Efficient and economical, that’s Wichita State left-hander Brian Flynn.
Well, it is now. Flynn shut down Illinois State on two hits in the first complete game of his career. The Shockers handled the Redbirds 6-1 to take the second game of the series on Saturday at Eck Stadium.
Flynn, a sophomore, needed only 101 pitches and four strikeouts to dispose of the Redbirds (24-12, 4-4 Missouri Valley Conference). They helped him out with an aggressive approach — Flynn went to one three-ball count in the first six innings and didn’t walk a batter until the seventh.
“I had great command of my fastball,” Flynn said. “They would whale at it and take some bad hacks. Any time you can see they’re free-swinging, you want to pound it at the knees.”
Flynn didn’t give the Redbirds many good pitches to swing at. The Redbirds lofted a lot of routine fly balls into the wind and the Shocker outfielders ran them down. Second baseman Walker Davidson and shortstop Tyler Grimes did their part, both making far-ranging plays and accurate throws to rob hits from the Redbirds.
To sum up, Flynn got up on the count regularly and let his defense do the work. Those are issues Flynn often struggled with earlier this season, before he started throwing a slider. He built up to Saturday’s effort by throwing seven innings against Evansville a week ago. Before that, his longest outing of the season was 5 1/3 innings. After walking 25 batters in his first 37 1/3 innings, Flynn walked two in the past 16.
On Saturday, he pitched like a veteran.
“When you go a complete game in college baseball, that’s a hell of a job,” Illinois State third baseman Ryan Court said. “He was just ahead in so many counts — it’s real easy to pitch when you’re ahead 1-2, 0-2 and you can mess around with all your pitches.”
The Redbirds didn’t move a runner to third until the seventh inning. They turned Court’s leadoff double into their lone run on Tyler McNeely’s sacrifice fly.
The Shockers took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a suicide squeeze. Don Lambert singled to start the inning and stole second base. Tyler Coughenour bunted him to third.
With the count 2-1, Micah Green bunted the ball back to pitcher Dan Savas, who fielded too late to get Lambert.
“He did a great job of getting it down, and it worked out perfect,” Lambert said. “I had feeling we might do something there. It was the right situation.”
WSU coach Gene Stephenson rarely uses the squeeze play. The Shockers needed to rattle Savas, who kept the Shockers under control early with a fastball in the low 90s and a changeup perhaps 25-30 mph slower.
“We had to get the count right to where we felt we would get a good pitch,” Stephenson said. “The key was that nobody gave it away too early.”
The Shockers knocked Savas out in the next inning with four runs. Grimes’ leadoff double started a string of four hits. Kevin Hall drove in Grimes to give WSU a 2-0 lead. Preston Springer’s single scored Hall.
Freshman third baseman Tyler Coughenour gave the Shockers more cushion against reliever Justin Hauer. He hammered a 2-2 breaking pitch past Court into left field to score two runs for a 5-0 lead.