MVC-leading Indiana State baseball makes most of eight hits, beats Belmont 8-5

May 4—On a warm Saturday at Bob Warn Field, Indiana State hitters went a mild 8 for 30 off Belmont pitchers.

Don't reach for the calculator. That's a .267 batting average.

Not terrible, not sensational.

What made those eight hits meaningful was five of them being home runs, which allowed ISU to rally for an 8-5 victory in Missouri Valley Conference baseball. The Sycamores are now 33-10 overall and 16-4 in MVC action.

ISU's triumph, coupled with Evansville's 8-4 loss at Valparaiso, increased its first-place lead over the Purple Aces to three full games. Also worth noting, UIC has climbed into a tie with Evansville for second at 13-7.

After Sunday's series finale against Belmont, Indiana State will play host to Evansville for a three-game series next weekend at Bob Warn Field.

ISU needed a rally to knock off Belmont in Game 2 after pummeling the Bruins 15-5 in the seven-inning series opener Friday night.

With two outs in the top of the first inning, Belmont's Mason Landers — tied with ISU's Mike Sears for second on the MVC home-run list for the season — smashed a Brennyn Cutts offering over the left-field wall for his 18th roundtripper to put the Bruins on top 1-0.

Belmont's infield defense turned double plays in the first and second innings, but the second one resulted in ISU's first run when Parker Stinson raced home from third base on the same play.

The visitors answered with three runs in the top of the third when Landon Godsey drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded and Max Blessinger lined a two-run single to right-center, boosting their advantage to 4-1.

Belmont made it 5-1 in the fifth when clean-up hitter Brodey Heaton launched a home run to left.

Neither team scored in its next half-inning, so the Sycamores trailed 5-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

That's when the game took an interesting twist for the home fans.

Red-hot Luis Hernandez, who leads the conference in runs batted in with 59, led off with a bomb — his 14th of the season — off Belmont starting pitcher Dominic Baratta. Two outs later, the left-handed hurler allowed a home run off the top of the right-field scoreboard by Adam Pottinger that cut Belmont's lead to 5-3. That prompted a pitching change as the Bruins brought in right-hander Cade Granzow, who gave up a single to Grant Magill before recording the third out of the frame.

Meanwhile, ISU reliever Zach Davidson — who had replaced Cutts with two outs in the fifth — was turning in a masterful performance. At one point, Davidson struck out six Bruins in a row. He ended up with eight Ks.

With the Belmont offense stuck on five runs, ISU exploded for five off Granzow in the seventh to seize momentum for the rest of the afternoon.

Josue Urdaneta got plunked by a pitch to lead off the inning. One out later, he came home on Dominic Listi's line-drive homer that barely cleared the right-field wall.

Hernandez followed with a solo shot that eluded the glove of leaping Belmont left fielder Blake Barton and gave the Sycamores their first lead of the game at 6-5. A walk to Stinson brought up Sears, who regained his tie with Landers for runner-up in the MVC home-run race, by blasting his 18th, a no-doubter over the left-field wall.

Davidson finished his 4.1-inning relief masterpiece — although he did give up a single to Jack Rando in the ninth — to get credit for the win and raise his record to 2-1.

Afterward, ISU's happy players mingled with autograph-seeking spectators and shared their opinions on Saturday's triumph with Wabash Valley media:

—Listi on his home run, only his second of the season — "I'm not typically a home-run hitter. I try to hit line drives. I hit a good line drive [Saturday] and I thought, 'That has some carry to it.' I just kept running, but I was able to get the head [of the bat] out on the fastball and just barreled it up."

—Listi on Davidson's clutch pitching performance — "Having him come in and stabilize the game for us was huge."

—Hernandez on having three homers through the first two games of the Belmont series — "Right now, I'm trying to hit the ball hard to the middle. And if it goes out of the park, it goes out. I'm just trying to hit the ball hard."

—ISU coach Mitch Hannahs on turning the momentum around on the Bruins — "I thought the big at-bats were when Luis Hernandez hit the home run [his first of the game] and when Adam Pottinger hit the home run in the sixth inning. That got Baratta out of the game ... because he pretty much stuck it to us earlier."

Saturday marked the third time this season that the Sycamores homered three times in the same inning. Others were the first inning April 14 against Bradley and the fourth inning April 19 at Illinois State.

In addition, ISU lead-off man Randal Diaz extended his hitting streak to 16 consecutive games and his on-base streak to 22 games following his single in the first inning.

Hannahs said righty Luke Hayden (6-1) will start Game 3 of the series on the mound Sunday. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.