Run-rule winner looks a lot better on Wichita State pitcher A.J. Ladwig than hard-luck loser.
The Shockers put together one of their most complete efforts in recent weeks with a 10-0 victory over Southern Illinois on Friday at Eck Stadium. WSU led 5-0 after the first inning, with Chase Simpson blasting a three-run home run, and Ladwig held SIU to two hits.
WSU (19-18, 4-6 Missouri Valley Conference) won its third straight game, vacated last place in the Valley and moved back above .500 for the first time since April 8. The Salukis (20-18, 3-7) put one runner at third base in its first shutout since March 11 in a 3-0 loss at Mississippi State.
The Shocker hitters owed Ladwig a few runs after his record dipped to 2-5 despite a 1.47 ERA. WSU scored eight runs in Ladwig’s previous six starts.
“He hasn’t had any runs,” catcher Tyler Baker said. “So he felt really comfortable up there with five.”
Ladwig pitched well enough to win the tight games that are the norm in the series opener. He was happy to escape that burden, at least for a night. He used his slider to keep hitters off-balance and placed his fastball on either side of the plate to keep the Salukis pounding the ball into the turf. He retired 11 hitters on groundballs.
“He was throwing his off-speed pitches for strikes,” SIU left fielder Parker Osborne said. “He spotted up when he had to and we didn’t have it today.”
Ladwig won for the first time since March 21 and the Shockers, after a miserable stretch, have scored 29 runs in the past three games, winning two by run-rule.
“They were joking about it in the line after the game, when we were slapping hands,” Ladwig said. “They said we finally got you some run support.”
For the second straight game, the Shockers scored multiple runs in the first inning. Daniel Kihle singled to start the game and Tanner Dearman walked, foreshadowing SIU starter Sam Coonrod’s rocky start. He couldn’t get his off-speed pitches in the tight strike zone and the Shockers feasted on fastballs.
Garrett Bayliff walked and Casey Gillaspie doubled in two runs on a 3-1 pitch, missing a grand slam by a foot or two off the left-field wall. Simpson followed by smashing a 1-0 fastball out to right for a 5-0 lead.
“I knew he was a higher (velocity) guy and I was trying to be on time,” Simpson said. “I had him in a hitter’s count. He threw a ball middle-in and I just got good wood on it.”
Those five runs stood up as plenty for Ladwig, who struck out three and walked two. He stranded a runner at third in the fourth by striking out Cody Daily with a slider in the dirt. In the sixth, Connor Kopach reached on an error and Ryan Casillas walked. Ladwig got Daily to foul out to catcher Tyler Baker.
“He threw his slider for a strike,” WSU coach Todd Butler said. “And we scored early for him. We had six quality at-bats in a row in the first inning.”
Baker drove in a run in the fifth after Simpson doubled and Dayne Parker walked, all with two outs. WSU led 6-0 entering the seventh and scored four runs to end the game. Micah Green started the scoring with a sacrifice fly. SIU reliever Derek Fogel walked in a run before Bayliff’s single to left drove in two runs to end the game.
Butler stuck with his new batting order for a second straight game and it paid off with a substantial first inning again. On Tuesday, he moved Gillaspie from No. 3 to No. 4 and the Shockers jumped on Oral Roberts for a 4-0 lead on their way to a 6-5 win.
“I didn’t know if it would be the right move, but we were kind of searching for something to maybe give (Gillaspie) an opportunity to hit with runners in scoring position,” Butler said. “I can see Bayliff making an adjustments and getting better. We need him to get going and I can see him making some changes.”
The Shockers started the season 4-0 and haven’t won more than three straight since. Friday’s win gives them a chance to win an MVC series for the second time this season.