Wichita State needed one extra-base hit to win two out of three games from Indiana State.
That means the Shockers pitched well most of the weekend and a 20 mph wind knocked down almost every ball hit toward left and center. It also means the Shockers, despite not sweeping a Missouri Valley Conference series, are resilient enough to hang in the race.
Now we will see if they are good enough to win it.
Sunday's 6-1 win over the Sycamores kept WSU in third place with three MVC games remaining. It's not a bad spot to be, but the Shockers knew there wasn't much reason to celebrate.
"We really pretty much needed to sweep," WSU reliever T.J. McGreevy said.
"We need to sweep somebody, honestly," second baseman Walker Davidson said.
WSU gets one more chance.
The Shockers (32-24, 11-7 MVC) trail first-place Creighton by a game and second-place Missouri State by a half game. As those two play in Omaha this week, the Shockers travel to last-place Bradley. If WSU can sweep, all it needs is neither Creighton nor MSU to win three. In that scenario, WSU gives itself, at worst, a chance to tie Creighton or pass MSU, which lost a game to weather.
Since the Shockers haven't won three in a row since mid-March, that's too much to contemplate now. They are better off ignoring the big picture.
"We just need to take it one game at time and see where it takes it," McGreevy said.
The Shockers, as they are capable of for short bursts, did a lot of things right on Sunday. Starter Josh Smith didn't give the Sycamores (25-24, 7-11) much hope until the sixth. Shortstop Tyler Grimes mashed a three-run home run in the fourth. McGreevy shut down Indiana State's best threat without throwing a pitch in the sixth. WSU's defense supported the pitchers with its 12th errorless game of the season. WSU, shut out 6-0 Saturday, took advantage of walks and an error with two-out hits.
"The real key, obviously, was Grimes' three-run homer," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "He battled in there and had a real good at-bat, fouling off some balls He finally hit one where he should hit them, to right-center. He can hit the ball for a long distance to right center if he'll just stay on it and do it."
Grimes' fourth homer of the season gave WSU a 5-0 lead. The Shockers wasted opportunities early in the game against wobbly starter Jason Van Skike. Double plays helped him escape the first and second inning and strand runners at third. WSU loaded the bases with no outs in the third and another double play helped limit the damage to a single run.
Van Skike almost escaped the fourth. He got two outs before walking Don Lambert. With Micah Green up on the count 2-0, Lambert broke for second, pulling the shortstop to the base. Green bounced a ball through the hole to move Lambert to second.
He scored on Walker Davidson's single, ending a scoreless drought of 11 innings for WSU. Davidson took the pitch to right field, something the Shockers failed to do on Saturday.
"I was just looking for a ball away, trying to punch the ball through the hole," he said. "He gave me a pitch I was looking for."
Grimes then hit a 2-2 pitch out to right field.
"I knew it was hit hard, but I wasn't sure," Grimes said. "Then I heard the crowd and I knew it was gone."
McGreevy stopped Indiana State's best attempt at a rally with a pickoff in the sixth. He replaced Smith with the bases loaded and two outs. Almost everybody in the stadium expected a Shocker staple — the fake-to-third, throw-to-first move.
"It was addressed right before he did it," Indiana State coach Rick Heller said.
Sure enough, McGreevy mesmerized freshman Tyler Wampler with the move and picked him off.
"That's what's frustrating — when you just talked about it and you get picked off," Heller said. "It was on the scouting report, but that's the way it goes."