SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — An unexpected and prolonged run in the Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament saw Illinois State's No. 8-seeded team enter the final inning of the championship game tied with Dallas Baptist.
Ultimately the Redbirds' upset quest fell short Sunday as the second-seeded Patriots scored four runs in the top of the ninth for a 10-6 victory at Hammons Field.
"I'm sure the Missouri Valley Conference didn't expect Illinois State to be hanging around until championship Sunday but we earned it because we played our tails off for four or five days down here," said Redbirds coach Bo Durkac, whose team finished at 16-40.
ISU's tourney run included a pair of wins over top-seeded host Missouri State (39-19), the second coming in an elimination game earlier Sunday. Noah Sadler's three-run double in the first inning helped propel the Redbirds to a 7-2 victory and into the title game.
Starter Jack Landwehr (2-5) and a quartet of relievers held down the Missouri State offense and the Redbirds benefited from four Bears errors.
Owen Miller scored on a wild pitch and Nick Zouras singled in a run before Sadler's double. Zouras drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth and Ryan Hutchinson did the same in the sixth.
In the final, Dallas Baptist (40-19) struck for six runs in the top of the sixth before ISU answered back with three in the bottom half and Sadler tied the game by blasting a three-run homer to right in the eighth.
But the Patriots stormed back against Matt Walker (2-3) with an RBI single by Devlin Granberg, a sacrifice fly by Matt Duce and a two-run hit by Tim Millard. Granberg was named the tourney's most outstanding player.
The game started out as a pitchers' duel as ISU's Jeffrey Barton battled the Patriots' MD Johnson. Barton got two outs in the sixth but was charged with five runs, all unearned.
Barton hit Jon Skidmore with a pitch to force in the game's first run and Jameson Hannah's single through the right side scored two more. Granberg then greeted ISU reliever Jeff Lindgren with a three-run homer.
The Redbirds responded as Ryan Hutchinson came home on Dominic Parola's single before a throwing error allowed Miller and Parola to score.
ISU placed three players on the all-tournament team in second baseman Parola, utility player Zouras and pitcher Brady Huffman.
"I'm so proud of our guys for the way they competed down the stretch, going back to the Missouri State series at the end of the regular season," said Durkac. "The members of the MVC won't forget this Illinois State team that gave some big dogs all they could handle."