Redbirds Rally for Doubleheader Split With Central Michigan

March 19, 2010

Box Score

NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State was just getting its offense going before Central Michigan took the first game, 2-1, but the Redbirds kept the momentum rolling and rallied for a 6-2 win in the second game to salvage a home-opening, doubleheader split at Duffy Bass Field Friday afternoon.

Central Michigan (7-7) reliever Mike Nixon got Anthony Ruffolo to fly out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning of game one to squash a rally by the Redbirds, but Illinois State (7-9) pounded out 10 hits and pushed across six runs in the second game to even the series. Matt Mirabal hit his first career home run in the seventh inning of the first game, one of three hits in the final frame for ISU, before Nixon entered the game and earned his first save of the season.

"We got a little something going there in the seventh inning but unfortunately we weren't able to pull it off," Ryan Copeland, Illinois State's starting pitcher in game two, said. "It definitely carried over into the second game. If you lose the first game (your mindset is) you really don't want to get swept in a doubleheader, especially at home. I'm really happy with the way we came out in the second game."

Illinois State was limited to two hits through six innings against CMU starter Jesse Hernandez (2-1), but Mirabal's shot to left field gave life to the Redbirds' dormant offense. Singles by Evan Kohli and Kevin Tokarski, and a walk by Chad Hinshaw loaded the bases, but Ruffolo got under the 3-2 pitch and Sam Russell made the catch to end the contest.



Corey Maines (2-1) scattered six hits over seven innings, in his second consecutive complete game. He was tagged with his first loss of the season despite allowing just one earned run and striking out four Chippewas. Jake Thornton and Josh Colon also had base hits for the Redbirds in the opening game.

Matt Mirabal

>In the second game, Central Michigan starter Trent Howard (1-2) struck out the first four batters he faced before Illinois State strung together three consecutive hits up the middle, with the final base knock scoring Mirabal for the game's first run. Howard struck out 10 in the contest and had a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the sixth, but the Redbirds plated five runs over the final three frames to win.

Illinois State's top three hitters in the lineup - Tokarski, Hinshaw and Ruffolo - went a combined 0-for-6 the first two times through the lineup against Howard, but Tokarski and Ruffolo each hit solo home runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the Redbirds ahead 3-2. Tokarski's home run to left, his third in the last four games, tied the ball game, and Ruffolo's solo shot to right, his third of the season, proved to be the eventual game-winner.

Mirabal singled to lead off the seventh inning and helped chase Howard from the game. He was later driven in for the second time in the game by Ryan Court to make it a two-run game, and ISU made it stick for Copeland with another pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth.

Copeland (1-2) surrendered just four hits and didn't issue a walk in seven innings to earn his first win of the season. JD Learnard pitched two perfect innings of relief to notch his first collegiate save. Mirabal went 3-for-4 in the second game and scored a third time in the eighth inning. Thornton and Court also had multi-hit games with two hits each.

The Redbirds and Chippewas are scheduled to match-up in single games on both Saturday and Sunday, starting at 1 p.m. Illinois State's Ryan Camp will likely start Saturday's contest against Central Michigan's Jake Sabol. Brad Sorkin (ISU) and Rick Dodridge (CMU) will meet in Sunday's series finale. Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, TRC gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.