OMAHA — For about three weeks, Wichita State looked like a team capable of a ninth-inning rally.
Sunday, the Shockers got the opportunity and cashed it in. WSU scored three runs in the ninth inning to defeat Creighton 8-7 on Sunday at the CU Sports Complex.
The winning run scored on a wild pitch, giving WSU its first win in 17 games when trailing in the ninth.
"We've got a great attitude about not giving up anymore," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "It was a great win for us. That's what championship teams are made of."
WSU (32-17, 13-5 Missouri Valley Conference) isn't a championship team yet — it trails Illinois State by a half-game in the MVC. But with this weekend's sweep, the Shockers are playing like one. They won for the ninth time in 12 games, all against NCAA Division I teams, and won five of those on the road.
"We haven't really had a game like this," shortstop Tyler Grimes said. "I could feel it in the dugout. Gene came up to me and said 'If you get on, we're going to win the game.' Sure enough, he was right."
The Shockers gave up a nightmarish five runs — fueled by three walks — in the seventh to fall behind 7-5. They went down without much protest in the eighth.
Grimes changed that tone in the ninth.
He ignored his struggles at the plate — 1 for 11 entering the ninth — to smack a leadoff single up the middle off reliever Mark Winkelman.
"I was just thinking about taking the ball back up the middle," Grimes said. "He was throwing a soft changeup to me and I put a good swing on it."
Getting the leadoff runner on energized the Shockers.
"That was huge for us," designated hitter Preston Springer said. "Grimes got on for us, and gave us that momentum-swing we needed."
Pinch-hitter Chris O'Brien came through with a single to move Grimes to third. After an out, Preston Springer slapped a two-strike pitch past the diving first baseman to bring WSU within one run. Johnny Coy tied it with another single. Springer scored from third on Bob Lackovic's wild pitch to give WSU an 8-7 lead.
The Shockers, who overwhelmed Creighton (22-20, 9-12) with power most of the weekend, rallied with four singles and a display of not trying to do too much.
"We just wanted to stay on top of the ball and hit a low line drive," Springer said. "We just want to accomplish our job and produce."
WSU reliever Logan Hoch rescued the bullpen by retiring the Bluejays in order in the eighth and ninth innings to earn the win. Hoch struck out four and allowed one hit in 2 2/3 innings.
"My arm felt good today and my arm was fresh," Hoch said. "I was attacking the zone with fastballs and my slider had good bite on it."
Wichita State let Creighton rally about the only way possible — by giving the Bluejays plenty of help. The light-hitting Bluejays scored five runs in the seventh inning, helped by three walks and an error. Creighton totaled five runs in the other 26 innings of the series. With a 5-2 lead Stephenson went to senior right-hander Cobey Guy to combat Creighton's right-handed hitters at the top of the order.
Guy walked three straight batters to force in two runs. A groundball by Jimmy Swift tied it 5-all against Hoch. Carson Vitale's two-out single gave Creighton a 6-5 lead. Hoch got another groundball, but second baseman Walker Davidson dropped the throw from Grimes and Swift scored to make it 7-5.
Both starters settled in after struggling early.
WSU scored four runs in the top of the second, an inning Johnny Coy started by banging a groundball off pitcher Brandon Koeningstein for an infield single.
The Shockers jumped on Koeningstein after that. Travis Bennett's double scored Coy. Bret Bascue's triple made it 2-0, and he scored when Erik Harbutz's bloop double fell into left field near the line. Will Baez drove in Harbutz with a two-out single for a 4-0 lead.
Vitale led off the bottom of the inning with a home run, one so certain Bascue didn't to move in left. Elliott Soto singled in another run with a two-out single.