NORMAL -- There would be no quarreling with the gorgeous mid-March weather or the Illinois State baseball team's level of play Wednesday at Duffy Bass Field.
J.D. Learnard pitched seven strong innings and Ryan Court had three of the Redbirds' 10 hits as ISU handled Southern Illinois Edwardsville, 8-2, in its home opener.
"I'm really happy with the way we played," Redbird coach Mark Kingston said. "We pitched very well as we have been, and our defense was very good. We had 10 hits and hit a lot of line drives that hung up in the outfield (for outs)."
Learnard (1-1) allowed one earned run while striking out six and walking one to help ISU improve to 11-5.
"It's just throwing strikes. That's been my thing," said the sophomore right-hander. "If I can do that, I can be pretty successful. With our defense, if I get ground balls they can make plays."
Ryan Court, who singled home Kevin Tokarski with ISU's first run in the opening inning, beat out an infield single to lead off the fourth and took second on throwing error. After moving to third on a Zach Amrein grounder, Court pulled the Redbirds into a 2-2 tie by scoring on Tyler McNeely's sacrifice fly.
Court also singled and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth on Mike Hollenbeck's ground out.
"I thought we played well. It took a little bit to get adjusted to the field after that long road trip," Court said. "But the later innings were great. We've got a lot of guys who can play."
The Redbirds added three runs in the seventh on singles from Tokarski and Matt Mirabal, a Court sacrifice fly, two walks and an error. Tokarski's sacrifice fly drove home one of two eighth-inning runs.
Matt Werderitch and Jacob Wielebnicki followed Learnard with one scoreless inning of relief apiece.
Edwardsville (4-12) committed five errors that led to three unearned runs.
Devin Caldwell and Joel Greatting each had two of the Cougars' seven hits. Josh Hoguet, the second of five Edwardsville hurlers, took the loss.
ILLINOIS STATE 8, SIU EDWARDSVILLE 2
SIU Edwardsville 001 100 000-2-7-5
Illinois State 100 101 32x-8-10-1
Daniels, Hoguet (6, L, 0-2), Quattrocchi (7), Lorenz (8), Stauffenberg (8) and Sipe. Learnard (W, 1-1), Werderitch (8), Wielebnicki (9) and Mirabal.
ILLINOIS STATE — 2B-Tokarski, McNeely, Hollenbeck. RBI-Court 2, Tokarski, Mirabal, McNeely, Hollenbeck. Two or more hits—Court 3, Tokarski 2, Mirabal 2. Pitching-Learnard (7 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO), Werderitch (1 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO), Wielebnicki (1 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO).
Records — SIU Edwardsville 4-12, ISU 11-5.