WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – Senior co-captain Corey Furman broke a 2-2 deadlock with a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead the Bucknell baseball team to a 4-2 victory over Illinois State Sunday afternoon at Chain of Lakes Stadium. The home run capped a strong day for Furman, who was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored while falling just a single shy of hitting for the cycle.
Bucknell (5-5) improved to 5-1 this year in games played at neutral sites as it opened its seven-game trip to Florida. Illinois State (8-4) saw its two-game winning streak snapped.
“It's always good to get a win against a quality opponent,” said Bucknell second-year head coach Scott Heather. “Our pitching and defense was strong and Corey had a great day at the plate. We left a few too many opportunities out there with runners in scoring position. That will have to get better, but overall a very good day for us.”
The Bison outhit the Redbirds 11-7, but needed to come back from a 2-0 deficit halfway through. Bucknell did just that when it plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth. Brett Smith had a one-out single and scored on a Furman triple. Furman then scored on a single by Ogren, evening the score at 2-2.
The Bison had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh when they loaded the bases with just one out, but Illinois State reliever David Suarez was able to get a strikeout and pop out to get out of the jam.
Bucknell reliever Mike Castellani earned the win Sunday to improve to 1-0. He pitched a scoreless final two innings, including a 1-2-3 top of the ninth.
Smith led off the ninth with a single and Furman followed with his team-best second home run this season. Nine of his 16 hits this year have gone for extra bases.
Dan Weigel earned the start on the mound for the Bison and logged 6.0 innings while allowing just five hits and two runs while striking out two. Tom Hrabchak did not allow a run in his inning of work in the seventh, stretching his scoreless streak to start the season to 5.2 IP.
The top part of the Bucknell lineup provided most of the offensive spark as the top four hitters – Smith, Furman, Ogren and Sam Clark – combined for nine hits, four RBIs and four runs scored.
Jeremy Rhoades started for Illinois State and struck out 10 in 6.0 innings of work. Brock Stewart (0-1) was the fifth pitcher for the Redbirds and he suffered the loss as he entered the game to begin the ninth.
The Bison will continue their weeklong trip to Florida Monday at 1 p.m. against Yale. That contest will also be played at Chain of Lakes Stadium.