CARBONDALE, Ill. — After the game, Wichita State third baseman Tanner Kirk rinsed off his muddy cleats in a muddy puddle near the dugout and got a hug from his coach, who called him a “hell of a gamer.”
All the fielders needed a hug after Wichita State’s 8-4 win over Southern Illinois on Saturday at Martin Field. The teams played through nine innings of rain and mist and the muddy field led to seven errors, four by the Salukis. WSU handled the conditions a little better, thanks to pitchers who didn’t walk a batter and fielders who didn’t cave in to the slippery footing, wet balls and unpredictable bounces.
“Anything can happen,” Kirk said. “This field does have some nasty hops. You’ve got to want the ball and be ready for it.”
The win put the Shockers (25-20, 10-4 Missouri Valley Conference) back in a tie for first place with Missouri State, 2-1 losers at Evansville. WSU relievers Aaron LaBrie and Brandon Peterson held SIU (20-22, 3-11) scoreless for the final three innings. WSU took the lead with a run in the seventh, an inning that started with a hit batsmen. It added three more in the ninth, an inning in which SIU pitchers walked three batters and gave up a run on a wild pitch.
“We were definitely being patient,” WSU shortstop Erik Harbutz said. “Wait for your pitch. We have enough guys with good discipline at the plate that can compete up there.”
Four SIU pitchers combined to walk seven batters and hit one. Five of those hitters scored.
“We helped them out with walks and errors on most everything they did,” SIU coach Ken Henderson said.
WSU took a 3-0 lead in the third when Johnny Coy scored from second base on a throwing error. SIU got two runs back, with no help from weather, when Matt Jones smacked a pitch to the wall in left with two outs. WSU went up 4-2 in the fifth with Gillaspie scoring after a leadoff walk on Dayne Parker’s single.
The weather helped SIU tie it in the 6th. With one out, Ryan Casillas lofted a routine fly ball to center. WSU’s Daniel Kihle moved a few feet and slipped to the ground, allowing the ball to fall for a double. Luke Mottashed followed with a single to center, bobbled by Kihle for an error, that drove in Casillas. After a single by Cody Daily, Mottashed scored on a sacrifice fly by Neece to tie the game.
“The field conditions are deplorable, and there’s nothing they can do about it,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “The outfield does not drain. And there are lots of bumps and humps in that infield. We hung in there.”
WSU gave him its bullpen a cushion with three runs in the top of the ninth, an inning started with Gillaspie’s leadoff single. Taylor Doggett, with an 0-2 count, bunted him to second. Harbutz walked to load the bases before Kirk singled to right off reliever Aaron Snyder to score Gillaspie for a 6-4 lead.
“New pitcher coming in, I took the first pitch for a ball,” Kirk said. “I was trying to take the pitch the other way and he threw me that second pitch and it was there. I just stroked it to right field.”
Kirk stole second and moved to third on a bases-loaded walk by Joe Haddox that scored Harbutz. Kirk score on a wild pitch by reliever Tyler Dray.
WSU’s bullpen barely wobbled. LaBrie worked around a leadoff single in the seventh and got two outs in the eighth before giving up two singles. Peterson ended that threat with a groundball and retired SIU in order in the ninth.
Worth noting — WSU right fielder Garrett Bayliff, hitting leadoff for the first time, went 3 for 6 and extended his hitting streak to 14 games…Kirk, who committed two errors on Friday, bounced back with several good plays at third, including a diving stop to rob Casillas of a hit in the fourth. Kirk ended the game by fielding a hot shot near third base and throwing out Jones . . . Coy, batting cleanup, put down the first sacrifice bunt of his career in the fifth inning to push Gillaspie to second . . . Kirk went 2 for 5 and is 6 for 13 in the past three games . . . Sunday, SIU will try to win its first series against the Shockers since 2006 and its first at home since 2005.
E — Harbutz, Parker, Kihle, Welch, Jones, Daily 2. DP — SIU 2. LOB — WSU 11, SIU 8. 2B — Jones (13), Casillas (7). S — Coy, Doggett, Troggio. SF — Neece. SB — Doggett (6), Kirk (2). CS — Troggio.
|Peterson S,5||1 1/3||0||0||0||0||1||1.27|
WP — Coonrod, Dray. HBP — Coy (by Murphy). Umpires — Tom Svehla, home; Wayne Harris, first; Bret Bruington. T — 2:55. A — 141.