baseball

Indiana State’s baseball team will host the Southern Illinois Salukis for a three-game series this weekend at Bob Warn Field. Indiana State, 6-3 in Missouri Valley Conference play, comes in looking to keep pace with the league leading Illinois State Redbirds.

The Sycamores continue to enjoy a historic season, just one win away from passing the 30-win mark that every team hopes to reach. With plenty of season remaining, ISU will have to stay focused against an SIU team that has been underwhelmed in 2019. SIU is 17-19 overall, with a 1-8 conference record.

The series against SIU is sandwiched between two of the best teams the Sycamores will face in the regular season. They recently just took the series with two wins over Evansville and are visiting the conference-leading Redbirds next weekend. Before the Sycamores took down Evansville last weekend, the Purple Aces and Illinois State were the top two teams in the conference.

While this weekend against the Salukis may be seen as a chance to rest against a lower caliber team, ISU must treat this as business as usual. Even so, it is easy to see ISU’s advantage.

SIU has struggled at the plate this season, and although they kept it close with Illinois State in game two, the Salukis are hitting just .234 overall. That is the worst team batting average in the conference. Their troubles in the batters’ box have translated onto the scoreboard. They rank ninth in the conference in runs scored.

Indiana State’s strength is on the mound holding an overall 3.15 ERA. But for SIU, the pitching has been a problem. Their pitching has gotten worse as the season has progressed. Their conference ERA (8.02) is over two full points higher than their overall ERA. In fact, the last time SIU kept an opponent to under seven runs was April 6 against Missouri State.

Unlike the Salukis, ISU has gotten better in MVC play. The Sycamores are hitting .282 against conference opponents. This can be credited to a wide array of players. Five different Sycamores are hitting .300 or higher in conference play.

One of those players is senior Dane Tofteland, who has only started in seven games this season. The towering first baseman came on strong against the Purple Aces last weekend collecting five hits and four RBIs including a homerun in the series win. Tofteland’s production at the plate as ISU’s first baseman is promising, especially since the first base position has been an issue offensively over the last two weeks.

The main focus for ISU needs to be maintaining focus and momentum through the weekend. Keeping their bats hot into next weekend’s test against Illinois State will be key in where the Sycamores finish the season in the standings. Game one against the Salukis is set for Friday at 6:30 p.m.