Baseball walks off on Illinois State

Sophomore infielder Brian Sisler fields a ground ball against Illinois State Tuesday at Ralph McKinzie Field. Sisler went 3-for-3 with two walks, one run and two RBIs.

By Brian Earle

In come-from-behind fashion, baseball got the best of the Illinois State Redbirds and its closer, David Suarez, by scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to come away with a 7-6 walk-off victory Tuesday at Ralph McKinzie Field.

With the Huskies (7-21-1) trailing, 6-5, first baseman Alex Klonowski led the inning with a double into the right-center field gap. Shortstop Brian Sisler followed suit with an almost identical shot to the right-center gap, driving in Klonowski from second base to tie the game, 6-6.

With no outs, catcher Joe Battaglia came to the plate and laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Sisler to third base. Outfielder Landon Tenhagen pinch hit for Tommy Hook and was intentionally walked.

Infielder Chris Divarco then pinch hit for the designated hitter, Connor Schomig, and hit a sacrifice fly deep enough to right field to drive in Sisler from third. Tenhagen was moving on the pitch, and the Redbirds appealed the call by throwing to first base with the intention that Tenhagen would be doubled off on the play, sending the game into extra innings.

“Because the batter was out on the fly ball, it takes away the force play around any of the other bases [and] the runners aren’t forced to move up,” said coach Ed Mathey. “Even though our runner at first left, they had to appeal to first base, to that runner, before the run from third crossed the plate. It’s a timing play … . I believe they got it right; you don’t see it very often. You don’t see situations like that.”

The Redbirds (19-11) struck first in the top of the first inning when third baseman Paul DeJong hit a solo blast over the left field fence to take a 1-0 lead.

The Redbirds’ lead was short-lived as the Huskies responded with three runs of their own on four hits and an error. Third baseman Carl Russell led the inning with a single and quickly found his way over to third base, where he was driven in on a single by sophomore second baseman Justin Fletcher.

The Huskies put on a hit and run with Klonowski up as he singled up the middle, moving Fletcher to third base. With the hit and run on again, Sisler singled up the middle, driving in Fletcher from third base as Klonowski moved to third base.

Klonowski later scored as catcher Mike Hollenbeck overthrew the first baseman when trying to pick off Sisler. That play gave the Huskies a 3-1 lead.

With the Huskies leading 4-2 in the top of the fifth, outfielder Daniel Dwyer led off with a double. Pitcher Jordan Ruckman walked three consecutive batters, allowing Dwyer to score, cutting the Huskies’ lead to 4-3.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Redbirds retook the lead on a two-run blast over the left field wall by outfielder Logan Leverett.

After the Huskies tied the game 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh, the Redbirds took the lead back in the top of the eighth inning.

Pitchers Andrew Frankenreider and Ben Neumann combined to hit three batters and load the bases with only one out. Hollenbeck drove in the go-ahead run from third on a sacrifice fly to left field, giving the Redbirds a 6-5 lead.

The Huskies recorded 12 hits on the day as four Huskies recorded multi-hit games. Russell led the way with four and Sisler recorded three while Fletcher and Klonowski came up with two apiece.

“For me it’s definitely been about slowing the game down and not letting it get too fast on me,” Russell said. “Just watching the ball all the way through and not pulling my head up [has helped me] because that was one of my big problems.”