CARBONDALE — Riley Strandgard's home run in the top of the 10th inning lifted Illinois State into today's Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals.
The seventh-seeded Redbirds (21-32) beat sixth-seeded Northern Iowa 4-3 Thursday afternoon. They will face third-seeded SIU (29-21) at 1:32 p.m. at Buel Field in Des Moines today. If the Salukis win, they'll play second-seeded Missouri State (32-19) at approximately 6:32 p.m. for a spot in Saturday's championship game.
SIU split two games with Illinois State this season.
The Redbirds nearly won the game in eight innings, but, down to their last strike, the Panthers (26-26) tied things up with one swing. Ashley Chesser's two-out, full-count, two-run home run over the right field wall tied the game at 3. Illinois State had taken the lead with two runs in the top half of the eighth.
Neither team scored in the ninth before Strandgard's homer to lead off the 10th. Ali Domkuski, who came in for Illinois State starter Morgan Day in the ninth, pitched a perfect 10th to seal the victory.
• No. 5 Indiana State 4, No. 8 Bradley 3: The underdog Braves (20-30) scored all three of their runs facing two outs in the second inning, taking advantage of a two-out walk to get the big inning started.
But three innings later, Indiana State (26-27) took advantage of the same situation. With two outs and runners at the corners, Bella Peterson reached on a fielding error to extend the inning as an Indiana State run crossed the plate. Only this time, for Bradley, the inability to close the deal was lethal.
The next two Sycamore batters – Shaye Barton and Brooke Mann – each singled to drive in runs, and Indiana State took its first lead of the game by a 4-3 margin. No other Bradley runner reached scoring position.
The Sycamores advanced to the quarterfinal round against No. 4 Valparaiso at 11:02 a.m. The winner gets top-seeded and host Drake (41-10) in the tournament semifinals at 4:02 p.m.