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May 30—Indiana State baseball coach Mitch Hannahs perfectly summed up the Sycamores’ situation when down five after the third inning in a Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament elimination game against Southern Illinois at SIU’s Itchy Jones Field.

“We were definitely at the standing 8-count. There’s no question,” Hannahs said.

Not only were the Sycamores in trouble on the field, but potentially off of it as well. There were upsets elsewhere in the college baseball world that tightened the NCAA regional at-large bubble and SIU itself could steal a bid ISU coveted if it was able to earn the MVC’s at-large bid.

The situation was dire, but just when the situation seemed to be its worst, the sun came out on the Sycamores.

ISU scored nine consecutive runs, including a six-run sixth-inning, and the Sycamores kept themselves alive at the MVC Tournament with a 9-7 victory that eliminated the Salukis.

Ellison Hanna II’s sixth inning grand slam is what put ISU in front, but it was one moment among several that saved the Sycamores’ bacon.

ISU will have to beat Dallas Baptist twice on Sunday to earn the MVC’s automatic bid. The first game is at noon EDT. If ISU wins, the teams play again at 4 p.m. ISU earlier lost 10-1 to Dallas Baptist on Saturday.

The task will be daunting — though ISU the same thing in 2019 against DBU.

Before ISU got the chance to repeat that feat, it had to survive SIU in a remarkable game. It certainly didn’t start well for the Sycamores.

ISU starting pitcher Tristan Weaver struggled. He issued a walk and two singles before recording an out — the last of the singles knocked in a run. Weaver then threw two wild pitches in succession to give the Salukis a second run. A sacrifice fly later in the inning would stake the Salukis to a 3-0 lead.

The Saluki lead jumped to 4-0 when Tony Rask, SIU’s No. 9 hitter, hit a solo home run to left. It was 5-0 by the end of the third after an Ian Walters RBI single.

Then the skies began to brighten — literally as the sun emerged after three days of Carbondale gloom, but figuratively at the plate for the Sycamores.

The Sycamores got to SIU starter Mike Hansell in the fourth. Grant Magill doubled off the center field wall and Dominic Cusumano followed with a two-run home run to right. ISU had a beach head as it cut its deficit to three. Helping to maintain that beach head was ISU reliever Matt Jachec, who threw three innings of shutout relief.

The sixth inning started steady and concluded with thunder.

Singles by Josue Urdaneta and Grant Magill was followed by a walk drawn by Cusumano. Then consecutive RBI singles by Sean Ross and Jordan Schaffer — Schaffer’s came via an epic nine-pitch at-bat — tightened the SIU lead to 8-4.

Next was Ellison Hanna II. On a 3-1 count, the left-handed slugger reached down low in the zone and caught one. He lined it over the fence for a go-ahead grand slam. ISU had wiped out its five-run deficit and led 8-5.

“I was in a situation to just tie the game. I wanted to put one run on the board for a tie, but thank God it went out,” Hanna said.

The explosive blast was almost secondary to the bedlam in front of the ISU dugout. Hanna stopped to watch the grand slam and then, midway to first base, tossed his bat — barrel-first — at the ISU dugout as his teammates celebrated wildly. Hanna’s toss drew intervention from the umpiring crew, but did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for what was the most important four-bagger of the tournament for the Sycamores.

“I looked into the dugout and I saw Coach Hannahs. The only reason I threw the bat I saw him coming out of the dugout to see if it’s gone. I saw his excitement and that pumped me up,” Hanna said.

Typically, ISU doesn’t like to show that kind of emotion, so what did Hannahs think of it?

“It seemed there was emotion and tension going back and forth. I think both teams were fighting and at each other a bit. I don’t want to see that … but I’ll let him slide on this one,” Hannahs said.

As big as Hanna’s grand-slam was? Jachec may have provided the dagger … almost by accident.

SIU responded in its half of the sixth by loading the bases with no outs. Up stepped SIU’s J.T. Weber, a .320 hitter with 15 home runs.

Weber hit a screamer hit at Jachec. The ball hit Jachec’s abdomen, rolled around his jersey, and fell into his glove. Jachec had the presence of mind to wheel around and double Grey Epps off second base for a crucial and unusual 1-4 double play. One batter later, Tyler Grauer struck out Tristan Peters. The Sycamores escaped bases loaded with no outs with no damage.

“The ball caught me. It was straight stomach. I just reacted and trapped it. Instantly I was like, ‘there’s guys where they shouldn’t be’, so I had to throw it somewhere. That was a dream scenario with bases loaded and no outs,” Jachec said.

Hannahs thought the double play was the turning point.

“I thought that was the turning point. I thought that deflated them. Not only that, but he hit a line drive right at him. You have no choice but to catch it or you’re in the hospital. He catches that thing and gets the double play. That moment coming off the inning before really changed the game,” Hannahs said.

ISU wasn’t quite in the clear — Peters hit a two-run home run in the ninth off Grauer to make it interesting, but the senior struck out Ian Walters to clinch an emotional victory for the Sycamores.

To repeat the feat ISU did in 2019? Hannahs wants more crooked numbers.

“We have to do more offensively. We have not done a lot against DBU when we’ve played them. If you comeback twice, you have to score runs, which we did in 2019. You have to get to eight to 10 runs,” Hannahs said.

One intriguing factor that wasn’t a variable in 2019? The rain-delay to Sunday means ISU ace Geremy Guerrero could be available to pitch. Then again? So will DBU ace Dominic Hamel.

—Dallas Baptist 10, Indiana State 1 — Dallas Baptist starting pitcher Luke Eldred, son of former Major League pitcher Cal Eldred, had a 1.96 ERA entering the contest for the right to advance to the MVC championship round. He would be every bit as dominant as his numbers would suggest.

In just six innings of work, Eldred allowed one hit — a Jordan Schaffer home run — and struck out 11 Sycamores

“I threw majority fastball, but I mixed in my changeup against lefties and got a few double plays out that, but having my fastball located really helped me out,” Eldred said.

ISU’s only hit of the game came when Schaffer cleared the center field fence for a home run in the top of the sixth. Apart from that, it was slim pickings. ISU hit into two double plays, and in only one inning, the seventh, did they get runners into scoring position.

Still, the Sycamores were in the game well into the contest thanks to another good relief performance from Will Buraconak.

DBU (36-15) staked itself to an early lead off of starting pitcher Javin Drake. Jace Grady hit a solo home run in the first and MVC Player of the Year Jackson Glenn slugged a two-run blast to make it 3-0.

Enter Buraconak, who held the Patriots off the board for 3 1/3 innings. He would have another inning too, but ISU ran into two-out trouble in the seventh with the game still 3-1.

Glenn hit a ball to medium-deep right. ISU right fielder Ellison Hanna II was playing deep against the threatening Glenn. Second baseman Josue Urdaneta came out from his position to try to field the fly ball and Hanna held up. The ball dropped in and Glenn had a double.

On the next at-bat? Grady hit a deep ball to center. ISU center fielder Sean Ross, anticipating contact with the wall, jumped to get the ball. He got his glove on it, but it fell away. Town scored and DBU was off to the races. The Patriots scored two runs to make it 5-1 and then added five more in the eighth and ninth as ISU saved its bullpen for the second Saturday game against Southern Illinois.

Game 1

DALLAS BAPTIST (AB-R-H-RBI) — Town rf-lf 4-2-1-1, Glenn 2b 6-3-3-4, Grady cf 4-2-2-2, Moore 1b 5-0-2-1, Bell lf 3-1-1-1, David rf 0-0-0-0, Benefield 3b 5-0-0-0, Sosa dh 3-0-0-0, Wrobleski ph 0-1-0-0, Boulware c 5-1-2-0, Jones ss 5-0-1-1. TOTALS 40-10-12-10.

INDIANA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Schaffer ss 3-1-1-1, Hanna rf 3-0-0-0, Wright c 3-0-0-0, Rivera df 1-0-0-0, Fuentes 1b 4-0-0-0, Beck lf 3-0-0-0, Cusumano 3b 2-0-0-0, Sears ph-3b 1-0-0-0, Ross cf 3-0-0-0, Urdaneta 2b 3-0-0-0. TOTALS 26-1-1-1.

Dallas Baptist=102=000=223=-=10

Indiana State=000=001=00X=-=1

E — Schaffer (9), Cusumano (3). DP — DBU 2. LOB — DBU 10, ISU 4. 2B — Town (13), Glenn (15), Moore (14), Boulware (6). 3B — Grady (3). HR — Glenn 2 (19), Grady (2), Bell (9); Schaffer (7). SF — Town (1).

Dallas Baptist=IP=H=R=ER=BB=SO

Eldred (W, 4-0)=6=1=1=1=3=11



Indiana State=IP=H=R=ER=BB=SO

Drake (L, 2-4)=2 1/3=2=3=3=2=1

Buraconak=4 1/3=5=2=2=1=3

Ridgway=2 1/3=5=5=5=3=3

HBP — by Sherlin (Wright). WP — Sherlin (4). T — 3:11. A — 321.

Game 2

INDIANA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Schaffer ss 5-1-1-1, Hanna II rf 5-1-1-4, Wright dh 5-1-2-1, Beck lf 4-0-1-0, Rivera 1b 2-0-0-0, Urdaneta 2b 5-1-2-0, Magill c 5-2-2-0, Cusumano 3b 4-2-1-2, Ross cf 5-1-2-1. TOTALS 40-9-12-9.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (AB-R-H-RBI) — Cleveland dh 2-1-1-0, Weber lf 5-2-2-0, Peters cf 5-2-2-3, Neville ss 4-1-0-0, Archer 1b 4-0-1-1, Walters 3b 5-0-2-1, Martin rf 4-0-1-0, Epps 2b 4-0-1-0, Rask c 3-1-2-1, Blubaugh pr 0-0-0-0, Ulick c 1-0-0-0. TOTALS 37-7-12-6.

Indiana State=000=206=010=-=9

Southern Illinois=311=000=002=-=7

E — Beck (1); Epps (5). DP — ISU 1, SIU 1. LOB — ISU 9, SIU 8. 2B — Magill (2). HR — Hanna (5), Wright (16); Cusumano (3), Peters (6), Rask (1). SF — Archer (2).

Indiana State=IP=H=R=ER=BB=SO

Weaver=2 2/3=5=5=5=3=2

Jachec (W, 1-0)=3=4=0=0=1=3

Grauer=3 1/3=3=2=2=0=3

Southern Illinois=IP=H=R=ER=BB=SO

Hansell=3 1/3=5=2=2=0=1

Back=1 2/3=2=3=3=2=0

Hall (L, 1-2)=2 2/3=3=3=3=0=1



WP — Weaver 3. HBP — by Hansell (Rivera), by Hall (Rivera). PB — Rask (2). T — 3:14. A — 445.

Next — ISU (30-17) plays Dallas Baptist at Noon EDT on Sunday. If ISU wins, the same teams will play again at 4 p.m. EDT in a winner-take-all MVC Championship contest. Southern Illinois finished its season with a 40-20 record.