Redbirds Face Relentless Razorbacks Away From Home
Written by Tim Zalabak on March 3, 2023
Image Courtesy of ISU Athletics
The Redbird baseball team continued their season-opening road trip to Arkansas with a mid-week match-up against the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville on Wednesday. After taking two of three from Arkansas State the weekend prior, the Birds looked to test their skills against the 8th nationally ranked program.
Illinois State opened this thriller with one run in the first inning, thanks to a single up the middle off the bat of Adrian Flores, first baseman, scoring a speedy Luke Cheng.
But against a dangerous Razorback offense, no lead was safe. Arkansas responded quickly in the bottom of the first with a two-run home run from Jared Wegner, the Arkansas left fielder.
The Redbirds regained the lead in the second and the fourth inning with RBI singles from both Luke Stenger and Auggie Rasmussen scoring Connor Olson both times.
True freshman, Daniel Pacella extended the Illinois State lead further in the fifth with a towering shot to right field, bouncing off the upper deck of Baum- Walker Stadium, making the score 5-3.
There are no comfortable leads in Fayetteville, which became clear in the bottom of the seventh when the Razorbacks distanced themselves from ISU with back-to-back-to-back home runs from Payton Stovall, Kendall Diggs, and Caleb Cali respectively.
Keeping the scoring at a minimum late in this contest was Elijah Dale, a Kansas State transfer, who entered the game in the eighth inning. Dale went strong against the competitive lineup, striking out five and giving up two earned runs.
Trailing 8-5 entering the 8th the redbirds desperately needed a jolt of offense. Blake Stenger, Iowa Western CC transfer goes to the opposite field, leaving the yard for a two-run shot bringing the deficit to one.
The Razorback offense would not go away. Jared Wegner contributed once again with a single to left scoring one and gaining insurance for Arkansas.
In the top of the ninth trailing two the Redbirds were down to their last outs. Greg Nichols, a returning infielder, slips a homerun just over the left-field wall making the score 9-8.
Down only a run, pinch runner JT Sokolove checked into the game, representing the tying run. Daniel Pacella hits into what should have been the game-ending double play. Peyton Stovall, the Arkansas shortstop, collects the ground and sends the throw into right field. Rounding third and heading home to tie the game was Sokolove, headfirst sliding into home as the throw came in just late.
Free baseball in Fayetteville led to the bottom of the eleventh, when a no-out double off the bat of Stovall brought the outfield in for a play at the plate, setting up Kendall Diggs for a double of his own to end the game at a score of 10-9.
The extremely hard-fought battle, albeit a loss, will serve as an indication of whom this Illinois State team can hang with.
Steve Holm, 5th-year head coach for the Redbirds has this to say about his staff,
“Our approach does not change a lot. We chipped away and ground out at-bats from the first inning on,” said Holm.
The Birds lock back in for one more series down south, traveling to Conway to take on Central Arkansas. With a Record of 4-4, ISU is ready for whatever is next.