Redbirds Battle Evansville for Tournament Seed in Season Finale
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May 16, 2012
With just three more games remaining before the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship, the Illinois State baseball team travels to Evansville for its regular-season finale. The opener between ISU (29-16, 8-8) and UE (30-23, 9-9) is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m.
The Redbirds begin the three-game series tied with the Purple Aces for fourth place in the eight-team Valley standings. ISU could finish as high as second place in the MVC if the Redbirds sweep Evansville, and Indiana State sweeps Missouri State and Creighton takes at least two out of three from Wichita State. The conference's current top-two teams, Indiana State and Missouri State, will battle for the Valley regular-season title this weekend in Terre Haute, Ind.
ISU enters the series-finale on a seven-game winning streak, which is the Redbirds' second-longest stretch of the season. Illinois State's recent success can be largely attributed to quality pitching. The Redbird pitching staff limited Western Illinois to just one earned run, and two total runs, through 27 innings last weekend to help ISU sweep. Chris Razo (0.00 ERA versus WIU), Dylan Craig (0.00 ERA), Justin Hauer (0.00 ERA), Kenny Long (0.00 ERA), Ryan Camp (0.00 ERA) and Brad Sorkin (1.50 ERA) teamed up for a 0.33 ERA versus the Leathernecks. The Redbird pitching staff has amassed a 1.62 ERA, with a 7-1 record and five saves, over the last eight games.
This weekend, the junior right-hander Razo (5-4, 4.70 ERA) will face Evansville sophomore left-hander Cole Isom (2-7, 4.78 ERA) Thursday. On Friday, the Redbird freshman left-hander Craig will battle junior right-hander Kyle Lloyd (4-3, 3.30 ERA). The Purple Aces will start freshman left-hander Kyle Freeland (4-5, 4.40 ERA), while ISU's Saturday starter has still not been announced.
Both teams also feature productive offenses, with the Redbirds leading the MVC with a .299 batting average, and Evansville ranking seventh with a .254 mark. Senior second baseman Kevin Tokarski led Illinois State's offense, as the Redbirds swept Western Illinois last weekend.
Tokarski went 4-for-9 (.444) with a team-high two runs scored and one RBI. He also slugged .778 with a team-best three doubles, and he established a .545 on-base percentage with two walks. Tokarski made his 200th start Friday, which ranks third on the all-time list, and he scored his 200th career-run during Saturday's game. He now holds three career-records with 201 runs scored, 160 walks and 105 stolen bases. He also has 254 career-hits. Evansville is led by Eric Stamets, who is batting .325 with 20 RBI this season.
This weekend's series will take place Thursday at 6 p.m., Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. because of next week's conference tournament.
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