NEW ORLEANS — Wichita State freshman pitcher Sam Tewes isn’t afraid to ask questions, one of the attributes coach Todd Butler finds endearing.
The other — and they’re connected — is that Tewes is a talented pitcher with a knack for winning on Sunday. He pitched a career-high eight innings and held Tulane to three hits and one run in WSU’s 10-3 victory on Sunday at Turchin Stadium. Tewes stopped a weekend losing streak for the third time this season with his best performance.
“He had total command of the game,” Butler said. “Plus slider. Threw strikes. He had three pitches going with his changeup.”
WSU (22-21) ended a three-game skid and avoided dropping back under .500 with a well-rounded offensive attack. Tewes didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, didn’t issue a walk and struck out a career-high seven. Tulane (17-24) committed four errors and didn’t score until the seventh inning.
Tewes improved to 7-2 with an outing that hints at bigger things. He hadn’t struck out more than four batters previously and walks kept him on edge in many starts. On Sunday, he cruised through most of the game, using his slider to finish off batters.
“We’ve been working on it the last week,” he said. “It’s been loopy in the past, didn’t have as much speed and bite to it. Today I got on top of it and the velocity was a lot better —it looked like a fastball.”
Junior catcher Tyler Baker watched Tewes, a right-hander from Lincoln, Neb., in the fall and knew WSU had an advanced rookie on its roster. His composure and variety of pitches surpasses most freshmen.
“You can tell, the way he carries himself,” Baker said. “When I look at him, I’m like, ‘That dude’s my age. He’s been around.’ ”
Butler can write Tewes into his weekend rotation for the next two seasons, a comforting thought for a coach who will likely lose two other starters. Tewes’ success is as much about his mental strength as it is his physical gifts. He will pitch in the Cape Cod League this summer and likely come back even more accomplished as a sophomore.
“He wants to be a fantastic pitcher,” Butler said. “He asks questions. You have some players who don’t ask you a question all year because they’re not confident. He’s very confident.”
Tewes peppers Baker with questions about location and pitch selection.
“All the questions you need to ask as a good pitcher,” Baker said. “He’s really mature.”
The Shockers often help Tewes with generous scoring and Sunday followed that script. WSU scored 10-plus runs for him for the third straight game.
The Shockers took a 2-0 lead in the third with the bottom of the order pitching in. Zair Koeiman spanked a one-out single to left and Tanner Dearman followed with a hit-and-run single, through the vacated hole at shortstop, to put Koeiman on the run. When the left fielder fumbled the ball, Koeiman scored and Dearman sped to second.
Koeiman caught coach Brian Walker’s sign as he approached third and kept going to score easily.
“We needed that boost,” Koeiman said. “I just kept going.”
Dearman moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Garrett Bayliff’s two-out single for a 2-0 lead.
That set Sunday’s theme, with the Green Wave bumbling and the Shockers taking advantage. Unlike Saturday, when WSU led 3-0 and went quiet before losing 5-4, it kept adding runs.
The sixth started with a bouncer to Tulane second baseman Jake Willsey, who threw over the pitcher covering at first to put Bayliff on. Casey Gillaspie walked and Tyler Baker slammed a one-out double off the wall in right field to score Bayliff. Gillaspie and Baker scored on Micah Green’s single to center for a 5-0 lead.
The Shockers made it 6-0 in the seventh after Dearman smacked a hard grounder past first base to end up on second. He stole third. He scored on a groundball off Kihle’s bat that Willsey, playing in, fielded and threw wide of home.
Koeiman hit his first home run in the eighth to turn the game into a rout. Tulane reliever Zach Flowers issued two two-out walks and Koeiman hit his first pitch out to left-center for a 9-1 lead.
“That felt pretty good,” he said. “He missed his spot, left a changeup up and I got a piece of it.”
Tulane ended the shutout in the seventh. Willsey doubled to lead off and scored on a sacrifice fly by Andrew Garner. Tewes kept things from unraveling, after giving up three well-struck balls, by striking out Hunter Hopes on a high fastball to end the inning.