The drama started a week early at Bob Warn Field as the University of Evansville baseball team came back from the brink of losing with a three-run ninth inning to upend host Indiana State 3-2.
Standing just one strike away from a 2-0 loss, Shain Showers dropped a single into left field to tie the game, and Stewart Nelson followed up with a single of his own as the Aces earned a gutsy victory at the site of next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
“We had a refuse-to-lose mentality, and you could see it from a couple of our seniors on the field tonight,” UE head coach Wes Carroll said. “That at-bat from Shain Showers may have been the best I’ve seen from him in his career. That’s one of the best relief pitchers in the league, and he fought off some really tough pitches. He’s not had the year he envisioned for his senior season, and for him to step up like that, you hope he can gain some momentum off of it.”
With the victory, which was the second consecutive for UE, the Aces have improved to 27-23 on the season with a 9-10 mark in conference play, but perhaps more importantly it was the way the team won that resonated with Carroll.
“We had so many quality at-bats, but we couldn’t get them in the same inning,” Carroll explained. “And then to have Shain get up there and Eric McKibban as well, we were able to put it all together. Hitting is contagious, so to see the bottom of our line-up apply some pressure like that late was great to see.”
The loss marked the first time in 29 chances that the Sycamores (32-19, 11-8 MVC) lost a game in which they entered the ninth inning with the lead.
Patrick Schnieders got the start on the mound for the Aces, and he was cruising through the first four innings, facing just one over the minimum, prior to hitting ISU’s Kaden Moore to lead off the fifth, and Clay Dungan followed up in the ensuing at-bat with a triple to left center to draw first blood before ultimately doubling the advantage on an infield single by Andrew Gutierrez.
From there, the Aces bullpen proved unhittable as Brent Jurceka, Blake Swanger and Ryan Brady combined to toss a perfect final four frames.
“Our pitching was outstanding tonight,” Carroll said. “The effort that we got out of Patrick Schnieders was fantastic, and the bullpen was just as good. It was an overall great effort, and we’ve got a lot of momentum heading into tomorrow.”
After Korbin Williams reached on a one-out error in the top of the ninth, McKibban singled to left, drawing ISU closer Jeremy McKinney from the bullpen. The sophomore hurler would pick up a quick out before issuing a walk to Nate Reeder to set the stage for the heroics of Showers and Nelson.
UE and ISU will return to action at 5:30 p.m. Central time today.
UE has homered 47 times this season, which is the most since leaving the park 53 times in 2010. This week’s marks the 100th, 101st and 102nd meetings between ISU and UE since the Aces started playing at the Division I level in 1978. In those games, UE is 43-57. The Aces have won each of the past three season series with the Sycamores. The first two meetings between the schools came in 1946. The first UE win in the series was a 9-0 decision in 1948. The first DI showdowns came in the form of a two-game split in 1978. UE is 223-159 against Indiana schools since 1978.