The University of Southern Indiana baseball team advanced to the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional finals for the third time in five seasons after defeating top-seeded and sixth-ranked University of Illinois Springfield in a slugfest, 13-11, Saturday at Robin Roberts Stadium in Springfield, Illinois. USI, the seventh seed, watched its record go to 35-21 overall, while Illinois Springfield falls to 47-8.
With the victory, the unbeaten Screaming Eagles earn the day off on Sunday as Illinois Springfield, fifth-seeded Quincy University, and fourth-seeded Ohio Dominican University battle for the right to play USI for the regional crown on Monday. The first regional final game Monday is slated for noon. Should the Eagles lose the noon contest, an “if necessary game” would follow immediately.
The slugfest started in lopsided fashion in USI’s favor as it built a 6-0 lead after one-and-a-half-frames. USI scored a pair in the first inning before exploding for four runs in the second, highlighted by a three-run blast to left center by senior designated hitter Drake McNamara (Mt. Vernon, Indiana), who will finish the game with three hits, three runs scored, and six RBIs. The home run was McNamara’s school record 17thof the year.
The Prairie Stars, however, were not about to go quietly and responded with a seven-run second inning and captured the lead, 7-6. USI evened the score, 7-7, when senior rightfielder Buddy Johnson(Shelbyville, Kentucky) scored on a RBI-ground out by senior third baseman Sam Griggs (Evansville, Indiana) in the top of the third.
Illinois Springfield regained the lead with a tally in the bottom of the fourth and posted its largest lead of the game, 10-7, with a pair of runs in the fifth.
USI closed the gap to 10-9 in the sixth when McNamara singled in freshman shortstop Ethan Hunter (Terre Haute, Indiana) and junior second baseman Jacob Fleming (Evansville, Indiana). The Eagles regained the lead, 11-10, in the eighth on a RBI-sacrifice fly by Johnson and a RBI-single by junior catcher Logan Brown (Mt. Vernon, Indiana).
The Eagles sealed the victory in the ninth when Fleming doubled in freshman centerfielder Bryce Krizan (Mt. Vernon, Indiana) and scored on a RBI-double to left by senior first baseman Nick Gobert (Jasper, Indiana) to make the score, 13-10.
The Prairie Stars would get a run in the bottom of the ninth before USI senior right-hander Kyle Griffin(Morganfield, Kentucky) closed out his second victory of the regional, 13-11. Griffin (7-3) won his team-high seventh game of the season after three innings of relief work, allowing one unearned run on no hits and striking out eight batters.
In his two relief appearances in the regional, Griffin has allowed the one unearned run, two hits, walked four, and struck out 18 batters in eight innings of work.
USI junior left-hander Chase Partain (Evansville, Indiana) started but had to be lifted in the second inning. Senior right-hander Nick Coudret (Newburgh, Indiana), sophomore right-hander Tyler Hagedorn(Evansville, Indiana), and sophomore right-hander Jacob Bowles (Mt. Washington, Kentucky) followed Partain to the mound before Griffin took over in the seventh.