Wichita State owned the ninth inning at Hammons Field and its reward is a sweep and first place in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Shockers started Sunday’s doubleheader with an outlandish 11-9 win over Missouri State, scoring three runs in the ninth to recover from blowing an eight-run lead. They won the second game 3-0, scoring twice in the ninth to make the bottom of the inning worry free for closer Brandon Peterson.
WSU (30-21, 14-4 MVC) traveled to a place it had lost six of its seven previous games and won a series for first time since 2007, also a sweep. It moved percentage points ahead of Illinois State (11-4 MVC), which lost to 9-4 to Creighton in 11 innings on Sunday. Missouri State (27-16, 11-7) fell into third place.
“All year we’ve battled and battled and battled,” WSU centerfielder Taylor Doggett said. “Finally, it came through. That’s how games are won right there.”
The Shockers started the weekend with a 3-2 victory Saturday when it scored the winning run in the ninth. That trend held on Sunday.
“It says that maybe we’ve learned a little bit, and maybe we will compete hard all the time and figure out ways to win, rather than figure out ways to get close,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said.
WSU’s bullpen missed once chance to shut down MSU on Sunday in the opener. After that, the relievers continued their zero-filled run through the Valley. Lefty Aaron LaBrie rescued WSU with 4 1/3 scoreless innings in the first game, keeping the game close after the Bears rallied against starter A.J. Ladwig and reliever T.J. McGreevy.
The Bears stranded 10 runners in the opener, seven in the nightcaps and 24 for the series.
“They made more plays, they made more pitches and I think they got a few more key hits,” MSU coach Keith Guttin said. “We’re still leaving too many guys out there that we need to get in.”
WSU clinched its most crucial series of the season by blowing an 8-1 first-inning lead and rallying for three runs in the ninth to win.
Crazy start to the day, from the way WSU let momentum and confidence after scoring eight runs evaporate, to the way pitchers dominated the middle innings, to the go-ahead runs scoring on a throwing error.
Two Shocker pitchers failed to get things under control with big leads. LaBrie ignored the scoreboard and the mood that seemed to give the day to the hitters.
“When they’re hitting the ball like that, it’s easy to look at it and get caught up in the whole situation,” LaBrie said. “You’ve just to take it one pitch at a time and try to keep putting up zeroes.”
WSU took an 8-0 lead in the first on 10 hits, chasing MSU starter Jonathan Harris, who managed two outs. WSU batted around and Tanner Dearman and Garrett Bayliff singled twice. That seemed like enough and the Shockers played like it. MSU knocked Ladwig out in the third and battered McGreevy, taking a 9-8 lead in the fourth. Meanwhile, Bears reliever Matt Hall dominated the Shockers.
“It started off absolutely amazing,” Doggett said. “They kept swinging and swinging and we didn’t do anything. We kind of coasted our way through and they kept scoring and took the momentum.”
WSU trailed 9-8 entering the ninth after Hall retired the previous 20 batters. A one-run lead seemed like 10 after Missouri State’s comeback.
“It was different,” WSU first baseman Casey Gillaspie said. “I had never been a part of anything like that.”
The Shockers looked done until Dearman poked a single just out of the reach of the second baseman. Bayliff singled to left and Tyler Baker bunted them over. The Bears walked Gillaspie to load the bases and Erik Harbutz’s sacrifice fly scored Dearman to tie it 9-all with two outs.
Micah Green bounced a routine grounder to shortstop Travis McComack, who bobbled it and rushed a throw wide past the first baseman and into foul ground. Bayliff and Gillaspie scored for an 11-9 lead.
“I got to third and turned around and watched the play,” Gillaspie said. “I saw it get way. Instincts took over and I went home.”
The Shockers spent the 30 minutes in between games happily munching on bananas and snacks. The Bears tried to regroup with a meeting in left field. It worked for freshman pitcher Andy Cheray, who shackled the Shockers until the ninth.
MSU’s hitters failed to solve WSU freshman Garrett Brummett or relievers Foster Vielock and Austin Sanders. They held the Bears to six hits and handed a 1-0 lead off to the ninth-inning hitters. With two outs, Gillaspie walked and Green singled. After the Bears intentionally walked Baker, Doggett blooped a single into center to score two runs for a 3-0 lead.
Peterson earned his second save of the day with a perfect ninth, giving him eight this season.
|E. Cheray 2b||5||1||3||1||0||0||.342|
E — Bayliff, Gillaspie, Becker, McComack. DP — WSU. LOB — WSU 5, MSU 10. 2B — Voit (12). S — Baker. SF — Harbutz.
|LaBrie W,3-1||4 1/3||2||0||0||1||1||1.03|
|Hall L,4-3||8 1/3||3||3||1||2||9||2.93|
WP — Ladwig, LaBrie 2. HBP — Peebles (by Ladwig), McComack (by McGreevy). Umpires — Charlie Clemons, home; Todd Ohlinger, first; Bill McGuire, third. T — 2:58.
|E. Cheray 2b||2||0||0||0||2||0||.336|
E — E. Cheray, Maddox. DP — MSU. LOB — WSU 6, MSU 10. 2B — Gillaspie (13).
|Brummett W,2-0||5 1/3||3||0||0||3||0||1.59|
|A. Cheray L,1-3||8 2/3||2||2||2||3||2||3.07|
PB — Zimmerman 2. Balk — A. Cheray. Umpires — Todd Ohlinger; home; Bill McGuire, first; Charlie Clemons, third. T — 2:21. A — 548.