Wichita State scored first again. And it won again.
The Shockers defeated Oral Roberts 6-5 on Tuesday at cold and windy Eck Stadium to win their second straight game after losing eight straight in which they never led. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and scored two runs in the sixth to break a tie in their first home game since March 30.
Leadoff Daniel Kihle made it a mission to get on the scoreboard first, as instructed by coach Todd Butler. Kihle started his 4-for-4 night with a leadoff single to start the big inning.
“We haven’t won coming from behind,” he said. “Coach told us there was one goal, just to score first. It means I’ve got to get on. That’s my job.”
WSU (18-18) split the season series and snapped the Golden Eagles’ five-game winning win streak. ORU (19-17) allowed six runs in its previous five games, including last week’s 9-4 win over the Shockers in Tulsa. Butler, with Kihle’s left wrist feeling good, took advantage of his presence to change his lineup and it paid off. He moved Casey Gillaspie down one spot to fourth for the first time this season and put Garrett Bayliff into the No. 3 spot previously reserved for Gillaspie.
“I felt like Gillapsie being in the (fourth spot), we’d have three opportunities for him to have runners in scoring position,” Butler said. “I told him, you might have two guys on in the first to drive them in. Sure enough, he’s on deck and I started grinning at him and said ‘Here you go.’ ”
Butler prefers to bat his best hitter third in hopes of getting him more at-bats. It reached the point, however, where Gillaspie’s skills went to waste batting third with the bases empty. Kihle is hitting .385 for the season and is 8 for 19 in six games since missing almost a month after he had surgery to remove his hamate bone. He played Friday at Evansville and then took the rest of the weekend off after Aces lefty Kyle Freeland pounded him inside with 92 mph fastballs. When Kihle feels right and Bayliff hits, Gillaspie could get more chances to drive in runs as the cleanup hitter.
“I like it,” Butler said. “I would rather (Gillaspie) be in the three-hole, but the way we have struggled to get on for him, maybe with Bayliff in front of him in the three, we’ll have more options.”
The first inning played out like a Butler script for the lineup change.
No. 2 hitter Tanner Dearman moved Kihle to third with a hit-and-run single past the second baseman. Bayliff smacked a double to right to score Kihle. Gillaspie followed with a double off the first baseman’s glove and into foul territory to score two runs and make it 3-0. Gillaspie scored on a groundout by Dayne Parker for a 4-0 lead.
Kihle wasn’t finished. In the sixth, after ORU tied it 4-all, he doubled to left-center on a 1-0 pitch to drive in two runs with two outs off reliever Colin Hightower.
“He was throwing a lot of sliders to people with runners in scoring position,” Kihle said. “He bounced the first one. I was kind of sitting on the slider and he threw it again.”
The Golden Eagles took advantage of sloppy defense to get back in the game. A fielding error by shorstop Tanner Kirk led to three unearned runs in the fourth. In the seventh, Kihle misplayed a flyball into a leadoff double for Logan Domenico. Kihle, in left field, broke the wrong way and by the time he recovered he missed the ball on a lunge by a few feet in left field.
Tyler Boss drove in Domenico with a two-out single to cut WSU’s lead to 6-5.
“I should have known with the wind,” Kihle said. “I totally forgot about the wind.”
WSU’s bullpen rescued the defense. Aaron LaBrie pitched a perfect eighth and Foster Vielock earned his sixth save with two strikeouts and a groundball in the ninth. Starter Kris Gardner made a case to get another mid-week start by allowing one run and two hits over three innings.
“It was definitely a morale lift,” Gardner said. “Go on a losing streak like we did and it beats you down. It’s good to turn it around and get some momentum going the other way.”
WSU 6, ORU 5
E — Parker, Kirk. DP — WSU. LOB — ORU 5, WSU 6. 2B — McIntyre (4), Afenir (4), Domenico (8), Bayliff (9), Gillaspie (9), Kihle (6), Parker (5). S — Dearman. SB — Kihle (4). CS — Boss.
|Giller (2-3)||1 2/3||5||4||4||0||0||5.40|
WP — McDavid. Umpires — home, Lance Vaughn; first, Larry Waggoner; third, Brice Glidewell. T — 2:42. A — 2,921.