MONROE, La. – The ULM baseball team struggled to take advantage of opportunities on Friday night, as Illinois State jumped on top early and answered ULM’s two run-scoring innings with another of their own, as the Redbirds took the series opener, 6-3, at Warhawk Field.
“That’s a really good program in Illinois State,” ULM head coach Michael Federico said. “They were an at-large bid last year and went to a regional. They’re coached very well. I told our team we looked like we were from the north and hadn’t played outside compared to them. We made three errors on the dirt that really hurt us.”
Illinois State jumped on top in the top of the second inning. The Redbirds picked up a pair of hits against Ty Barnes, putting runners on second and third with one out following Ryan Cermak’s double. Jake McCaw hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Jordan Libman, and advanced Cermak to third. Jeremy Gaines hit a ground ball on the right side, but an error allowed Gaines to reach safely and Cermak to score for the 2-0 lead.
The Redbirds added on to the lead in the top of the third when Braedon Blackford hit a lead-off home run to right-center field for the 3-0 lead.
ULM cut into the gap in the bottom of the third inning. Nathan Miranda, Logan Wurm and Colby Deaville opened the inning with three straight singles. After Trace Henry and Mason Holt struck out, Illinois State helped ULM salvage the inning, as Andrew Beesley reached base on a fielding error by the shortstop, allowing both Miranda and Wurm to score, cutting the Redbird lead to 3-2.
However, Illinois State had an answer in the top of the fourth. Cernak doubled to open the inning, and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Gaines for the 4-2 lead.
ULM missed an opportunity in the bottom of the fourth. Wiley Cleland hit a one-out double, and advanced to third on a fly out by Miranda. However, Wurm struck out looking to end the frame.
The Redbirds pushed the lead back to three in the fifth inning. Aidan Huggins reached on an error, and moved around the bases to score on Joe Butler’s two-out RBI single to right for a 5-2 lead.
ULM would get the run back in the bottom of the fifth, as Illinois State returned the favor on the error. Deaville walked to open the inning, and moved to second base with two outs on an error on a pickoff attempt. Beesley followed with an infield single, and an error on the shortstop allowed Deaville to score to cut the deficit to 5-3. Illinois State starting pitcher Colton Johnson then walked Danny DeSimone and Ryan Humeniuk to load the bases with two outs, but Cleland struck out looking to retire the side.
Illinois State answered immediately in the top of the sixth as Cermak, who had one hit on the season entering the day, belted a solo home run to left, extending the Redbird lead to 6-3.
ULM had chances to score again in the seventh and eighth innings, but failed to bring the runners around. In the seventh inning, Beesley and DeSimone hit two-out singles, but Humeniuk lined out to center for the final out. In the eighth inning, pinch-hitter Colin Gordon earned a lead-off walk, but pinch-hitter Cameron Horton followed with a hard hit ball right to the second baseman, who started the 4-6-3 double play.
“I’m going to tip my cap to them,” Federico said. “They made a couple of really nice defensive plays. We hit a couple balls hard, but I felt like we were pressing a little bit. That’s what college baseball is. You win like you did Wednesday, but I’ve been coaching however many years and never scored 19 runs in an inning. It just doesn’t happen every day. You got to be humbled. I think we were definitely humbled. We got punched in the mouth. But I feel like we did a lot of the damage to ourselves and put ourselves behind the 8-ball.”
Beesley had a pair of hits on the day for the the Warhawks, while six other players tallied one hit. The Warhawks struck out 12 times on the day, with eight of them coming on a called third strike.
“We had some opportunities, but strikeouts looking, 12 strikeouts on the night, that’s not enough,” Federico said. “We didn’t have enough quality at bats to really put something together.”
Illinois State was led by Cermak’s big day with two doubles, a home run, an RBI and three runs scored. ULM out-hit the Redbirds, 8-6.
Barnes (2-1) took his first loss of the season, giving up six runs, four earned, on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Conner Deeds threw three perfect innings to close out the game for ULM.
“Ty persevered and battled through some things,” Federico said. “He had given up one run in his two previous starts and hadn’t given up a lot of hits. He had to be tested. I was encouraged that from our pitching side we didn’t walk a lot of people. We gave ourselves a chance.”
Johnson (1-2) picked up his first win of the year for Illinois State, giving up three runs, one earned, on six hits with three walks and 10 strikeouts over six innings. Erik Kubiatowicz threw the final 1 1/3 innings for his first save.
The Warhawks and Redbirds continue the series at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Links to live video, audio, stats and tickets are available at ULMWarhawks.com.Mike Hammett
Associate Director of Athletic Communications