|‘Birds use nine pitchers to fend off Illinois Wesleyan|
|Written by Scott Gleeson, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 28 April 2010 00:00|
Illinois State baseball coach Mark Kingston shuffled around his pitching staff Tuesday night against cross-town rival Illinois Wesleyan, showcasing nine hurlers in nine innings.
The game plan worked…
Until the bottom of the eighth inning.
Freshman pitcher Cam Verbeke, the eighth pitcher to take the mound for the ‘Birds, allowed four runs on four hits to make a once out-of-reach game close for the Titans, turn into a 7-4 ballgame.
The Redbirds responded at the top of the ninth inning, erupting for five runs, compliments of a Matt Mirabel bases-loaded double to drive in three runs, which catapulted the ‘Birds to a 12-4 victory at Horenberger Field in Bloomington.
“One thing we talk about all the time is, when you give up runs to the other team, you have to answer right away,” Kingston said. “We have up that four spot in the eighth, and then came back and got great at-bats to score five runs in the ninth. That’s something we really stress and it was great to see the guys be able to do that.”
The ‘Birds (20-16) tallied 12 hits on the evening with Kevin Tokarski (2-for-4, 4 RBI) helping ISU leap out to an early 6-0 lead with a pair of big hits in the second and fourth innings. Tokarski tripled with the bases loaded in the second to drive in three and added a single in the fourth to drive in another.
Chad Hinshaw and Ryan Court also chipped in two hits, which included a solo home run from Court in the top of the sixth inning to extend the Redbirds’ lead to 7-0.
“I’ve been struggling as of late, so it was nice to get a good swing on the ball,” Court said. “We’ve struggled the last couple of mid-week games so it was good to put a nice 12-spot on the board. I thought we played good offensively and defensively. It’s a big win for us, especially playing our cross-town rival.”
Corey Maines picked up the win for the ‘Birds, pitching one inning before ISU emptied its bullpen. Brad Sorkin, Ryan Copeland, Ryan Camp and Matt Werderitch all put together perfect frames.
“We knew before the game we’d [pitch] as many guys as we could,” Kingston said. “Everyone got a chance to get to the mound, get a little rust off. I thought our pitchers did a great job.”
Illinois Wesleyan managed three hits through the first seven innings before unleashing for four base knocks in the eighth. The Titans’ Jeff Grodecki belted a two-run RBI double to put IWU’s first two runs on the board.
“I liked the way we competed,” Illinois Wesleyan head coach Dennis Martel said. “[Illinois State] had some good arms and we swung the bat pretty well. We couldn’t get that key hit for a while, and we left a few guys on base. Towards the end, it got down to 7-4, but then we hit a guy, walked two and all of the sudden, the horse was out of the barn. They made us pay for our mistakes.”
Tuesday’s game marked the sixth annual Horenberger-Bass Classic, the annual rivalry matchup between the two cross-town schools, which dates back to 1890. ISU now holds an 83-70 advantage in wins for the all-time series and a 4-2 stance since the rivalry was renewed after the millennium.
“This is a town that really loves its baseball,” Kingston said. “To see the two universities square off is a good event. I thought Wesleyan played pretty well tonight. They hit the ball pretty hard and their pitchers had some good stuff. By no means would you say it was a Division I [team] against a Division III [team]. It was two quality baseball teams [competing].”
Kingston was pleased with his team’s overall effort and felt the game was an ideal tune-up for the ‘Birds’ weekend series hosting Wichita State starting Friday at 6 p.m.
“I thought we had great at-bats all night and we played good defense, good errorless ball,” he said. “The No. 1 thing [Tuesday] was to try to get the win. The No. 2 thing was to make it a good tune-up for this weekend. And it was about everything I could have asked for.”