Wichita State lefty Logan Hoch lingered in the stands, talking with family and signing autographs. He wrapped it up with a hug and kiss for his girlfriend.
A happy night for the Shocker bullpen in a season without many. WSU defeated San Jose State 3-2 on Friday at Eck Stadium, surviving with Hoch's two scoreless innings and sharp defense.
"He came out and shut the door," WSU centerfielder Kevin Hall said. "Hopefully some other guys in the bullpen will see that and start to feed off that, because that was huge for this team."
Hoch took over for starter Jordan Cooper with a runner on in the eighth to protect that one-run lead. He started with a strikeout. Then he gave up a double on an 0-2 fastball to Kerry Jenkins to put runners at second and third.
"I knew I made a mistake the pitch before, when the guy got the double," Hoch said. "That was completely my fault — that wasn't the right pitch to throw and I shook to it."
That is the point the bullpen has faltered in past games for WSU (24-14). Not this time.
"It was getting back, knowing I screwed it up and it's on me now to fix it," Hoch said. "So I attacked the zone against the next guy."
Hoch, throwing changeups to right-handed batter Richie Johnson, struck him out on four pitches. He got pinch-hitter Anthony Bona to ground out to end the threat.
"All we've got to do is put the ball in play, and we weren't able to do that," Spartans coach Sam Piraro said. "I call that good pitching."
Hoch, a senior who missed last season with a shoulder injury, retired the Spartans in order in the ninth. Combine Friday's effort with Tuesday's performance against Kansas State and Hoch owns six strikeouts in his last 4 2/3 innings without allowing a run. The bullpen needs somebody pitching with presence and Hoch appears to be that guy. He is throwing his slider effectively against left-handed hitters, and credits better control of his changeup with helping him against right-handers.
"I've been throwing with more confidence the last couple times out," he said. "I'm treating every outing like it's my last, because I'm blessed to even be pitching now."
The Spartans (14-22) stranded 10 runners, eight in scoring position, and wasted a 14-hit effort against Cooper. The Shocker defense, after giving up a bloop single in the first inning that led to a run, sparkled the rest of the game.
"I was just really fortunate and lucky to get out of there with only two runs," Cooper said. "They kept me in the game the whole time."
WSU cut down two runners in the fifth to help Cooper. Catcher Chris O'Brien threw out Craig Hertler at second on a pitchout after his leadoff single. After Karson Klauer singled, Jason Martin slammed a double to the gap in left. Left fielder Bret Bascue threw to shortstop Tyler Grimes, who delivered a perfect strike to O'Brien to get Klauer at the plate.
In the seventh, Hall came in as a defensive replacement and Johnson challenged him on the first pitch. Hall made a diving catch to rob him of extra bases.
"It was a welcome-to-the-game moment," Hall said. "Defense was good the whole night, so I was just going with the flow."
Grimes got the second out of the inning, cutting down Chris Carrillo when he tried to advance from second to third on a groundball. Cooper ended the inning with the bases loaded on another groundball out.
"We made some great catches to save some really difficult situations," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said.
The Shockers tied the game 1-all in the second, scoring on an error by pitcher Luke Mazzanti. They took a 3-1 lead in the third with an RBI double by Cody Lassley and an RBI single by O'Brien.