ISU Baseball Weekend Recap: Birds lose first series of the year despite power surge against Central Arkansas
Written by Ben Hudy on March 6, 2023
Images courtesy of Illinois State Baseball
NORMAL, Ill. – After dropping an extra inning thriller to Arkansas in the middle of the week, the Illinois State baseball team headed to Central Arkansas to take on the Bears. ISU came into this series with a record of 4-4 on the year without losing a weekend series yet.
The Redbirds ended up dropping 2 of 3 during the series and dropped their record to 5-6 on the season. Despite the Redbirds losing the series, they had a strong offensive attack all weekend and managed to hit eight homer runs throughout the weekend.
Game One: Birds battle with Bears; lose on walk-off home run in the 9th
The Redbirds and Bears were expected to kick off the weekend series on Friday, but rain had other plans. The game ended up being pushed to early Saturday and the two teams would then play a double header.
Despite the rain-out on Friday, senior Derek Salata still got the start for ISU. Salata has been the Redbirds best pitcher early in the season, and he did not skip a beat on Saturday. Salata went 5.2 innings giving up two runs and striking out seven.
The Redbirds got things going in the 3rd inning off a two-run single off the bat of Adrian Flores. Flores continues to be one of the Redbirds best hitters early in the season. Flores is currently hitting .500 on the season with 14 hits and nine RBIs.
The Bears answered back in the bottom of the 5th to bring the lead closer at 2-1. In the top of the 6th, sophomore Blake Stenger hit a solo shot to extend the Birds lead to 3-1. The home run from Stenger was his second in two games after being put in the lineup for the first time last weekend.
The Redbirds pitching was able to keep them in the game after Salata with quality innings from Jared Hart and Elijah Dale. Hart pitched 2.1 innings giving up one run and striking out three.
The Redbirds turned to Elijah Dale to try and get the game to extra innings but he gave up a walk-off home run to Kol Johnson of Central Arkansas. The Redbirds dropped the first game, 4-3.
Game Two: Nichols strikes in extra innings to beat Central Arkansas
The second game of the double header was a back and forth offensive battle between the two squads. The Redbirds managed to use to long ball to outlast the Bears and win 8-6 in extra innings.
The Redbirds went to freshman Tyrelle Chadwick and he gave the Birds six solid innings. Chadwick struck out seven batters while walking zero. This game was huge for Chadwick after having a couple shaky starts early in the season.
The Birds offense got going when freshman Luke Lawrence batted in two in the second inning. Lawrence is playing third base for the Birds right now while Luke Cheng battles with an injury, but he has been taking advantage of all his opportunities.
The Bears answered back to take a 3-2 lead until the Birds used the long ball to retake the lead. The lead-off hitter, Auggie Rasmussen slugged a no-doubt home run to retake the lead in the top of the 5th.
After the Bears retook the lead in the 6th, the Redbirds turned to the freshman yet again to bring some power. Daniel Pacella clubbed his 4th home run of the year to retake the lead in the 8th inning at 6-5.
Once Chadwick’s day was over the Redbirds the Redbirds used fourth-year junior Cameron Mabee. Mabee kept the Redbirds in the game pitching four impressive innings. Mabee only gave up one run and one hit while striking out five.
The Bears eventually tied the game forcing the game to extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, Greg Nichols provided for the Birds. Nichols hit a go-ahead two-run home run to give the Redbirds the lead. This is Nichols second extra inning game winning home run on the young season.
Mabee went back out for the bottom of the 10th and shut the door on the Bears to secure the win for ISU.
Game Three: Bears offense takes out Birds despite four homers from ISU
Sunday ended up just not being the Redbirds day. Despite four home runs from the Redbirds, the Bears had a strong offensive showing, winning 22-10.
In the top of the 1st, it looked as if it was going to be the Birds day. Pacella hit a grand slam to extend to the lead to 5-0. This was Pacella’s first grand slam of his young career and his fifth home run for the season.
The Bears answered back and put up 8 runs through three innings. The Birds used Nichols to pull things a little closer off a solo-shot to make the game 8-7. This was Nichols 4th homer for the young season.
After that it was all Bears the rest of the way. The Redbirds ended up hitting two more homers from Rasmussen and Pacella’s second of the game.
It is tough to lose a series, especially after hitting eight home runs throughout the weekend. The Bears offense was just able to do so much more in the rubber match leading to the series win.
Nichols and Pacella just continue to prove that they are the Birds best hitters early on in the season. Not only are they hitting the ball for high averages, but they continue to hit the ball out of the park. Pacella currently leads the team with six home runs while Nichols trails with four.
Stenger has been an awesome addition for the Redbirds so far. He currently has two homers on the season and mans center field extremely well. Stenger has already made multiple highlight real plays out in center field.
Mabee also helped his case this weekend to be one of the more reliable Redbirds out of the bullpen. The juniors solid 4 inning performance proved he could handle high leverage situations for Steve Holm’s team.
The Redbirds will travel to Lincoln next weekend to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers for a three game series. The Redbirds currently sit at 5-6 on the season.