NORMAL, Ill. -- A pair of strong efforts by the starting pitchers produced a split of a doubleheader between Central Michigan and Illinois State to open up a four-game series on Friday at Duffy Bass Field.
"We pitched and played good defense in both games today," head coach Steve Jaksa said. "We had a couple chances with runners in scoring position in the second game and hit some balls hard, but didn't get anything to show for it."
The two teams will resume the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. Rain is forecasted for the afternoon, so the weekend's schedule could be further affected due to weather.
Jesse Hernandez put together his best effort of the season to date and the Central Michigan baseball team scored two early runs to help hold off Illinois State in game one of the doubleheader, 2-1, in a scheduled seven inning game.
A pair of errors in the first put Brendan Emmett on second and a single to right by James Teas brought him around for the early 1-0 lead. Nate Theunissen homered to left in the second, and that would be all the support Hernandez would need.
The senior right-hander would face just five over the minimum through the first six innings and allowed just one runner to reach third base over that stretch.
Head coach Steve Jaksa sent him out for the seventh, but after retiring the leadoff batter Hernandez ran into trouble.
A solo home run off the bat of ISU's Matt Mirabal cut the lead to 2-1, and a single by Evan Kohli put the tying run aboard with one down. The Chippewas couldn't turn two on a ground ball off the bat of Josh Colon, but got Kohli at second to record the second out.
Another single put runners on first and second, and forced CMU to call on the pen.
Bryce Morrow came on, but issued a walk to load the bases. Jaksa elected for the left-on-left match-up, bringing on Mike Nixon with the bases loaded to face Anthony Ruffolo, and he got the slugger to pop up to left, ending the game.
"Mike has been throwing real well for us, and he was able to get the big out," Jaksa said. "Jesse pitched very well today, and we were happy to see the pen able to come on and get that final out."
Hernandez (2-1) went 6 2/3 innings, giving up a run on five hits and two walks while striking out six. Nixon worked the final third of an inning to record his first save of the season.
Corey Maines (2-1) took the loss for ISU, tossing a complete-game six-hitter. He gave up two runs, just one earned, while walking three and fanning four.
Trent Howard struck out 10 in just 6 1/3 innings of work, but a pair of costly home runs handed the Central Michigan baseball team a split of the doubleheader with a 6-2 loss to Illinois State in the nightcap.
The Chippewas led 2-1 after five, but the Redbirds scored two in the sixth on a pair of solo home runs and tacked on a run in the seventh and two in the eighth.
ISU's big bats came through in the sixth though, as Kevin Tokarski and Anthony Ruffolo each went deep for a 3-2 lead.
A passed ball would lead to a Redbirds run in the seventh and ISU would rally for two more in the eighth to put the game out of reach.
The Chippewas' offense went cold after the two-run fourth, with the last 12 batters going down in order.
"There's a certain level of mental toughness that you have to display, and we need to keep the right mentality," Jaksa said. "We hit some balls hard and didn't get rewarded for it, but you can't dwell on that and just focus on the next chance you have. You can't get frustrated, and just keep going about your job the right way."
Howard (1-2) took the loss, giving up four runs on seven hits, but was dominant throughout most of his outing. Zach Cooper, Matt Loomis, Scott Mariner and Mike Nixon worked the final two innings in relief.
"We'll take that type of performance out of Trent every time," Jaksa said. "He threw the ball well, it's dissapointing that he had to take a loss in this type of game, but he did a good job. We just need to score more runs for him."
Ryan Copeland (1-2) picked up the win for ISU, going seven strong innings.