Wichita State leaned on the bottom of the order to open the season’s crucial series with a victory.
The Shockers took over sole possession of second place in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 3-2 victory over Missouri State on Saturday at Hammons Field. WSU (28-21, 12-4) knocked the Bears (27-14, 11-5) into third place by manufacturing a two-out run in the ninth.
With that, the Shockers ended a cold afternoon, barely beating the rain, in unexpected fashion. They touched up MSU starter Nick Petree, perhaps the MVC’s top pitcher, for nine hits and two runs. They won at Hammons Field, where they had lost 6 of 7 games since 2009. And they did with minimal contributions from the heart of the batting order.
“This is huge, getting that (opening) game,” center fielder Taylor Doggett said. “Petree is a great pitcher, so that should give us great confidence coming into the next two games.”
WSU needs at least a split of Sunday’s doubleheader to keep pace with Illinois State, which has won the first two games of its series against Creighton. Illinois State (31-16, 11-3) is in first place by percentage points. It plays seven more MVC games. WSU plays five more conference games, finishing with a series against Creighton next weekend at Eck Stadium.
MSU lost an MVC game at home for the first time this season. WSU starter Cale Elam scattered eight hits over 6 2/3 innings. Reliever Albert Minnis retired 7 of 8 batters, striking out three to improve to 3-2.
“Baseball works in funny ways,” Bears second baseman Eric Cheray said. “We couldn’t get timely hitting and they found a way to scratch that one across. No matter how it was done, it was enough to get the job done.”
Doggett, WSU’s No. 9 hitter, gave Petree more trouble than any other Shocker in another unlikely development. He strikes out often and Petree, a master of control and deception, usually feasts on such batters. Not Saturday.
Doggett tripled in the third and scored on Tanner Dearman’s RBI single. Doggett drove in Mikel Mucha with a single in the seventh to tie the game 2-all.
The Shockers scored just enough against Petree and they made him throw 116 pitches in seven innings. He gave up five hits in the first three innings before locking down WSU until the seventh. He struck out 10, but only got Doggett once.
“We were just sitting fastball,” Doggett said. “We were barrelling them up pretty good. He throws lots of strikes and that’s one thing we’ve been addressing this week. We wanted to come out here and be aggressive.”
In the ninth, Doggett came up big again. With two outs, he perfectly placed a bunt toward third and beat the throw easily. He stole second and MSU reliever Grant Gordon’s wild pitch moved him to third.
“I try to (bunt) once a game now,” Doggett said. “(Coach Gene Stephenson) says I need to do that more and try to use my speed since that’s my biggest asset.”
Dearman served a 2-2 changeup to left field to score Doggett with the go-ahead run. Down 1-2, Dearman smacked a ball that landed foul by a foot or two in left field. After the wild pitch moved Doggett to third, he fouled off another pitch before guiding Gordon’s changeup away over the infield.
“He’s hard to strike out,” Stephenson said. “He’s really a tough competitor. You don’t find that very much in freshmen.”
Petree and Elam lived up to their status as two of the MVC’s top starters. Petree didn’t walk a batter and kept WSU’s Garrett Bayliff off base with three fly balls, a foul out and groundball. He struck out designated hitter Johnny Coy three times, stranding three runners in scoring position.
Elam struck out four and kept MSU leadoff hitter Tate Matheny off base. He ended the third with a behind-the-back catch of a bouncing ball. More important, he ended the sixth by picking off pinch-runner Conor Smith with a third-to-first move that turned a bases-loaded jam into a happy jog to the dugout.
“We talked about it all week and talked about it right before it happened,” MSU coach Keith Guttin said.
Minnis cooled off the left-handed hitting Cheray, who homered and tripled off Elam, with a fly ball to end the seventh. He cruised through the eighth and worked around a one-out single in the ninth.
“That’s a great feeling,” Dearman said. “He has so much movement on his ball and, being from the left side, it’s so tough on left-handed hitters.”
|Wichita State||001||000||101||— 3|
|Missouri State||090||101||000||— 2|
DP — MSU. LOB — WSU 8, MSU 7. 3B — Doggett (1), Mucha (1), Cheray (1) HR — Cheray (2). S — Voit. SB — Gillaspie (4), Doggett (8). CS — Dearman.
|Minnis W,3-2||2 1/3||1||0||0||0||3||2.93|
WP — Gordon 2. HBP — Baker (by Gordon). Umpires — Bill McGuire, home; Charlie Clemons, first; Todd Ohlinger, third. T — 2:43. A — 439.