NORMAL — Breaking out of an early season funk, Illinois State’s Kevin Tokarski and Zach Amrein provided the offensive firepower to complement a stellar pitching performance by Brad Sorkin as ISU rebounded from a 3-2 loss in the first game to post a 9-2 victory in the nightcap for a doubleheader split with Austin Peay on Saturday at Duffy Bass Field.
“That was really important for us after we lost that heartbreaker in the first game,” said ISU coach Mark Kingston, who saw his team improve to 13-6. “We’re really proud of the way the guys bounced back. I’m really happy with the way Sorkin pitched, our defense was very good and we really swung the bats. It was very good to see.”
No one swung the bat better than Tokarski in the second game as he staked the Redbirds to an early lead by driving home three of the first four ISU runs with singles in the second and third innings.
After entering the nightcap with a .235 average, nearly 200 points below his All-American numbers a year ago, Tokarski went 3-for-5 in the second game.
“I don’t know what the problem’s been, but I know the hits will come so I’m really not too worried about it,” said Tokarski. “I’m not really pressing at all. If I just play the game and play hard, things will take care of themselves. We’re winning and everything’s good right now and that’s all I’m worried about.”
Amrein put the finishing touch on the victory with a three-run home run into the wind to right field in the eighth inning.
“I wasn’t really trying to hit a home run,” he said. “You saw the way the wind was blowing. Luckily I got a good enough piece of it and kept it low so it carried a little bit further than it would have if I had gotten under it.”
It wrapped up a three-hit day for Amrein and gave him the team RBI lead with 19. Tyler McNeely also had three hits in the nightcap.
The Redbird defense turned inning-ending double plays in the third and fourth innings.
“It was good to see all the guys behind me,” Sorkin said. “It makes my job a lot easier when I’m throwing strikes and letting them do what they’re supposed to do.”
In the opener, early control problems hampered ISU starter Dan Savas. A pair of two-out walks in the second game home on a triple by Michael Blanchard to give the Governors a 3-0 lead.
“Other than those early walks that led to their runs, our pitching was tremendous,” Kingston said. “As long as we’re throwing strikes, our guys have very good stuff and there’s a good defense behind them.”
ISU scored single runs in the fifth and seventh innings but stranded two runners in the eighth, leaving nine in all.