run on six hits. Matt Werderitch, Brad Sorkin, Justin Hauer and Jake Wielebnicki combined to pitch the next 4.1 innings, before Kenny Long came in during the eighth inning and picked up his sixth save of the season.
Evansville wasted no time, taking an early lead with a run in the top of the first inning. With one out, Eric Stamets singled to left field and proceeded to steal second base. He then moved to third base on single to left field by Cody Fick. Greg Wallace followed with the third-straight single for the Purple Aces and Stamets scored as Fick advanced to third. Evansville was still threatening with two runners on and just one out, but Jared Baehl lined into a double play as Zach Amrein snagged the liner and stepped on first base to double off Wallace to end the inning.
The Redbirds answered immediately with four runs in the bottom of the first to take a 4-1 lead. Chad Hinshaw led off the inning with a walk and advanced to third base on a double by Colon. Tokarski then came to the plate and chopped a pitch to Stamets, who threw back to second in an attempt to catch Colon off second, but Colon got back to the base safely as Tokarski reached on a fielder's choice and Hinshaw scored the first run of the inning.
McNeely followed with a RBI single, which scored Colon for the second run of the inning, and McNeely was forced out at second base the next play when Ryan Court reached on another fielder's choice in an attempt to turn the double play. Stewart kept things rolling with a ground-rule double that bounced over the left field wall, which scored Tokarski and Court scored the final run of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Mike Hollenbeck.
The Purple Aces got two of those runs back in the top of the fifth inning on a two-run single up the middle off the bat of Wallace, which allowed Stamets and Trentt Copeland to score and cut the ISU lead to 4-3. Evansville threatened again in the top of the seventh inning with the bases loaded and just one out, but Wielebnicki got the `Birds out of the jam with a strikeout and line out to left field to end the threat and preserve the one-run lead.
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