TERRE HAUTE, Ind. —Wichita State required a solid Sunday start from its newest Sunday starter. Josh Smith didn't stop at solid — he pitched like a true stopper.
"He was outstanding," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "And we sure needed it."
The Shockers avoided a sweep of the three-game series with their 5-2 win at Warn Field. Smith, a sophomore lefty, held the Sycamores to two hits and one run over 7 2/3 innings to end WSU's four-game losing streak.
"I got in a good rhythm with (catcher Chris O'Brien)," Smith said. "I was working ahead and letting the defense do the work."
Smith retired the first eight batters he faced, six on fly balls, before a two-out walk led to a run in the third inning. Only two more Sycamores reached base against Smith. His curveball snapped in early in counts, keeping batters off balance and swinging weakly.
"His breaking ball, he threw for a strike all day, and I thought that was really key" Indiana State coach Rick Heller said. "Once he settled in, he was pretty good and our guys started to press a little."
Smith, who improved to 4-2 with a 3.92 ERA, struck out five and walked two in his longest outing for the Shockers (22-13, 8-4 Missouri Valley Conference). He didn't allow a leadoff hitter to reach and a mere three Sycamores moved into scoring position.
With those low-stress conditions, Smith looked comfortable and in charge all day.
"From the start of the day, I threw a good pen and I felt comfortable," he said. "I was able to throw my curveball for strike one, my fastball for strike one and my changeup was working, too."
The Shockers spent the afternoon waiting for Indiana State (23-10, 5-4) starter Jason Van Skike to leave the ball up in the strike zone. He was determined to use the bottom limits and produced 12 groundball outs in 6 2/3 innings.
WSU tied the game 1-all with three singles in the fourth. In the seventh, Cody Lassley led off with a bunt, the first Shocker leadoff hitter to reach base.
"I thought if I got down 0-1, I would go ahead and try to lay a bunt-for-a-hit down," Lassley said. "The third baseman was playing way back."
Lassley moved to second on a groundball and scored when Tyler Grimes' smash bounced off Van Skike's leg and into left field.
"Knowing our luck, it was surprising it didn't go right to the third baseman," Grimes said.
The Shockers went up 3-1 when Nate Goro, who walked, scored from third on a wild pitch.
The Shockers added two ninth-inning runs when Indiana State's usually solid defense let down with two outs. A throwing error by shortstop Ben Ferrell kept the inning alive and moved Goro to third. Reliever Brandon Dorsett hit Grimes to load the bases. The Sycamores appeared to be out of the inning when Ryan Jones popped up on the infield. But first baseman Jake Hartley dropped the ball, allowing Goro and Walker Davidson to score.
Sunday's box score
Wichita State ab r h bi avg.
Grimes 2b 4 0 2 1 .255
Jones cf-rf 5 0 0 0 .292
Springer 1b 5 0 1 0 .318
Bennett rf-lf 3 1 1 0 .318
Bascue ph 1 0 0 0 .571
Bayliff lf 0 0 0 0 .200
Coy lf 2 0 0 0 .275
Hall cf 1 0 0 0 .250
Lassley dh 4 1 2 0 .343
O'Brien c 4 0 1 1 .280
Goro 3b 3 2 1 0 .310
Baez 2b 3 0 1 0 .257
Davidson 2b 1 1 0 0 .250
Totals 36 5 9 2 .286
Indiana State ab r h bi avg.
Strausborger cf 4 0 1 1 .365
Burnam lf 4 0 0 0 .321
Fieser 3b 4 1 1 0 .362
Ort rf 4 0 0 0 .365
Lucas c 4 0 0 0 .313
Hartley 1b 4 0 0 0 .286
Liniger dh 2 0 0 0 .247
Grgurich 2b 3 0 0 0 .303
Ferrell ss 2 1 1 0 .300
Totals 31 2 3 1 .315
Wichita State 000 100 202 — 5Indiana State001 000 001 — 2
E — Springer, Hartley, Ferrell. LOB — WSU 7, ISU 4. 2B — Grimes (6), Strausborger (14). SB — Jones (10), Strausborger (27). CS — Springer, Lassley.
WSU IP H R ER BB SO ERA
Smith W,4-2 7 2/3 2 1 1 2 5 3.92
Guy S, 11 1/3 1 1 0 0 1 3.68
ISU IP HR ER BB SO ERA
Van Skike L,3-1 6 2/3 7 3 3 1 6 4.14
Mann 2/3 1 0 0 0 1 3.57
Dorsett 1 1/3 1 2 0 0 1 3.21
Flora 1/3 0 0 0 0 0 5.59
WP — Guy 2, Van Skike. HBP — Coy (by Van Skike), Grimes (by Dorsett). Umpires — home, Scott Behn; first, David Riley; third, Jason Stidham. T — 2:34. A — 492.
Senior Cody Lassley said he did some soul-searching after striking out looking three times on Friday.
He found whatever he was looking for on Saturday and Sunday. Lassley went 5 for 8 with a home run in the final two games of the series. He led Wichita State with a .417 batting average in the three games.
"I came Saturday with a clear head, and these past couple games have been a lot better mentally for me," he said.
Lassley is serving as the designated hitter in recent games after starting at catcher early in the season. When he goes back to the dugout after a bad at-bat, there is nothing to take that off his mind.
"It's been hard to adjust," he said. "Being a catcher, you're in control of the game. I'm in every play if I'm behind the dish. It's hard to transition to not having to think about what I'm going to do on the field and think about every last at-bat."
Lassley was 4 for 29 in his previous seven games entering the weekend. He raised his average from .333 to 343, best on the team.
On the road
WSU avoided adding Indiana State to the short list of places it has been swept. Missouri State (2001 and 2009) is the only team to win each game of a series on its home field against the Shockers.
The Shockers also remained in second place in the MVC by salvaging the final game. Nobody wants to go 1-2 on the weekend, but if that happens, winning on Sunday is the preferred formula.
"Especially on a travel day, that's huge," Lassley said. "It will be a little bit lighter mood on the bus."
The Shockers play seven straight games at home, where they are 14-2. Eck Stadium's atmosphere could help with coach Gene Stephenson's biggest concern.
"All of us are pressing so much, trying to do so much," Stephenson said. "This game is all about preparation and relaxation. If you prepare properly, you should learn to relax and play to your ability."
WSU sophomore Tyler Grimes extended his single-season hit by pitch record in the ninth inning, No. 17 on the season. He has 26 for his career, tied for second with Randy Walter. Grimes needs nine more tie career leader Casey Blake.... Shocker RBI leaders Ryan Jones (42) and Preston Springer (35) combined to go 4 for 26 with four strikeouts. Neither drove in a run.... WSU's much-maligned bullpen wasn't needed much in Terre Haute. Relievers Cobey Guy and Chance Sossamon combined to throw 2 2/3 innings and allow two hits no earned runs.... Stephenson said he was not sure who would start on Tuesday against Kansas State. Freshmen Tobin Mateychick and T.J. McGreevy are the likely candidates.
— Paul Suellentrop