Friday nights usually mean good pitching and plenty of offense for Wichita State.
The script changed for the first game of this series. The Shockers, who hadn't scored fewer than five runs in a Missouri Valley Conference series opener, got caught in a pitcher's duel. They slipped past Indiana State 1-0 at Eck Stadium on Don Lambert's game-winning single in the ninth inning.
It starts the weekend on a different path than most conference series. The Shockers (31-23, 10-6 MVC) stayed in second place behind Creighton, whose game with Evansville was postponed by weather, in the sixth inning. Gritting out a tense victory might pay off. We'll know more today.
"It was a game where you have to stay locked in every single pitch because you never know which play is going to be the defining play," WSU centerfielder Kevin Hall said. "I think that helps this team, especially, because there's been times when we've struggled with concentrating consistently for the whole nine innings. For the most part, I think we did that tonight."
WSU has won its past three series openers by a combined score of 22-7. The past two weekends, WSU dropped the second game.
"Winning 1-0 definitely lets you know you've got to come out and you've got to play to win," Lambert said. "If we don't make plays, we lose that game."
Lambert made the biggest of the night in the ninth. He singled off Sycamores reliever Chris Machado to score Tyler Coughenour with the winning run. Lambert drove a 2-2 slider into right field with no outs. Coughenour, who singled and stole second, scored without a throw, sliding across home plate.
"I was just looking for a pitch up to drive to the right side and at worst get him over the to third with one out," Lambert said. "Fortunately, I hit it in the gap and he was able to score."
Coughenour stole second on the first pitch to Lambert. It was supposed to be a hit and run, but Lambert didn't need to swing at the ball in the dirt.
The Shockers didn't get a leadoff runner on base until the seventh inning. Coughenour started the ninth with a single up the middle off Machado.
"I got behind in the count," he said. "Then I choked up and just tried to put it in play."
For eighth innings, both offenses found only frustration. Indiana State starter Colin Rea gave up four hits and struck out seven in 7 1/3 innings. WSU starter Charlie Lowell walked six, but struck out nine and allowed two hits in seven innings.
"Rea was outstanding," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "He had several different breaking balls and a good, lively fastball. Charlie Lowell, I don't think he was at his best. But he battled."
WSU managed only two-out runners in the first six innings. Indiana State (24-23, 6-10) loaded the bases, courtesy of three walks, in the fifth. Lowell struck out Koby Kraemer to end the inning. WSU turned a double play in the fifth to help Lowell survive four walks.
Base-running mistakes also hurt the Sycamores.
In the third, WSU second baseman Walker Davidson threw out Kyle Burnam at third, ending the inning, after he stole second and tried to advance on a wild throw. Catcher Charlie O'Brien picked Jeremy Lucas off second base to end the fourth.
"Lowell gave us some opportunities with some walks," Indiana State coach Rick Heller said. "When you have opportunities against a good pitcher like that, you've got to make the best out of them."