TERRE HAUTE, Ind. —Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson isn't known for showering praise on the opposing pitcher. His usual thought after a Shocker loss is that his hitters blew it.
Friday, there wasn't much Stephenson or the hitters could do other than give it up for Indiana State pitcher Jacob Petricka. He held WSU to three hits over eight innings in a 2-0 victory by the Sycamores on Friday at Warn Field.
The work of Petricka and closer Tyler Browning, who struck out three in the ninth, extended WSU's streak of scoreless innings to 22.
"Until we can deliver with men on base, it's going to be very tough to score," Stephenson said. "But I'm telling you, first and foremost, Petricka was very good. It's hard for me to believe he's 4-4 against the schedule they're playing."
Petricka, a junior right-hander, lowered his ERA from 4.35 to 3.77. He didn't throw like a break-even pitcher in handing WSU its third straight loss. He struck out nine in eight innings and allowed three hits. A radar gun clocked his fastball up to 97 mph, and he threw his off-speed pitches equally effectively.
"I had all three pitches throwing for strikes," he said. "It kept the hitters guessing. They never knew what was coming."
Petricka's effort overshadowed a solid performance by WSU starter Jordan Cooper, who scattered nine hits. Most nights, that is good enough to win.
But WSU (21-12, 7-3 Missouri Valley Conference) hasn't scored since a Ryan Jones home run in the fifth inning of Sunday's loss to Southern Illinois. Nebraska shut out the Shockers 14-0 on Tuesday and the bats remained quiet on Friday.
Petricka tired late in the game and gave the Shockers two two-out opportunities to tighten the score.
A two-out double in the sixth inning by Tyler Grimes came just a few short of clearing the center-field wall in the deepest part of the park, around 400 feet. Two walks loaded the bases. Petricka struck out cleanup hitter Preston Springer to end the threat.
"I just wanted to throw a strike — I didn't want to beat myself," Petricka said. "I wanted him to beat me. My pitch just kept him off-balance enough."
Petricka survived an almost identical situation in the eighth. Two-out walks to Grimes and Baez and an infield single by Jones loaded the bases. Petricka and Springer battled to a full count before Ryan Strausborger chased down a line drive in center to keep the Shockers scoreless.
When WSU gave the Sycamores (22-9, 4-3) the slightest opportunity, they took advantage.
In the fifth inning, Strausborger turned a two-out single into a run. He stole second and went to third when Cooper's pitch bounced to the backstop. He scored on an infield single when third baseman Nate Goro's long throw bounced and first baseman Preston Springer couldn't keep the ball in his glove.
In the sixth, Jake Hartley tripled when WSU centerfielder Kevin Hall slipped on the warning track. He scored on Tyler Graham's sacrifice fly.
Stephenson faulted his defense for both runs. He judged either Goro's throw or Springer's scoop worthy of an error, although it was scored a hit. If Hall doesn't fall down, Hartley is held to a double.
"We should still be playing," Stephenson said.