There were a couple occasions Saturday afternoon when Wichita State outfielder Tanner Dearman wasnt eager to return to the dugout to face coach Todd Butler.
But after Dearmans ninth-inning heroics against Cal State Fullerton, Butler and the rest of the Shockers were glad to take the party to him.
Dearman atoned for a missed scoring opportunity and a baserunning blunder with a one-out, RBI single off Fullerton reliever Willie Kuhl, giving WSU a 3-2 victory over the ninth-ranked Titans at Eck Stadium.
Dearmans second hit of the game scored right fielder Joe Haddox from second and produced the Shockers second walk-off victory of the season. It also gave WSU pitcher Cale Elam the second complete-game victory of his career.
Cale pitched awesome all day long, said Dearman, a sophomore who went 2 for 4 and stretched his career-best hitting streak to 10 games. We only had one goal in mind to get him the W because he deserved it.
Elam, a senior right-hander, held his own against Titans freshman Phil Bickford, the 10th overall pick by Toronto in last Junes Major League Baseball draft. After pitching 8 2/3 innings in his last outing against Missouri State, Elam tossed a four-hitter with eight strikeouts and one walk against Fullerton to improve to 5-0.
I felt great late in the game, said Elam, who retired 14 consecutive batters after the Titans Greg Velazquez homered and Jared Deacon reached on an infield hit in the fourth. Those easy innings where I got one- and two-pitch outs really helped. It saved the bullpen a little bit, too.
Bickford, a right-hander whose mid- to high-90s fastball velocity made him a coveted high school prospect, struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings. He allowed eight hits, including WSU first baseman Casey Gillaspies towering two-run blast over the right-field wall in the first.
Gillaspie went 3 for 3 for his 13th multi-hit game of the season, raising his batting average to .411.
I knew his go-to pitch was his fastball, and I didnt want to get late in the count with him so he could throw that good slider, Gillaspie said. I was just trying to swing early and get something that I could hit, and was fortunate enough to do that.
But despite getting four hits and a walk the first time through the order against Bickford, WSU was limited to two runs. Dearman failed to deliver on a safety squeeze attempt in the second, instead grounding the ball directly to Bickford to get Haddox cut down at the plate.
Then in the seventh, after Fullerton brought Kuhl in to replace Bickford, Dearman was caught stealing third for the final out of the inning to keep the score tied at 2.
I read dirt ball and it obviously wasnt a dirt ball, Dearman said. Coach Butler wasnt very happy about that when I got back to the dugout. I had the opportunity to redeem myself and made the most out of it.
The Shockers, who won for the third time in nine one-run games this season, did enough to tilt the edge in their favor. Center fielder Micah Green snagged difficult liners from the Titans J.D. Davis and Tanner Pinkston to keep Elam rolling in the sixth. Then in the bottom of the ninth, Haddox, batting just .150, battled back from a 1-2 count to draw a walk from Kuhl.
After WSUs Cody Baliff was hit by a 1-2 pitch to move Haddox to second, Dearman drove an inside pitch through the middle to shallow center. Haddox slid across the plate with the winning run ahead of Austin Diemers throw.
The Shockers rushed the field to congratulate Dearman, who helped WSU snap a three-game losing streak.
I couldnt have told you the last time Id gotten a hit about two weeks ago, but Ive finally got things back on track, Dearman said. Thats a very good ballclub with great tradition that we beat, and theyre ranked in the top 10 again. Well take any momentum we can get at this point.
One out when winning run scored.
LOB Fullerton 3, WSU 9. 2B Davis (5), Simpson (6). HR Velazquez (3), Gillaspie (5). SB Gillaspie (1). CS Stieb, Dearman.
|Kuhl L, 1-2||1 2/3||1||1||1||1||2||1.15|
|Elam W, 5-0||9||4||2||2||1||8||1.47|
HBP Williamson (by Elam), Bobbit (by Kuhl). Balk Bickford. Umpires home, Trent Petrie; first, Ben Harlow; third, Greg Mudd. T 2:26. A 3,232.