The University of Evansville baseball team got back into Missouri Valley Conference play in winning fashion, grinding out a hard-fought 6-2 victory over that arch-rivals to the north, Saturday night at Charles H. Braun Stadium.
“I’m just so proud of our team”, said University of Evansville head coach Wes Carroll. “That was a championship effort from the pitching, to the defense, to the grind-it-out at-bats.”
The Sycamores grabbed a quick 1-0 in the second inning, however that would be the only blemish on the Aces’ junior starting pitcher Adam Lukas through the first five innings. However his counterpart, unbeaten Triston Polley, kept the UE bats at bay through the first four frames.
Still trailing 1-0 in the fifth, the Aces went to work, drawing three walks to load up the bases. Polley would come back to issue a fourth free pass to senior designated hitter Nate Reeder, forcing in freshman second basemen Danny Borgstrom, knotting the game at 1.
Indiana State would answer back in the top of the sixth inning, but it wouldn’t last. In the bottom of the frame, freshman right fielder A.J. Fritz took the first pitch he saw from Polley and launched his team-leading fifth home run of the season to lead off the inning. The solo shot knotted the game up at two, and ended Polley’s night. However, the Aces’ bats were no kinder to the Sycamores’ bullpen. First, senior third baseman Sam Troyer parlayed a walk, a pair of stolen bases and a throwing error into the go-ahead tally. Then, another error set up junior shortstop Craig Shepherd, who delivered with an RBI single, giving Evansville a 4-2 advantage. The Aces would tack on two more tallies in the seventh on a wild pitch, which scored sophomore first baseman Tanner Craig, and senior left fielder Matthew Jones delivered a sacrifice fly, which would bring home freshman right field A.J. Fritz.
Freshman reliever Michael Parks would take over for Lukas, who went six innings allowing just two runs on five hits, while striking out five. The young southpaw would take it the rest of the way, striking out the side in order in the seventh, and go on to toss three scoreless innings to earn his fifth save of the season, while Lukas picked up his fifth victory, moving to 5-3 on the season. Aaron Cross took the loss for ISU, dropping to 2-1 on the year.
The victory improves Evansville record to 19-15 overall and more importantly, 6-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Meanwhile, Indiana State drops to 27-9 overall, and 4-3 in the MVC.
The series wraps up Sunday with the Aces and Sycamores squaring off in a weather-induced doubleheader. First pitch is set for 12 p.m. at Charles H. Braun Stadium.