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Wichita State again loses on opponent’s last bats

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, April 26, 2014, at 7:14 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, April 27, 2014, at 8:25 a.m.

Wichita State

at Tulane

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Turchin Stadium, New Orleans

Records: WSU 21-21, TU 17-23

Pitchers: WSU, RH Sam Tewes (6-2, 3.08); TU, TBA

Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM

NEW ORLEANS — Rewind that victory celebration. Again. And again.

Wichita State is tired of watching, but it’s 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 team’s final at-bat. Walking off the field, heads down, faces grim, while the other team enjoys a hug-fest is now numbingly familiar.

“It’s a theme,” WSU third baseman Chase Simpson said. “We can’t 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 Dearman‘s first career home run.

“You weren’t expecting to see that, but that’s baseball,” Tulane coach Jake Gautreau said. “I looked at coach (Chad) Sutter and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ 

Simpson hit a three-run home run in the third inning to put WSU up 3-0. Both of WSU’s 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. It’s going to be a close game. We make baserunning mistakes. (Friday), we had four errors and didn’t 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 didn’t feel right,” Elam said. “It hit me pretty much right in between the ankle and the heel. There’s 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 inning’s 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 couldn’t finish off Friday’s 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.

Dearman’s 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.”

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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