Wichita State lessened its weekend of disappointment with a Sunday sigh of relief. Now the Shockers will root for Southern Illinois.
The Shockers defeated Creighton 4-1 at Eck Stadium to avoid a sweep and stay in second place in the Missouri Valley Conference behind Illinois State. The bottom of the order provided three of the runs and starter Garrett Brummett pitched six solid innings. Closer Brandon Peterson recorded his ninth save with 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
WSU (31-24, 15-6 MVC) trails Illinois State (13-5) and needs SIU to win at least one game from the Redbirds in the series starting Thursday in Carbondale. WSU is done with Valley play and one Illinois State loss clinches a tie for the title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. The Shockers now head into a week of non-conference play after they let their control of race slip away with a 6-5 loss Friday and a 3-1 loss Saturday.
“We’re going to need help now,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “We’ll just hope for that, since we messed this one up.”
On Sunday, the Shockers needed to keep the pressure on Illinois State, avoid its first home sweep by an MVC opponent and stay ahead of third-place Creighton (28-14, 11-7). The Shockers won the day with a combination of timely hitting and pitchers who kept the Bluejays from getting their mistake-eating offense rolling. WSU rapped out 11 hits and put extra-base hits together in the same inning for the first time in the series. While they stranded 10, they rebounded from Saturday’s four-hitter.
“We know we can hit,” shortstop Dayne Parker said. “We got going with two outs and that says a lot about our team, that we’re not going to quit.”
Down 1-0, the Shockers grabbed the lead with three runs in the fourth when the bottom of the order came through with a two-out rally.
No. 6 hitter Erik Harbutz started it with a double and later scored a run. Parker, who hadn’t started since April 28, went 3 for 4 with a run and an RBI from the No. 7 spot. No. 8 hitter Mikel Mucha tripled to drive in a Parker. Mucha scored when slid home head first, toppling pitcher Austin Groth, after he threw a 1-1 pitch over his catcher and to the backstop.
A 3-1 lead lessened the pressure on the Shockers, who led for a half-inning in the previous two games.
“That’s just the grind of baseball,” Parker said. “You just grind it out. Whenever you’re not hitting, it seems like nothing is going good. We had a good mind-set today and pretty much came out and did what we wanted to do.”
Brummett worked out of a jam in the fifth, getting a groundball to end the inning with runners on first and third. Catcher Tyler Baker was glad to see Stephenson let the freshman finish the inning.
“He just keeps battling and battling,” Baker said. “I had a feeling Gene was going to pull him out. I looked over there and saw his facing getting kind of frustrated.”
In the sixth, Mucha made a spectacular running catch, crashing against the wall in left, to rob Jake Peter of extra bases. Brummett ended the inning by striking out Kevin Lamb looking with a runner on first. That capped his longest outing.
Brummett allowed four hits and struck out three. In his two previous starts, he pitched 10 innings without a strikeout. On Sunday, he closed out batters and twice got strikeouts to end an inning with runners on.
“If you don’t try to blow it by everybody, you’re going to strike more people out,” Baker said. “His curveball in the dirt was awesome.”
Creighton took a 1-0 lead on Brennan Murphy’s sacrifice fly in the second. He drove in Reagan Fowler, who doubled and moved to third on a single. Brummett recovered to produce a fly ball and struck out Landon Lucansky looking.
WSU added a run and left several on the table in the fifth. Baker drove in Tanner Dearman from third with a single over the drawn-in second baseman for a 4-1 lead. Casey Gillaspie singled and Johnny Coy walked to load the bases with one out. Harbutz bounced into a double play — Stephenson argued third baseman Federico Castagnini missed stepping on third — to end the threat.
The Shockers loaded the bases in the sixth, with two outs, before Baker flew out to left field. The inning started to go bad when Taylor Doggett failed to get a bunt down with two on and popped up to the second baseman. Dearman struck out for the second out.
Worth noting — Baker stole a base on his first try this season, beating the throw from Lamb in the first inning. A fly ball stranded him with two outs. . .Parker started at shortstop for the first time since March 24, moving Harbutz, who committed fielding errors Friday and Saturday, to third. . . Gillaspie swung through a pitch in the fourth and lost the grip on his bat, sending it bouncing over the top of the WSU dugout behind first base and into the stands. A fan retrieved the bat for Gillaspie. . .Mucha went 4 for 10 in the series. Baker led WSU with three RBI. . .WSU held Creighton to a .184 batting average and two extra-base hits in the three games. The Shockers hit .264 with three doubles and a triple.
E — Harbutz. DP — Creighton. LOB — Creighton 10, WSU 10. 2B — Fowler (6), Fitzgerald (2), Harbutz (12). 3B — Mucha (2). S — Haddox. SF — Murphy. SB — Baker (1), Dearman (7), Gillaspie (5), Harbutz (12), Doggett (10). CS — Doggett.
|Groth L,2-1||4 1/3||9||4||4||2||2||4.85|
|Peterson S,9||2 1/3||1||0||0||0||3||1.31|
WP — Groth. HBP — Fowler (by Brummett), Mucha (by Bamesberger), Doggett (by Sova), Blatchford (by Peterson). Umpires — Tim Cordill, home; Terry Harrison, first; Greg Mudd, third. T — 2:46. A — 3,051.