TERRE HAUTE —
A Missouri Valley Conference championship season has bloomed for the Indiana State baseball team in 2012. The Sycamores have been dominant through most of the season.
But it’s a near-unanimous belief among the Sycamores themselves that the seeds for 2012 were sown during a successful 2011 MVC Tournament run.
“It’s great to have as many guys back as we did from that tournament run. Until you’ve done it, you really don’t know what it’s all about and what to expect. Having that experience certainly doesn’t hurt,” infielder Koby Kraemer said.
ISU was the surprise at Omaha’s T.D. Ameritrade Park in 2011. The unfancied Sycamores were the No. 6 seeded-team, but they eliminated Illinois State and pushed Wichita State to the limit before finally bowing out one game away from the MVC Championship game.
This time, ISU heads to Missouri State — site of the 2012 MVC Tournament — as the No. 1-seeded team. The prize for the winner is the MVC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In some ways, the vibe from 2011 to 2012 has changed. In other ways, it hasn’t.
“Every team gets to start over. That’s what we did last year. We told ourselves that the regular season was over, we could wipe it clean, and go for a regional bid,” ISU catcher Jeremy Lucas said “That’s what gave us the energy to play well. We’re going to have to do the same thing. We had a great season, but none of that matters until we win the tournament and get a guaranteed bid.”
ISU coach Rick Heller said the test ISU will have this year is to handle the pressure of being the favorite. The proverbial target is on the Sycamores’ backs. Heller said
“Nobody was worried about us [in 2011]. It’s a different deal when you get every team’s last effort,” Heller said. “For the other team, it’s just a nothing-to-lose type of feel. It makes teams play more at ease because they’re not expected to beat you. If you lose, big deal. It eases the pressure.”
No. 4-seeded Illinois State, No. 5-seeded Evansville and No. 8-seeded Creighton are in ISU’s group at the MVC Tournament. It is double-elimination within the group. The winner plays in a single-elimination championship game on Saturday.
Creighton (22-28, 6-14) is first for the Sycamores and the Bluejays — the defending champions — aren’t an easy mark despite their low seed.
“The team I didn’t want to play was Creighton because I know they’ve been looking forward to the tournament for a long time since they’ve been out of the race. Coach [Ed] Servais has been pumping them up with that,” Heller said.
Yes Servais has.
“It’s anybody’s opportunity on Tuesday. Records don’t mean anything at this time of year,” Servais said last Saturday after Creighton lost to Wichita State. “We match up with Indiana State well.”
Creighton will throw No. 1 starter Ty Blach against the Sycamores. ISU defeated Blach in a 6-3 victory in Omaha on April 6, a game in which Blach allowed five earned runs. Blach (5-5, 2.60) is usually more difficult to solve than that.
“Blach is a pretty hard thrower from the left side. It’s pretty rare. We’ve had some success against him. When we played against him, he didn’t have his best stuff,” Kraemer said.
ISU will go with No. 2 starter Sean Manaea today, but on the pitching front, ISU needs its bullpen to improve from recent performance. The Sycamores had a bullpen ERA of 7.88 against Missouri State. ISU’s ninth-inning ERA this season is 6.57. The Sycamores’ ERA is below four in every other inning.
Injury-wise, ISU is hoping to get infielder Jeff Miera back. Miera suffered an ankle injury against Wichita State on May 4. He is questionable for the MVC Tournament.
ISU last won the MVC Tournament in 1995.
Sizing up ISU’s opponents
The Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament uses a double-elimination format among four teams in two groups. Indiana State is in Group A and it includes No. 4-seeded Illinois State, No. 5-seeded Evansville and No. 8-seeded Creighton.
Here’s a capsule look at ISU’s Group A opponents:
Record — 31-17, 10-9 MVC
Season series against ISU — Sycamores won 2 of 3 at Warn Field from March 30-April 1.
Pitcher to watch — Relief pitcher Kenny Long has a 1.93 ERA, pitches from multiple arm angles and is experienced.
Batter to watch — Second baseman Kevin Tokarski is sixth on the Redbirds in batting average at .309, but he causes chaos in other ways. Tokarski is patient at the plate (37 walks) and has stolen 14 bases in 19 attempts.
Overview — Illinois State was the one of the few teams in the league that failed to achieve balance. The Redbirds can hit, as evidenced by their .280 league batting average, but Illinois State also had the second-worst league-only ERA at 5.06.
Record — 31-25, 10-11
Season series against ISU — Sycamores won 2 of 3 in Evansville from March 23-25.
Pitcher to watch — If ISU plays Evansville, it is likely to face No. 2 starter Kyle Lloyd. Lloyd was 5-3 with a 3.01 ERA and struck out nine Sycamores on March 24.
Batter to watch — Shortstop Eric Stamets is an Aces’ stalwart. He led the Aces with a .311 average and led the MVC with 30 stolen bases.
Overview — Like most other MVC teams, Evansville has pitchers that can lock down on any given day — the Aces had a league-only ERA of 4.14. Evansville was less consistent at the plate with a league-only batting average of .235 and just four home runs.
Record — 22-28, 6-14
Season series against ISU — Sycamores won 2 of 3 in Omaha from April 6-8.
Pitcher to watch — Given that No. 2 starter Erik Mattingly held the Sycamores hitless for nine innings on April 7, he might seem to be the choice, but ISU probably won’t see Mattingly. No. 1 starter Ty Blach was considered to be one of the best arms in the conference entering the season. He “struggled” with a 5-5 mark and 2.60 ERA.
Batter to watch — Third baseman Chance Ross is emblematic of the aggressive way the Bluejays play under Ed Servais. He hits (.287), he draws walks (25), he can bunt (six sacrificies) and he puts pressure on teams on the basepaths (13 steals).
Overview — Creighton — the defending league champion — had no pitching problems … the Bluejays had a league-only ERA of 3.54, third-best in the MVC. Hitting was another issue. The Bluejays batted just .215 in MVC play this year and had just 32 extra-base hits. If the Jays’ bats don’t wake up, it’ll be a short stay in the Ozarks.
— Todd Golden
MVC baseball tournament
At Missouri State
Double-elimination within group. Single-elimination championship game
Group A — No. 1 Indiana State, No. 4 Illinois State, No. 5 Evansville, No. 8 Creighton
Group B — No. 2 Missouri State, No. 3 Wichita State, No. 6 Southern Illinois, No. 7 Bradley
Tuesday (all times EDT)
Game 1 — No. 4 Illinois State (31-17, 10-9) vs. No. 5 Evansville (31-25, 10-11), 10 a.m.
Game 2 — No. 1 Indiana State (41-15, 14-7) vs. No. 8 Creighton (22-28, 6-14), 1:30 p.m.
Game 3 — No. 3 Wichita State (35-23, 12-9) vs. No. 6 Southern Illinois (28-27, 9-12), 5 p.m.
Game 4 — No. 2 Missouri State (37-18, 13-7) vs. No. 7 Bradley (26-25-1, 8-13), 8:30 p.m.
Game 5 — Game 1 vs. Game 2 losers, 10 a.m.
Game 6 — Game 3 vs. Game 4 losers, 1:30 p.m.
Game 7 — Game 1 vs. Game 2 winners, 5 p.m.
Game 8 — Game 3 vs. Game 4 winners, 8:30 p.m.
Game 9 — Loser Game 7 vs. Winner Game 5, 10 a.m.
Game 10 — Loser Game 8 vs. Winner Game 6, 1:30 p.m.
Game 11 — Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 9, 5 p.m.
Game 12 — Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 10, 8:30 p.m.
Game 13 — Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 9, 1:30 p.m.*
Game 14 — Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 10, 5 p.m.*
* if neccessary
Championship game, 8 p.m.
TERRE HAUTE —
A Missouri Valley Conference championship season has bloomed for the Indiana State baseball team in 2012. The Sycamores have been dominant through most of the season.
- Indiana State University
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Indiana State’s baseball team has been waiting all season for its stars to align.
But this is the 2013 Sycamores, after all, and after a season in which seemingly little has gone right, it appears its stars will remain crossed at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
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Indiana State’s baseball team rode a wild ride of emotion on Thursday.
First came the public announcement that Bob Warn Field would host the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Later, Sean Manaea’s availability to pitch ISU’s series opener against Bradley was in doubt.
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If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
ISU baseball team builds on success with 14-2 rout
Indiana State’s baseball victory over Alcorn State on Friday would take on more meaning Saturday if the Sycamores could build momentum and pick up on the good work they did in Friday’s ninth-inning rally.
The Sycamores were aggressive from the opening inning at the plate and starting pitcher Devin Moore gave them eight valuable and effective innings on the mound as ISU defeated Alcorn State 14-2 at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a really good experience for everybody. It felt great to finally come out here and put some things together. It’s also really nice when your offense puts a lot of runs on the board,” Moore said.
Moore’s eight innings of work were as valuable as gold to an ISU team that is short on quality arms due to injury and ineffectiveness. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and one of the two runs he conceded was unearned.
ISU earns badly-needed win
Alcorn State’s baseball team might be ranked in the bottom 10 in RPI and Indiana State might have never lost to a Southwestern Athletic Conference team. So it wouldn’t appear that a quality win was in the offing when Alcorn State visited Bob Warn Field on Friday.
ISU’s Mascari and Hope win MVC track & field titles
Indiana State produced two champions during the opening day of action in the Missouri Valley Conference track and field championships Friday at Drake. Freshman John Mascari, a Terre Haute native, won the men’s 10,000-meter race and Nicole Hope won the women’s pole vault for the second time in three seasons.
ISU pole vault tradition continues with help from its author
Pole vault is track and field for the adrenaline junkie, Indiana State senior Nicole Hope proclaimed during a recent practice at Marks Field.
To catapult oneself about 14 feet into the air with a large $500 fiberglass pole on a daily basis is a risky endeavor.
“We have to be fearless. You can’t be afraid at all,” said Hope, who has also catapulted herself into the NCAA’s elite in the event, ranking 15th in the NCAA with her leap of 13-feet, 9 1/4.
Lansing looking for more home games for next fall
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team is looking for a few good games.
Home games that is.
The Sycamores have filled in most of the blanks in their nonconference schedule, but as ever, ISU coach Greg Lansing would like to visit the friendly confines of Hulman Center a bit more often.
ISU baseball gets back into rhythm with victory
Baseball is a rhythm game. With contests every day or five times a week in the case of many college programs, you have the chance to build on success or wallow in a slump.
Mother Nature took that rhythm away from Indiana State’s team last week. After a 7-1 loss to Indiana on April 24, ISU was supposed to play a three-game series at Tennessee-Martin, but it was wiped out by rain.
So the rhythm was disturbed, but perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing.
ISU was in a five-game losing streak before its unintended vacation and the Sycamores made a move in the right direction Wednesday with a 7-0 win over DePauw at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a disappointing weekend. We went all the way down to Tennessee and didn’t get to play. We sat around in the hotel room. We came here and it was still raining. It was nice to get out and see some live pitching,” ISU center fielder Landon Curry said.
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Most of the ISU teams are still in competition with the baseball team having 13 games left of its regular-season schedule before beginning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament May 21, the softball team with just three games left of the docket this coming weekend against Southern Illinois and the track and field program with just one more meet before beginning its postseason events.
The ISU women’s golf team is the team that has ended at this time, with the group recording a sixth-place finish at the MVC championships one week ago.
Indiana State loses 2 in MVC softball
Indiana State aspired to upset Illinois State to get at least a doubleheader split in Missouri Valley Conference softball Thursday at Price Field as the Sycamores opened an eight-game season-ending homestand.
Paige Schreiner hit a two-run blast over the left-field fence in the fifth inning and junior Shelby Wilson delivered a sizzling RBI triple down the right-field line in the sixth as ISU ended the day playing well against the league’s highest-scoring offense.
The result was still a 5-3 loss to the Redbirds (26-18, 11-6 Missouri Valley Conference) as freshman Halle Humphrey gave up four runs in the first two innings. Humphrey, called upon to pitch the opener as well — she’s the only full-time pitcher remaining on the team — gave up six runs and eight hits as the Sycamores dropped a 6-1 game to start the day.
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It seemed so far-fetched.
Internet rumors circulated that Indiana State had been approached by the Sun Belt Conference to bring the Sycamores’ football team into the Sun Belt’s fold.
The Sun Belt is part of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Bowl football. Big boy football … and all it entails.
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Creighton sweep puts ISU in thick of things
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Second City in the Valley: Loyola joins the MVC
For the first time in its history, the Missouri Valley Conference will have a home in the Second City.
The Chicago Tribune confirmed Saturday via a Loyola University source that the Ramblers will replace Creighton as the MVC’s 10th team. Loyola — a member of the Horizon League — will join the MVC effective July 1.
Indiana State Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman — who was part of the MVC search committee that scouted potential replacements for Creighton — confirmed Sunday that the Ramblers were in the MVC loop.
Sycamore baseball holds off Creighton rally
By his own estimation, Indiana State baseball coach Rick Heller has been involved in close to 2,000 baseball games. If anyone has seen it all on the field, he’d be as good a candidate as any.
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A hip injury suffered by Indiana State ace starting pitcher Sean Manaea shuffled the Sycamores’ starting rotation for the second weekend running as it opened a Missouri Valley Conference home series against Creighton on Friday.
Sanford gets 2nd look at Sycamores
In the immediate aftermath of a practice, game, or in Friday’s case for Indiana State, a scrimmage, most football coaches defer to the film to paint a true picture of what was and wasn’t done. ISU coach Mike Sanford is no different. With the flurry of activity on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to get a true evaluation of anything watching it live.
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The Indiana State softball offense is no juggernaut, but the fog may be clearing on a program that has had a long history of struggles with few signs of consistent winning.
Explosive, dedicated athletes like Morgan Allee and Megan Stone are two reasons to believe this group of Sycamores can spark a turnaround.
The Sycamores are scoring an average of 3.1 runs per game while also ranking in the middle of the Missouri Valley Conference pack in hits and batting average. But the Sycamores are on pace to break the school record for on-base percentage as they lead the MVC in walks, hit-by-pitches, sacrifice bunts and stolen bases.
Allee, with 17 regular-season games to go, broke the school record for stolen bases in a season Tuesday against IUPUI and is among the 10 best in the NCAA. Her total of 30 makes up almost half of ISU’s 74.
“I’m so big [that] they think I won’t go. It works out well,” the stocky shortstop said.
ISU’s QB battle
Quarterback battles come in all shapes and sizes, but one could forgive Indiana State’s Mike Perish, Robert Tonyan Jr. and Trent Lancaster if they feel a bit more beleaguered than your average signal-caller.
Not only is the trio fighting for the right to be named ISU’s starter by the Sycamores’ football opener Aug. 29 at Indiana University, but all three also are trying to learn a new offense, they’re acclimating themselves to new coach Mike Sanford’s different way of running things, and they’re trying to maintain harmony amongst each other, so whoever the ultimate winner is can effectively lead the team without angst.
All of it is playing out during ISU’s spring practice, and so far, none of the quarterback candidates have separated themselves from the pack.
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