NORMAL, Ill. —Wichita State pitcher Jordan Cooper read about his mastery over Illinois State and wished he hadn't.
Baseball being a game full of superstitions, Cooper worried about spoiling his good fortune. He didn't need to worry. He extended his scoreless streak against the Redbirds to 23 innings in Friday's 9-0 victory at Bass Field.
"I read it, and I was trying to not to say a whole lot about it," Cooper said. "I didn't want to jinx myself."
Cooper overpowered the jinx with a nasty slider, variety and good location for most of the game. He struck out 10, tying a career high, five looking.
"It was his night," Illinois State left fielder Ty Wiesemeyer said. "He was really locating his fastball and he had two off-speed pitches really working for him."
Cooper allowed four hits and walked four, three in his final two innings. In three games against the Redbirds, he is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 29 strikeouts. All 12 hits allowed are singles.
"I think it's just one of those weird baseball things," he said.
Maybe. Maybe Cooper is just that good. He certainly was on Friday to get WSU (28-15, 9-4 Missouri Valley Conference) off to a good start in a key Valley series. He stopped a six-game conference win streak for the first-place Redbirds (20-17, 8-2).
"His slider was looking great," catcher Cody Lassley said. "He was throwing it right where I wanted it pretty much every time."
Cooper enjoyed plenty of help from the resurgent offense. The Shockers broke the game open with four runs in the fifth inning to build a 7-0 lead. Freshman Erik Harbutz started the inning with a home run to left field.
"I got a pitch, outer half of the plate, and I was trying to use this wind a little bit," Harbutz said.
Designated hitter Preston Springer doubled to drive in a run. With two outs, Ryan Jones bounced a ball toward right that second baseman Kevin Tokarski grabbed with a dive. He couldn't throw out Jones at first, and Lassley slid in safely at home ahead of his throw. The two-run single made it 7-0.
Springer homered in the ninth for another RBI, his 12th in the past two games.
The Shockers have scored 44 runs in their past three games and they continued producing with two strikes and two outs. Bret Bascue led off the third inning with a double on an 0-2 pitch off starter Corey Maines. He scored on Tyler Grimes' sacrifice fly. In the fourth, Lassley doubled on an 0-2 pitch with one out to kick off a two-run inning. In the seventh, Travis Bennett worked a two-out walk that turned into a run.
"That's something we've been working on and something we've got to take pride in," Lassley said. "Even in (batting practice), we have two-strike rounds and we have to battle up and try to get hits and take close pitches."