NORMAL — It was former Illinois State baseball coach and current San Diego Padres scout Jeff Stewart’s third game at Duffy Bass Field this season.
It was the first with another Stewart in the lineup.
Redbird freshman Brock Stewart rewarded his father’s timing by doubling twice and driving in three runs to key ISU to a 9-4 Missouri Valley Conference victory over Evansville on Thursday.
“My parents were here, I’ve got a cousin here, grandma and grandpa are here,” said the Normal Community West product. “To play well in front of them means a lot to me.”
Stewart’s two-out, two-run double in the third inning brought the Redbirds a 3-3 tie, and fellow freshman Mike Hollenbeck’s two-run single gave ISU (33-16, 11-8 in the Valley) the lead for good.
“Two-out hits late in the season when you’re playing big games are huge. We did a really good job of that,” Redbird coach Mark Kingston said. “It’s good to see our young guys come through again.”
Evansville (28-21, 7-11) had touched ISU starter Corey Maines (9-3) for three runs through its first five batters. Cody Fick’s two-run double was the key blow.
“It looked like Corey might not have his best stuff,” said Kingston. “But he settled in and gave us the same kind of outing he’s given us all year. He gave us a chance to get back in the game.”
David Fallon doubled home Chad Hinshaw in the first inning for the Redbirds before a third-inning walk to Fallon and singles by Kevin Tokarski and Tyler McNeely set up Stewart’s double down the right-field line. Hollenbeck’s hit to right-center field chased home McNeely and Stewart.
“Once we got the lead, I felt like I wasn’t going to give it back up,” said Maines, who was lifted after 61/3 innings and 104 pitches.
Stewart and Hollenbeck each blasted 10th inning home runs last Saturday in a victory at Southern Illinois.
“We joke about that,” Stewart said. “Every time I seem to do something good, he does something even better. We’re liking what we got going.”
Stewart’s double into the left-field corner knocked in Ryan Court in the fifth, and Court scored on a Hollenbeck double in the seventh. Hinshaw stroked ISU’s fifth double and sprinted home on Tokarski’s eighth-inning safety squeeze.
“A lot of those two-out knocks we didn’t get and they did,” said Purple Aces’ coach Wes Carroll. “That was the difference in the game.”
Evansville starter Kyle Lloyd (4-6) took the loss. Fick drove in three to boost his MVC-leading RBI total to 71.
The teams meet again Friday at 4:30 p.m.