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Electric Evansville rides big inning to defeat ISU in MVC Tournament

Evansville came into its championship round game against Indiana State with a sizzling .479 average in its previous Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament contests.

Included was a 17-run explosion against Illinois State in a game completed less than an hour before the Sycamores and Purple Aces played on Saturday night.

Evansville was riding the lightning … and the Aces kept the electricity flowing for one big inning against the Sycamores.

A six-run second-inning by the Aces knocked the Sycamores for a loop and ISU was unable to recover. Evansville won the MVC Tournament with an 8-6 victory on its home turf at German American Bank Field.

While ISU starting pitcher Cam Edmonson was on the wrong end of Evansville’s second-inning outburst, ISU’s exhausted pitching staff did its best to keep the Sycamores in the game.

ISU got the first punch in with a three-run first inning. Mike Sears hammered a two-run double to left and scored himself via an Adam Pottinger single to make it 3-0.

Edmonson, who got out of a bases loaded jam unscathed in the first inning, wasn’t as fortunate in the second. The first seven Evansville batters reached base safely in the inning. Simon Scherry’s bases-loaded two-run single pulled the Aces (35-23) close, Mark Shallenberger’s run scoring single tied it.

That was it for Edmonson, who gave way to Brennyn Cutts, normally a starting pitcher. On the first pitch Cutts threw, one-time Linton standout Kip Fougerousse smacked a three-run home run to right-center field to put the Aces up 6-0.

There were still no outs, but that’s the only hit Cutts would give up. A double play and strikeout got the Sycamores out from an even bigger inning from the Aces.

Cutts went on to pitch 3 2/3 innings with the home run being his only hit conceded. Later, Cole Gilley would go one further with 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball.

ISU’s pitching gave the offense a chance.

“We had several guys coming off 60 pitches two days ago just to give us innings and time and shorten the game. Cam was good in the first inning, but he was dead in the second inning. Brennyn Cutts was good and so was Gilley,” ISU coach Mitch Hannahs said.

However, ISU’s season-long potent offense had been hit-and-miss all tournament long and also suffered from a power outage. The Sycamores only hit two home runs in the tournament, tied for the fewest of any team.

“It’s something we need to fix in the next week. We need to have sure we have better at-bats and lengthen our lineup more one through nine. We kind of stagnated at times,” Hannahs said.

“You look at the stats and we left a lot of guys on,” Sears said.

Evansville starting pitcher Kenton Deverman held the Sycamores in-check after a rough first inning. Deverman scattered seven hits and struck out five.

ISU’s best chance for a breakthrough came in the seventh, and even then, Evansville provided a major boost. ISU loaded the bases with no outs via a single by Randal Diaz (on a throw in the dirt), a hit batsman, and an error.

ISU only got one run out of it … and it came via a wild pitch thrown by Evansville reliever Max Hansmann.

“If we want to make a run to Omaha, we have to clean that up,” Sears said. “Bases loaded, nobody out, and we only score one run. Those are situations where we need more.”

The Sycamores added another run in the eighth. With two outs and facing a full count, Josue Urdaneta singled to center. Diaz followed with a double into the left field gap. ISU had cut its deficit to 6-5.

ISU’s pitching finally blinked in the ninth. Gilley gave up a walk to lead off the ninth, though that runner was erased via a fielder’s choice.

Reliever Simon Gregersen was erratic afterwards. He gave up a single and a walk to load the bases. He then hit Chase Hug to force in one run and later walked Cal McGinnis with the bases loaded to make it 8-5.

Hannahs said after the game that Gregersen did his best. He had pitched to one batter in ISU's victory over Southern Illinois earlier in the day.

The pain of those runs Evansville became more acute as Luis Hernandez led off the ISU bottom of the ninth with a solo home run. ISU put the winning run at the plate in the ninth, but the game ended on a 5-4-3 double play.

NCAA regional host sites will be announced on Sunday night. ISU (42-13) went 3-2 in the MVC Tournament and its RPI was still in the top 10 as of late Saturday.

“I think the fact that we lose game one and get back to this point says a lot, but I don’t know that resonates in the [NCAA selection committee] room,” Hannahs said.

“I think we played as well as we could with the talent we had for a long time,” Hannahs added.

Sears wants a repeat of the feeling he got when ISU hosted a NCAA regional in 2023.

“That was an amazing experience. It was unreal. We’ll see what the NCAA thinks. Hopefully, we’ve done enough,” Sears said.