In his fifth start of the season, it wasn’t necessary or practical for Wichita State left-hander Josh Smith to pitch beyond the fifth inning against Tulane on Sunday.
With the shutdown relievers WSU has in its bullpen, Smith might never need to.
Smith pitched five shutout innings before Foster Vielock and Cale Elam maintained their perfect ERAs with two scoreless innings apiece. The Shockers won 3-0 at Eck Stadium, taking two of three games in the weekend series and improving to 10-7.
Casey Gillaspie provided timely offense for the Shockers, helping to supply support for WSU pitchers who resiliently worked out of trouble all afternoon.
"Smith pitched good, he battled for us," Gillaspie said. "Once he came out, we know Vielock has been pitching well this year — and when Elam comes in, it’s pretty much lights out."
Smith allowed a hit in each of his five innings and several Tulane hitters worked him for lengthy at-bats, adding up to a pitch count of 82 for the Shockers’ ace.
The Green Wave never mustered a hit when it mattered, though. It had a runner — or runners — on base with less than two outs four times against Smith, but each time Smith escaped.
Smith had difficulty placing his off-speed pitches, but Tulane wasn’t frequently successful against his fastball, either. Smith fanned six, using the strikeout to prevent big Tulane innings.
"I think Josh Smith had really good stuff, he just had difficulty commanding the strike zone," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "He fell behind a lot of guys in the count and that put him in a hole a number of times. But he really pitched out of it, did a good job."
Vielock had a 4.76 ERA in 12 appearances last year but has become the most relied-upon — and reliable — WSU reliever so far. Sunday was his eighth appearance, and he leads WSU full-time relievers with 17 1/3 innings.
The only WSU reliever who can make a case for being more valuable than Vielock is Elam, the Shockers’ closer. Not only does Elam have a flawless ERA and holds opponents to a .140 average, but he is durable — his seven appearances have spanned 13 1/3 innings.
Stephenson has to pick his spots with Vielock and Elam, but their effectiveness has tempted him plenty early this season.
"Can’t use them every day," Stephenson said. "We have a good bullpen, our starters are doing a good job. We have to just see how it goes from time to time."
Gillaspie entered with a .184 average but was productive Sunday in all four plate appearances. He hit a sacrifice fly to deep center in the first inning, and two innings later he hit it to the same spot but deeper for a double.
In the sixth, Gillaspie’s high chopper bounced over the first baseman and landed just fair for another double, setting up WSU’s second run. He walked and scored in the sixth.
"I definitely feel better than I have since the beginning of the year," Gillaspie said. "Stuff like (this) helps; I’ve also lined out early in the season when I was slumping. It all evens out, that’s how baseball is."
abrhbibbsoavgBoudreaux lf301000.304Cannizaro 3b301011.302Schaffer c401002.298Schneeberger rf400002.355Crohan cf301010.318Potkay 1b401001.333Oakley dh100021.091Florio ph000010.267McCartney 2b400001.048Middleton ss401001.426Totals3006059WICHITA STATEBayliff rf400001.333Doggett lf000000.500Harbutz ss411003.265Coy 1b311011.388Gillaspie dh202110.216Green pr010000.250Lambert lf-rf401000.286Mucha cf200011.353Hall pr-cf101100.288Hege c300101.277Parker 2b400002.313Baker 3b200011.190Totals29363410
E — Cannizaro (2). DP — WSU 2. LOB — Tulane 9, WSU 8. 2B — Boudreaux (5), Coy (5), Gillaspie 2 (2), Hall (2). SB — Hall (9), Hege (1). S — Boudreaux. SF — Gillaspie, Hege.
iphrerbbsoeraMassey L,1-15422262.53Garner2 1/3211232.31Facundus2/3000010.79Wichita StateSmith W,2-15500362.39Vielock2100130.00Elam S,41000100.00
WP — Smith. Umpires — home, Travis Olson; first, Phil Plantz; third, Asa Howard.
T — 2:20. A — 2,372.