NEW ORLEANS Rewind that victory celebration. Again. And again.
Wichita State is tired of watching, but its unclear if the Shockers change the ending. They lost 5-4 to Tulane on Saturday at Turchin Stadium, their third straight loss in the home teams final at-bat. Walking off the field, heads down, faces grim, while the other team enjoys a hug-fest is now numbingly familiar.
Its a theme, WSU third baseman Chase Simpson said. We cant close close games.
Tulane (17-23) won the series on a two-out single by Lex Kaplan in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Andrew Garner. WSU (21-21) tied the game 4-all in the top of the inning on Tanner Dearmans first career home run.
You werent expecting to see that, but thats baseball, Tulane coach Jake Gautreau said. I looked at coach (Chad) Sutter and said, Youve got to be kidding.
Simpson hit a three-run home run in the third inning to put WSU up 3-0. Both of WSUs homers salvaged innings in which the Shockers committed costly mistakes on the bases. In the third, Daniel Kihle got doubled off first base trying to tag up on a flyball to left with Casey Gillaspie up next with one out. In the ninth, freshman pinch-runner Wes Phillips got picked off second with no outs.
We beat ourselves, WSU coach Todd Butler said. Every day is an absolute battle. Its going to be a close game. We make baserunning mistakes. (Friday), we had four errors and didnt hit.
The loss is bad enough. Perhaps worse is the fact starting pitcher Cale Elam took a line drive off his left foot in the sixth inning. He faced four more batters before a pickoff attempt aggravated the injury and ended his day. The foot is bruised and swollen.
It just didnt feel right, Elam said. It hit me pretty much right in between the ankle and the heel. Theres not much meat at all there.
Elam pitched the Shockers to a 3-1 lead entering the sixth. Jake Willsey smoked a ball off his foot on the innings third pitch. Elam, after one practice throw, went to back to work. Garrett Deschamp smacked his next pitch into the left-field corner for a double to score Willsey. After an infield hit and an out, Kaplan bunted straight to Elam, who threw the ball past second baseman Zair Koeiman, covering first, and Deschamp scored to tie the game.
Terrible throw, Elam said.
Elam exited and Tulane rejoiced. His sinker frustrated them for five innings and the Green Wave are showing little respect for the Shocker bullpen, which couldnt finish off Fridays 5-1 loss.
Getting into their bullpen right now is the key, Gautreau said. We were fortunate. Their weekend starters are really good arms and we knew that.
WSU reliever Kris Gardner struck out two batters after replacing Elam. He ran into trouble in the seventh. Aaron LaBrie replaced him to end a bases-loaded threat. In the eighth, LaBrie gave up a two-out double and a single by Jake Rogers gave Tulane a 4-3 lead.
Dearmans home run tied it, but even that inning felt hollow. Dayne Parker led off the ninth with a double, but Rogers threw behind Phillips at second base to change the tone of the rally.
Freshman lefty Reagan Biechler replaced LaBrie to get the final out of the eighth. He got two outs in the ninth before the Green Wave rallied. Garner singled and Hunter Hope walked. With senior closer Foster Vielock unavailable after throwing Tuesday and Friday, Butler stuck with Biechler and he gave Kaplan a 1-2 fastball in the middle of the plate that landed in center field.
Biechler, facing a left-handed hitter, had the advantage after using his off-speed pitches to get ahead. Then he threw a fastball.
Even that same at-bat, I was chasing, Kaplan said. I just threw my hands and connected with it. Right when I hit it, I was pumped.