Birds Split with Evansville, Clinch Share of MVC Crown
May 21, 2010
EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Illinois State clinched a share of its first-ever, regular-season Missouri Valley Conference Title after splitting a pair of games with Evansville at Charles Braun Stadium Friday. The Redbirds fell a run short of keeping pace with Evansville in a 5-4 loss as the two teams concluded a suspended game from Thursday early in the day, but flipped the script and held off the Purple Aces for a 7-6 win in game two.
For the first time since the Illinois State played its inaugural Missouri Valley Conference slate in 1982, the Redbirds (27-21, 15-5 MVC) will finish at the top of the league standings and have a chance to win the outright title in Saturday's regular-season finale with the Aces (29-25, 9-11 MVC).
"This is a great day for Redbird baseball," Illinois State head coach Mark Kingston said. "This was a team effort in every sense of the word. I hope everyone that has ever been connected to the program takes great pride in this accomplishment. I couldn't be more proud of this group and we will work hard to build on this."
The third time proved to be the charm for the Redbirds after unsuccessfully attempting to clinch a share in two previous games before Ty Wiesemeyer made a diving catch in left field to end Friday's squeaker. The Redbirds dropped a 14-inning decision to Bradley Sunday and lost in the series opener with the Aces Friday when the game resumed after being suspended due to heavy rain Thursday night.
In the opener, Greg Wallace led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run to give the Purple Aces a 5-4 advantage and Evansville relievers Zach Taylor and Tom Heithoff limited the Redbirds to one hit over the final two innings. Heithoff worked a perfect ninth to notch his 10th save of the season.
Illinois State didn't have any trouble scoring in the night cap and pushed across runs in each of the first five innings while building a 7-0 lead. Redbird starter Brad Sorkin limited Evansville to two hits through the first four innings before the Purple Aces showed signs of life. Evansville scored two in the fifth and added two each in the seventh and ninth innings before Kenny Long got Wallace to pop out to Wiesemeyer in left, while earning his eighth save of the year.
Ryan Court and Chad Hinshaw homered for the Redbirds in the second game, with Court driving in three of Illinois State's seven runs. Anthony Ruffolo was 2-for-3 with two runs scored in game two.
The Redbirds and Aces conclude regular-season play Saturday at 1 p.m. Illinois State has clinched the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, which begins Tuesday in Wichita, Kan.
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