Tokarski, Redbirds Slam Past Sycamores at MVC Tourney, 10-5
May 26, 2010
WICHITA, Kan. - Kevin Tokarski tied Illinois State's single season hits record with his first career grand slam and lifted the Redbirds past Indiana State in the second round of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at Eck Stadium Wednesday night.
Tokarski, the MVC Joe Carter Player of the Year, knocked two of Illinois State's 14 hits and helped the Redbirds (29-22) answer a three-run surge by the Sycamores (34-18) with a bases clearing home run in the fourth inning. The hit, which followed a leadoff single in the first inning by Tokarski, was No. 81 on the season to tie the record set by Todd Schroeder in 1990, and capped a five-run inning for Illinois State.
"When you give up the three runs like we did, it's important to try to grab that momentum back," Illinois State head coach Mark Kingston said. "Baseball has a lot of swings, a lot of ebb and flow, so it was important when the momentum jumped to their dugout, we did something to get it back. To be able to score five runs after they scored three was tremendous, it got us right back in the game. It would have been easy to lose our confidence at that point...it was one of the keys to the game."
Indiana State scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth off Illinois State starter JD Learnard to pull within one run, but Redbird closer Kenny Long struck out five over the final four frames to notch his ninth save, tying the single-season school record. Illinois State added four insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning, including two on a double by Ryan Court.
Court and Matt Mirabal led the Redbirds with three hits in the game while Tokarski and Zach Amrein contributed two. Tokarski was 2-for-3 in the contest with three runs scored and two walks. In addition to the hits record, Tokarski moved into a tie for second on the single-season list with 63 runs scored and second on the season walks list with 47. Eight of Illinois State's nine starters tallied hits in the contest and every batter that went to the plate reached at least once.
Learned surrendered five runs on seven hits but it was enough to keep the Redbirds on top for his fourth win of the season.
Kyle Burnam, Luke Fieser, and Ben Ferrell all had two hits in the loss for Indiana State. Joe Rodriguez was saddled with the loss after giving up 12 hits and six runs in eight innings. Five different Sycamores pitched in the ninth inning.
Illinois State will meet the winner of a 9 a.m. elimination game between Indiana State and Creighton at 4 p.m. Thursday at Eck Stadium. A win by the Redbirds would secure a berth in the tournament championship game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, to be televised live on Fox Sports Midwest and Comcast Chicago. A loss would force an elimination game Friday between the Redbirds and their Thursday opponent.
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