On a day when the wind blew hard out to left field, Wichita State hit a lot of groundballs before finally homering to right field.
Strange way to win, but the Shockers will take it. They defeated Evansville 6-5 on Sunday at Eck Stadium to win the series 2-1. Tyler Baker’s home run in the bottom of the eighth inning cleared the wall by a few feet to provide the winning run and complete a comeback from a 3-0 deficit.
“I saw it going and I saw the guy (raise his glove) and I thought ‘Oh no, it’s going to come back,’” Baker said. “Then all of a sudden, everybody started cheering, so I was cheering, too.”
WSU (23-18, 9-3 Missouri Valley Conference) stayed tied with Missouri State atop the MVC. Evansville (15-25, 6-6) lost for the eighth time in nine games despite homering three times, all to left field with the aid of a 25-mph wind. WSU starter Drew Palmer gave up all three and nobody minded too much. He gave the Shockers a desperately needed solid Sunday start, lasting 5 2/3 innings and allowing six hits and four runs. He didn’t walk a batter and maintained his composure after watching fly balls soar out to left field.
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“He didn’t let the wind get in his head,” catcher Parker Zimmerman said. “He just kept pitching.”
That sounds easier than it was on Sunday. Evansville’s Kyle Pollock hit his first home run of the season to lead off the third. Kevin Kaczmarski, who battered WSU pitching all weekend, made it 3-0 later in the inning with a two-run homer. Jonathan Ramon hit his second of the season in the sixth to make it 4-2. The Aces entered the game with nine home runs in 39 games.
Palmer survived because he didn’t let those innings get out of control. He struck out three, two in the first inning, and went to a three-ball count twice.
“If they happen to hit a pop fly that flys out of here, I’ve got move on to the next pitch,” he said. “You can’t be pitching defensively and think I can’t let them hit a pop fly.”
Evansville starter Josh Biggs didn’t need to worry about the wind. The Shockers rarely hit the ball in the air in Biggs’ five innings. Groundballs got him out of trouble in the second, third and fourth innings.
“It seemed like their guy was getting a lot of groundballs,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “And we were giving up a lot of fly balls. What we needed to do was wait a little longer on those pitches and quit topping them and be in a position where we might square up a few.”
That came later.
In the fifth, WSU cut Evansville’s lead to 3-2 with Garrett Bayliff and Erik Harbutz driving in runs. Biggs, who worked around a walk and a hit batter in the third, paid for wildness after hitting Tanner Dearman in the back. Dearman scored on Harbutz’s groundball.
The Shockers took the lead with three runs in the sixth. Johnny Coy’s double set the inning up for big things by moving Casey Gillaspie to third with no outs. Reliever Tyler Miller threw his first pitch to Baker past the catcher to score Gillaspie. Baker’s sacrifice fly scored Coy to tie the game 4-all. With two outs and Mikel Mucha on first after a fielder’s choice, Dearman stroked a single to right-center. Mucha, one of the fastest Shockers, scored from first to give WSU a 5-4 lead.
“It didn’t get by (the outfielder), but I didn’t feel they had an arm strong enough to throw all the way in but the second-base cutoff,” Stephenson said. “If that’s the case, we’ve got a chance to score. And it worked out.”
Thanks to Baker. Evansville made its rally in the eighth, started by Kaczmarski’s leadoff single. A balk moved him to second and he scored on a single by Jason Hockemeyer to tie it 5-all.
Baker hit his fourth homer of the season, his first since March 1, on a 2-1 count. He got up 2-0 and Stephenson let him swing. He whiffed on a ball in the dirt. Stephenson yelled at him to wait for a pitch up, and Baker did so.
“Next pitch, he hit out,” Stephenson said. “I won’t call it good coaching. I’ll call it good hitting.”
Worth noting — Coy struck out in the seventh inning, the 172nd of his career, to pass Mike McDonald (1986-89) on top of WSU’s career list. . .Garrett Bayliff extended his career-long hitting streak to 10 games with a fifth-inning single. . .Left fielder Micah Green returned to the lineup after sitting out Saturday’s game with a sore thumb. He went 0 for 2. . .Kaczmarski went 8 for 12 in the series and extended his career-long hitting streak to 17 games. . .Evansville dropped to 0-4 in MVC series finales. . .WSU’s Brandon Peterson closed Sunday’s game with 1/23 scoreless, hitless innings. He earned the win after getting the save in Friday’s 5-4 victory.
E — Hathcoat, Showers, Dearman. DP — Evansville 2. LOB — Evansville 2, WSU 8. 2B — Coy (7). HR — Pollock (1), Kaczmarski (4), Ramon (2), Baker (4). SF — Baker. SB — Dearman (4). CS — Hockemeyer.
|Peterson W, 2-0||1 2/3||0||0||0||0||1||1.33|
WP — Miller. Balk — McGreevy. HBP — Bayliff, Gillaspie, Dearman (by Biggs). Umpires — Shane Ravellette, home; Randy Wetzel, first; Ben Harlow, third. T — 2:26. A — 2,792.