NEW ORLEANS — Wichita State has become the cure for slumping opponents.
Tulane lost three straight games and 8 of 9 before Friday’s 5-1 win over the Shockers at Turchin Stadium. The Green Wave broke a 28-inning scoreless streak with five runs in the 12th inning, the deciding ones coming on a grand slam by Hunter Hope.
For a second straight game, the Shockers watched the opponent celebrate a victory in the final at-bat. On Tuesday, Missouri ended a four-game losing streak with a 5-4 win in 10 innings.
Just like that, the good feelings built during WSU’s five-game win streak vanished. The Shockers (21-20) are 6-12 on the road, but coach Todd Butler sees the venue for the losses as only part of the story. WSU is just too up and down to keep the good times going. On Friday, the offense wasted another superb outing by pitcher A.J. Ladwig. WSU committed four errors, two on throws by catcher Tyler Baker, and reliever Ray Ashford failed to hold a 1-0 lead, even after getting the first out of the 12th.
“I don’t think road has a lot to do with it,” Butler said. “It’s flat-out inconsistency. That’s kind of who we are.”
Tulane (16-23) gladly accepted WSU’s gifts in the final inning after muddling along for the first 11 innings. The Shockers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 12th when Micah Green scored on a wild pitch on a close play that Tulane players and coaches argued strenuously.
“We could have gotten really frustrated and given in,” Tulane coach Jake Gautreau said.
The Green Wave looked primed for that ending before Ashford’s wildness gave them hope. He struck out two batters to end the 11th and got Jake Rogers to ground out to start the 12th. Even through those successes, he didn’t look sharp. He walked Richard Carthon and things quickly unraveled. A ground ball by Jake Willsey bounced past two diving infielders and into left to move Carthon to third. He scored when Stephen Alemais snuck a ground ball past diving third baseman Chase Simpson, tying the game 1-all.
With two runners on, Ashford intentionally walked Andrew Garner. He then hung a slider to Hope, who bashed it over the left-field wall and set off a celebration on the middle of the diamond.
“He got a pitch up in the zone and put a really good swing on it,” Gautreau said. “In that situation, the pressure is on the pitcher. When you can sit in there and realize he’s got to make big-time pitches. All you have to do is put the ball in play.”
Butler didn’t get another pitcher warming up until the Green Wave had runners on. After using seniors Foster Vielock and Aaron LaBrie to keep the game tied, he saw no better options in the bullpen than Ashford to face Tulane’s right-handed hitters.
The early innings were a mismatch of talented starters vs. struggling offenses. Ladwig struck out a career-high nine and allowed five hits in nine innings. His slider overmatched the Green Wave and he took advantage of a large strike zone to keep hitters swinging weakly. Tulane starter Corey Merrill hold WSU to four hits over seven innings before turning it over to a series of power arms from the bullpen. WSU stranded 10 runners, Tulane 11.
Both teams blew chances to score before the 12th.
Ladwig stranded a runner at third, there with one out, in the eighth. He gave up two singles to start the ninth and escaped a bases-loaded jam with a strikeout and a pop up. A double play rescued WSU in the 10th.
WSU loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. Dayne Parker couldn’t get the ball in air and his bouncer allowed the third baseman to throw Chase Simpson out at home. Tanner Kirk followed by chopping a bouncer to the third baseman, with the infield in, to start a double play that got Tyler Baker at home and Kirk at first.
In the 12th, Green doubled to right to start the inning and Parker’s bunt moved him to third. Parker reached safely, but Kirk hit into another double play and Green didn’t score from third. A wild pitch by Emerson Gibbs allowed him to score to give WSU a 1-0 lead.
“No offense at all,” Butler said.