NORMAL — Illinois State baseball coach Steve Holm saw signs with junior left-hander Brent Headrick last week, signs that were not readily apparent from Headrick’s season ERA of 6.00.
“It looked like it was starting to come last weekend against Valparaiso,” Holm said. “There were innings he was starting to show that. He looked like that all day today.”
Headrick struck out 12 over six scoreless innings Friday at Duffy Bass Field as the Redbirds toppled Missouri State, 7-1, to open a Missouri Valley Conference series.
“It’s a big win to open up conference at home,” said Headrick. “I’ve struggled a little throughout the year at points. Tonight was me putting it all together and coming through for my team.”
ISU hiked its record to 19-14 overall and 3-1 in the MVC. In a scheduling change prompted by an inclement weather forecast for Sunday, the series will conclude Saturday with a 1 p.m. doubleheader.
Headrick secured the final out of four straight innings with a strikeout and stranded two Missouri State baserunners in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“It’s a great feeling to put up zeroes, especially after we score,” Headrick said. “I found a way to use all three pitches effectively. Keeping hitters off balance was my main goal and just get outs.”
“Their guy did a great job,” said Missouri State coach Keith Guttin. “He mixed well and had good command.”
The Redbirds snapped a scoreless tie in the fourth when Nick Zouras doubled home Joe Butler, and a two-out single from Aidan Huggins knocked in Zouras.
Gunner Peterson doubled to lead off the ISU sixth, was sacrificed to third and scored as Jack Butler bounced into a double play.
But the Redbirds tacked on three more runs as Huggins singled and scored on John Rave’s hit-and-run double, Derek Parola dumped a single to right field to chase home Rave and Jordan Libman’s double plated Parola.
“I thought the whole thing was on Headrick. He set the tone early pumping strikes,” said Rave, who blasted a solo home run to right-center field in the eighth. “When the pitcher’s on the mound doing the things he did, it’s easy to have fun and get a win like that.”
Rave batted .231 over a nine-game stretch ending March 31. In seven April outings, Rave is a blistering 17 of 40 (.425).
“Players go through slumps here and there, but you can’t change things up,” Rave said. “You’ve got to stick with what you know, stick with what you believe and it will pay off in the end.”
Missouri State (11-22, 4-3) scored its run in the seventh on a Joey Polak RBI single against reliever Jack Anderson. Mitch Vogrin struck out three while wrapping up the final two innings.
Bears’ starter Jake Lochner (2-1) took the loss after surrendering nine hits and five earned runs in 5⅔ innings.