On a dreary, rain-soaked afternoon at Bloomington’s Kaufman Field, the University of Evansville baseball team, having blown an early lead and trailing in their final at-bat, could have folded up the tent and headed home. Instead, the Aces battled back to force extra innings, before finally falling 6-5 Sunday afternoon in Bloomington.
“I’m proud of the fight our guys brought to the yard this afternoon”, said University if Evansville head coach Wes Carroll. “They showed the competitiveness we lacked in the first for three games of the series. We got a great relief performance from Michael Parks. Craig Shepherd and Nate Reeder had clutch at-bats. We just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it today.”
The Aces raced out to their first lead of the series in the opening frame, as junior shortstop Craig Shepherd drew a one-out walk, followed by senior designated hitter Nate Reeder’s single to left, putting two aboard. Sophomore first baseman Tanner Craig would cash in with an opposite field double to right, scoring Shepherd from second, making it 1-0 UE. Next, freshman right fielder A.J. Fritz would drive in a second tally on a groundout to third, putting Evansville out in front 2-0.
In the second inning, senior third baseman Sam Troyer would add to the UE pad with a double to left, driving in fellow senior Matthew Jones from first base, extending the Evansville lead to 3-0.
Senior right-hander Justin Hayden, making his first start since March 2 against Eastern Kentucky, tossed a scoreless opening frame. However, in the second IU would tag him for four runs on four doubles, as the Hoosiers took the lead. Those would be Hayden’s only blemishes, as he would come back to toss scoreless innings in the third and fourth innings, before giving way to freshman lefty Michael Parks, who would come in to toss three plus innings of shutout work, keeping it a one-run game.
However, the Aces couldn’t cash in on several opportunities to tie the game, stranding the tying run in scoring position in the third, fourth, seven and eighth innings. Meanwhile, Indiana would add one more in the eighth inning on a one-out wild pitch from Parks, who would be relieved by senior Austin Allinger, who would get final out, sending the game to the ninth with UE down 5-3.
That’s when the rally began. Craig Shepherd started it, battling the Hoosiers top-line closer Matt Lloyd, finally delivering a lead-off single to left. Next, Nate Reeder kept the rally going with a single to right, bringing in Shepherd from first, cutting the deficit to onw. Tanner Craig would follow that up with an opposite field single to right. Then, with two aboard, A.J. Fritz loaded up the bases with no outs, lacing a single to left. Troy Beilsmith drew a bases-loaded walk, bringing in Shepherd to draw Evansville knotting the game up at 5-5. However, just as the Aces were on the verge of taking the lead, Indiana defense would halt the rally, first Craig would get gunned down at home on a Danny Borgstromfielder’s choice. Then, Matthew Jones hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the ninth, Austin Allinger kept the Hoosiers off the scoreboard, sending the game to extras.
Craig Shepherd would once again deliver in the top of the tenth with a two-out double to right. However, Sophomore designated hitter EvanAders struck out to end the threat.
Allinger would come out again in the bottom of the inning, but after getting the first out of the frame, IU would load up the bases, and Drew Ashley would lift a flyball to the fence in left, bringing in the winning run.
The loss drops Evansville to 17-15 and the season, while Indiana improves to 24-12.
Up next for the Aces, a Tuesday night road trip to take on Murray State in a non-conference matchup in Murray, Kentucky.