Indiana State baseball bashes Bradley again, this time 11-1

Apr. 13—If Indiana State slugger Mike Sears felt left out of the Sycamores' hit parade Friday night against Bradley, he sure didn't feel that way Saturday.

For the second straight contest at Bob Warn Field on a windy Saturday afternoon, ISU's baseball team bashed Bradley so badly that action was halted by the run rule before the ninth inning as the Sycamores collected 13 hits over six innings and benefited from Brennyn Cutts' seven-inning complete game to win 11-1.

With Sunday's 1 p.m. clash against the Braves all that's remaining in the three-game series, Saturday clinched the 14th consecutive Missouri Valley Conference series won by the Sycamores, regardless of Sunday's outcome.

"This is a good group," Indiana State coach Mitch Hannahs assessed. "Last year was a really good group. And it seems like, as the [2024] season goes on here, we're starting to play a little better and a little better."

The Sycamores (26-7 overall and 9-2 to lead the MVC) will carry a five-game winning streak into Sunday.

The right-handed Sears — whose 0-for-5 plate performance made him the only ISU starter without at least two hits in its 14-2 eight-inning victory Friday — made up for his uncharacteristic lack of production Saturday by going 2 for 2 with a home run, double and two walks. He also scored two runs, as did teammates Randal Diaz, Dominic Listi and Luis Hernandez, while Adam Pottinger knocked in four runs with a three-run homer in the first inning and an RBI single in the sixth.

Sears told the Tribune-Star afterward that he and his offensive teammates planned to approach each game of the Bradley series the same way.

"If they throw a strike in the zone, hammer it," he explained. "That's the mindset we've had. Some of the past couple weeks, we've taken some good pitches and been a little tentative until later in the game."

ISU set off its offensive fireworks in the bottom of the first when Diaz and Listi led off with doubles, although Diaz held up at third base because of the possibility of Listi's ball being caught in right-center field. Two outs later, Pottinger launched his three-run bomb to right-center, slightly to the left of the 372-foot marker. Sears hammered the next pitch over the center-field wall for his team-high 13th roundtripper of the season, boosting the Trees' advantage to 4-0.

"This team has been picking me up all season and Coach [Hannahs] has believed in me all season," Pottinger mentioned after the game. "I didn't have the best start [to the season]."

Describing his home run off Bradley starting pitcher Travis Lutz, Pottinger said: "I saw a fastball and I turned on it."

The Sycamores added a pair of runs in the second when Grant Magill singled up the middle and Diaz reached base on a one-out fielder's choice before Listi doubled off the wall in right-center to send Diaz scurrying home and Hernandez followed with a bloop single to right to plate Listi, upping the lead to 6-0.

But with one out in the top of the third, Bradley's No. 9 hitter — Jackson Chatterton — connected for a solo homer to right for the only score off Cutts all day. The only other hit allowed by Cutts was a two-out single by Beau Durbin in the sixth. Cutts finished with six strikeouts and two walks, improving his record to 4-1.

"That's been Cutts all year," Hannahs emphasized. "He's been really good. He's been a fastball/changeup guy most of his career, but a lot of teams have gone [heavily] right-handed against him and forced him to throw more sliders. And I think his ability to throw quality sliders this year has been the reason why he's been able to make the next jump."

Indiana State increased its margin to 8-1 with two more runs in the third, courtesy of a one-out walk to Sears, a two-out walk to Magill, an infield single by Josue Urdaneta to load the bases and a hot-smash double down the third-base line by Diaz that permitted Sears and Magill to touch home.

A solo homer to center by Hernandez, his 10th bomb of the season, padded ISU's cushion to 9-1 in the bottom of the fourth. Saturday's game marked the second straight 3-for-4 performance by Hernandez, who had five RBIs Friday. He's batting .368 for the season.

"He's one of the best hitters in our league," Hannahs said of Hernandez, a junior from Puerto Rico. "He hits every pitch — fastball, slider, changeup. You leave it in the [strike] zone, he's going to hit it. He's just a special hitter."

The Sycamores' final two runs came in the sixth when Pottinger grounded an RBI single through the hole to right field and Joe Kido lofted a sacrifice fly to right.

"Our hitters have done a really good job against their starting pitchers," Hannahs pointed out. "They haven't been chasing 'em ... getting a lot of good contact."

Hannahs said ISU will start righty Luke Hayden (3-1) on the mound Sunday.

"Obviously, we feel pretty good about the depth we have in the bullpen going into [Sunday]," he added.

Through all of Saturday's MVC matchups, Illinois State and UIC stood second and third in the league standings with records of 7-4 and 7-5 respectively.