NORMAL — A plan hatched in April has come to fruition for the Illinois State baseball team.
“I went into Coach (Mark) Kingston’s office to talk about how the season was going,” said senior pitcher Chris Razo. “He said ‘you’re going the first game of the (Missouri Valley) tournament, and I can guarantee I’ll give you the ball again come championship game.’ ”
That is exactly what will transpire today as Razo takes the mound on three days’ rest when No. 1 seed ISU (39-18) meets No. 2 Wichita State (38-26) in the MVC Tournament title game at Duffy Bass Field.
The 7:07 p.m. contest will be broadcast live by Fox Sports Midwest and Comcast Sportsnet Chicago. The winner earns the Valley’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
“We were able to manage Chris’ pitch count in the first game (103 pitches Tuesday) so he should be strong and ready to go,” Kingston said. “It’s three days’ rest, but he will have adrenaline and he’s in great condition. I expect him to be at the top of his game.”
A senior right-hander, Razo has been making extra trips to the trainer’s room since Tuesday in anticipation of a start today.
“You take your normal routine and scrunch it all into overdrive,” said Razo, who is 8-1 with a 1.51 ERA. “I think I’ll feel fine. It will be more of come the fourth inning is it going to feel like the eighth. I’ll try to give us six or seven (innings). If I’m rolling, we’ll see how long I can go. But I have no problem handing the ball over to the bullpen.”
ISU’s pitching staff is substantially better rested than that of Wichita State. The Redbirds did not play Friday and are 3-0 in the tournament. The Shockers (4-1 in the tournament) had to win twice Thursday and once Friday to stay alive.
Wichita State will start junior right-hander Cale Elam, who threw 79 pitches and gave up eight hits and three earned runs in four innings of a 5-1 loss to Southern Illinois on Tuesday. Elam is 6-4 with a 2.79 ERA.
“I’m not sure what we have after (Elam),” Shockers’ coach Gene Stephenson said. “We’ll see what we can come up with.”
Wichita State closer Brandon Peterson threw 43 pitches in 2 2/3 innings to finish Friday’s 5-4 triumph over Indiana State.
“They are a great offensive team with two great starting pitchers (Razo and Dan Savas),” said Stephenson. “I’m just thankful we’re here. We’ll take our chances in one game with anybody.”
Wichita State won two of three games from the Redbirds in late March.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for their program,” Kingston said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us, and it should be a great ballgame.”
The Redbirds are considered a long shot for an at-large NCAA bid if they lose today.
“There is an attitude at this point that that’s not something we need to be distracted by,” said Kingston. “We need to approach it like it’s winner take all and figure the rest out later.”