Wichita State’s relievers shortened another game on Sunday, giving the Shockers a series victory over Southern Illinois and keeping the Shockers in the Missouri Valley Conference race.
WSU defeated SIU 5-2 at Martin Field with three relievers combining for six scoreless innings. For the series, six Shocker relievers threw 14 innings and allowed one run, walked one batter and struck out 11. SIU scored three runs after the third inning and none after the sixth in the series, won 2-1 by WSU.
“We compete against each other down there,” reliever T.J. McGreevy said. “When the game gets to us, we want to do our job and give the offense a chance.”
WSU (26-20, 11-4 MVC) is tied for second with Missouri State, percentage points behind Illinois State. The Shockers won their fifth straight weekend series. SIU (20-23, 3-12) committed two errors to continue a mistake-filled weekend that gave WSU offense plenty of help.
McGreevy, a senior, took over for starter Drew Palmer in the fourth with the score tied 2-all and shackled SIU with four scoreless innings.
“He was throwing inside at people, working in on lefties and righties,” catcher Tyler Baker said. “His slider was working real well, and so was his changeup.”
McGreevy’s ability to keep the ball down in the strike zone and his willingness to bust batters inside kept SIU beating the ball into the damp grass. He sat SIU down in order, getting four groundballs, a fly ball and a soft liner to second, in the next two innings. He worked around two singles in the sixth with a strikeout and groundball. In the seventh, catcher Tyler Baker threw out Jake Welch, SIU’s leading base-stealer, for the third out.
His one strikeout came at a crucial point. He got SIU’s Cody Daily to swing over a 1-2 changeup with one out and runners at first and third. Luke Mottashed bounced a ball to first baseman Casey Gillaspie to end the threat and keep WSU up 5-2 after it scored three in the top of the inning.
“I gave up two straight hits and it was important to throw up a zero because we had just scored,” McGreevy said. “I just tried to bear down and not give the guy anything good to hit and he chased a changeup down in the dirt.”
WSU’s reliance on its bullpen isn’t all great news. The Shockers are still searching for consistent performances from their Saturday and Sunday starters. A.J. Ladwig gave WSU six solid innings on Saturday in a 5-4 win, his second encouraging outing in a row. On Sunday, lefty Drew Palmer cruised through two innings. He gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in the third, enough for WSU coach Gene Stephenson to reach for his security blanket in the right-field bullpen.
“They’ve had a lot of work,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “It’s been for the most part, very successful, and we have a lot of confidence in all of them.”
Foster Vielock and Brandon Peterson finished off SIU, with Peterson getting the final two outs after Vielock walked Wes Neece and wild-pitched him to second.
The Salukis possessed neither WSU’s bullpen depth nor its defensive sharpness. A two-base throwing error by shortstop Ryan Rosthenhausler opened the door for WSU’s three-run sixth.
“You’ve got to capitalize on those,” WSU right fielder Garrett Bayliff said. “I know when we’re on the other side of it, those are huge.”
The throwing error wasn’t SIU’s only mistake in the inning.
Leading off, Coy bounced to Rosthenhausler, who fielded it cleanly before throwing over the first baseman. Micah Green singled to chase starter Derek Fogel and Tanner Kirk bunted them over. Tyler Baker’s groundball to short produced a throw home and SIU caught Coy, WSU’s 6-foot-8 designated hitter, in a rundown. Catcher Matt Jones ran Coy back to third and hit him in the helmet with a soft toss, loading the bases.
“We completely blew the fundamentals of a rundown,” SIU coach Ken Henderson said. “That’s the play of the game. You have to slide to the inside (of the baseline) and not throw over the top of the runner.”
With two outs, Bayliff lined a 3-2 pitch to right to score two runs. Reliever Jacob Williams walked pinch-hitter Tanner Dearman to force in a run for a 5-2 lead. Dearman sat out the first two games of series with a strained wrist. Against Williams, a right-hander, Stephenson found the right time to insert a 5-foot-7 lefty and make Williams throw strikes. Dearman, in his first at-bat since Wednesday, fouled off two 3-2 pitches before walking.
“Super,” Stephenson said. “He really battled.
Baker drove in a run in the second and Harbutz drove in Bayliff, after a double, in the third for a 2-0 lead.
SIU tied it with two runs in third, ending the outing for Palmer. Rosthenhausler doubled with one out and scored on Welch’s single that bounced over second base. Welch moved to second on a passed ball and scored on Jones’ single to left.
Worth noting — WSU will play a game Wednesday, a makeup for a rainout, against a to-be-determined opponent, most likely a team that does not qualify for the KCAC Tournament, which begins Tuesday. . .Bayliff went 7 for 15 in the series with three RBI to raise his team-leading average to .367. He is hitting .429 in MVC games. . .SIU pitchers walked 10 batters and struck out 15 in the series. WSU pitchers struck out 18 and walked two. . .WSU freshman third baseman Tanner Kirk went 4 for 12 with a double.
E — Rosthenhausler, Daily. DP — SIU 2. LOB — WSU 7, SIU 8. 2B — Bayliff (8), Doggett (3), Rosthenhausler (7). S — Kirk. SB — Green (3), Harbutz (11), Bayliff (8). CS — Welch.
WP — Palmer, Vielock. PB — Baker. Umpires — Wayne Harris, home; Bret Bruington, first; Tom Svehla, third. T — 2:37. A — 216.