Wichita State started a must-win series with one of its best efforts of the season.
Then the Shockers tried to forget all about Friday’s 8-0 win over Creighton at Eck Stadium.
“As much as it feels good right now to get this win . . . if we don’t come out with our ‘A game’ (today) they’ll put it to us just like we did to them,” WSU right fielder Don Lambert said.
That’s the mantra for the Shockers (29-21, 8-5 Missouri Valley Conference), who moved within a game of first-place Creighton (31-11, 9-4). There is no room or reason for a team that hasn’t won three straight since March to think about anything other than surviving the next inning.
“The only thing that matters now is how we play (today),” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said.
To their credit, the Shockers rebounded from two dismal mid-week losses to Kansas with an efficient destruction of the Bluejays. Lefty Charlie Lowell allowed five hits, struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter. Preston Springer, Tyler Grimes and Lambert homered to help hand Creighton lefty Ty Blach (7-1) his first loss. The defense turned three double plays.
It all seemed to flow from the first inning, when Lowell sat the Bluejays down in order and the Shockers took a 2-0 lead off three hits.
“They were on a mission tonight,” Creighton coach Ed Servais said. “They were the aggressor by far, and normally the aggressive team wins games.”
So does the team with a dominant pitcher, which describes Lowell. He improved to 5-0 in MVC games with a 0.94 ERA. The Bluejays didn’t get a runner to third until the eighth inning. A series of off-balance swings resulted in nine groundball outs.
“Outstanding command,” Servais said. “He was able to get three pitches over and he kept the ball down.”
Chris O’Brien and Johnny Coy drove in the first-inning runs. With the lead, the Shockers established they could hit Blach and they made Creighton’s small-ball game less relevant.
“When things get going well, we get on a roll,” Lambert said. “Some games we get up 2-0, and we shut it down. That’s been our nemesis.”
The Shockers kept pushing Blach, who refused to crumble.
Blach, who hadn’t given up more than eight hits in a game in his career, gave up nine in the first three innings and 13 total. The Shockers rarely allowed him to work ahead or get deep into the count. O’Brien doubled in the first inning on the first pitch. Coy doubled in the third on a 2-1 pitch. Springer homered for a 4-0 lead on the second pitch.
“We had a pretty good idea of what he was going to do to us,” Springer said. “He hardly ever walks anybody, so you know you’re going to get some strikes. Going up there as a hitter, you’ve got to love that.”
WSU opened the game up after Blach departed in the seventh. Reliever Chase Webb struck out Tyler Coughenour with runners on second and third. That set Lambert up for a two-out at-bat against a right-hander — a welcome change. Blach struck him out, threw him out and caught a bunt in the air.
“I was glad they got him out of there,” Lambert said.
Lambert smacked Webb’s changeup — his first pitch — over the fence in left to give WSU a 7-0 lead. In the eighth inning, Grimes completed a 4-for-5 evening by dropping Webb’s first pitch off the top of the scoreboard.