Redbirds Advance to Title Game with Win over Evansville
May 23, 2013
NORMAL, Ill. - For the third time in program history, the Illinois State baseball team is headed to the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament after the Redbirds held off Evansville, 5-3, Thursday night at Duffy Bass Field.
Top-seeded Illinois State will play in the Valley title game Saturday at 7:07 p.m. against the winner of Friday's No. 2 Wichita State versus No. 6 Indiana State matchup. Illinois State's other two title-game appearances, in 1994 and 2010, resulted in Valley Tournament championships.
Redbird starter Brad Sorkin (8-4) earned the victory after allowing just one earned run on four hits, with four strikeouts and two walks. It marked the 20th career victory of his four-year Redbird career. Jeremy Rhoades pitched the final three innings, with two earned runs allowed, to secure his sixth save of the season while preserving ISU's third win of the tournament. Evansville starter Cole Isom (4-6) suffered the loss.
Brock Stewart led Illinois State offensively with a 2-for-4 effort, including two runs scored, while Chad Hinshaw was 2-for-3. Andy Lasher drove in two runs to lead the Purple Aces while going 1-for-4.
Illinois State broke open a scoreless game in the fifth inning with three runs. Stewart started the inning with a single and advanced to second on a head-first sliding bunt-single by Sean Beesley. A Brett Kay single allowed Stewart to score the game's first run, and Beesley came home after stealing third and scoring on an errant throw by Evansville's catcher. Zac Johnson then plated Kay with a single to center field, giving Illinois State a 3-0 lead.
The Purple Aces responded with one run in the bottom of the fifth, beginning with a double by Kyle Pollock. Lasher followed with a single, advancing Pollock to third, and allowing him to score on a low throw by Paul DeJong. Although Evansville proceeded to load the bases, Sorkin pitched out of the jam, holding ISU's 3-1 advantage.
The Redbirds added two insurance runs in the top of the eighth inning, as Mike Hollenbeck walked and Stewart doubled, and they both scored when Evansville's third baseman misplayed a ground ball off the bat of DeJong. However, the Purple Aces answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame, as John Day scored on a wild pitch and Shain Showers came home on a Lasher groundout, cutting Illinois State's lead to 5-3.
ISU's two-run advantage proved to be enough, as Rhoades faced the heart of Evansville's order in the ninth inning without allowing the Purple Aces to score. He induced a groundout by Day for the final out, punching Illinois State's ticket to the title game.
Tickets to Saturday's Valley Championship game are available by calling the Illinois State ticket office at (309) 438-8000.
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