Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State wins Valley baseball tourney opener

OMAHA — TD Ameritrade Park's spacious outfield is made for speedy players such as Kevin Hall to show off.

Hall did just that on Tuesday, running down a blast by Evansville's Greg Wallace to end Wichita State's 2-1 victory in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

"I knew it was caught, 100 percent," WSU pitcher Charlie Lowell said. "Any time the ball is hit in the air out there, we're all confident it's going to be caught."

The second-seeded Shockers (37-24) advance to today's 4 p.m. game against sixth-seeded Indiana State (27-27). Seventh-seeded Evansville (28-24) drops into the losers bracket against defending tournament champion Illinois State (35-17) at 9 a.m.

The bracket might look much different if Hall is a step slower. Speed, however, is his biggest asset.

With two outs and runners at first and third, Wallace hammered a ball toward center field off closer Cale Elam. Hall broke back, turned and ran toward the wall. He jumped to make a tumbling, do-or-die, catch.

"When Wally drives the ball to left-center, that thing carries a little bit because that's how his swing goes," Evansville coach Wes Carroll said. "So off the bat, I'm looking at sending Jared Baehl running around second, thinking we got the lead. What an unbelievable play to get them a win."

Hall's catch ended the game in a fitting manner. Pitching and defense ruled. Lowell and Elam scattered 10 hits and used the big outfield — 408 feet to straightaway center — to their advantage. Hall wasn't the only outfielder to run down a well-struck ball.

"We've got three deer out there," Lowell said.

Evansville starter Cody Fick held WSU to four hits, striking out 11. WSU didn't get a hit after the fourth inning.

"We were really fortunate to get those two runs," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "Cody Fick is amazing. That guy is tough, and he battles and he competes."

The Shockers took a 1-0 lead in the first with two-out doubles by Chris O'Brien and Preston Springer. Springer scored WSU's second run in the fourth, singling and scoring on Johnny Coy's double.

Springer scored from first on a ball that scooted to the wall in left-center. Springer wasn't surprised that Stephenson waved him in.

"I'm not the fastest of guys, but that's a key situation," Springer said. "We've got to score that run however we can get it. Right when he hit it, I knew it was deep in the gap."

Fick lamented leaving a few pitches up. The Shockers went back-to-back with hits in the first and fourth to score their runs. For most of the game, his off-speed pitches baffled the Shockers.

"They were able to take advantage of some balls up in the zone early in the ballgame," Fick said. "Sometimes I got away with it, but through the heart of their order they've got some quality bats. They took advantage of those pitches up."

Lowell, named MVC Pitcher of the Year on Monday, worked around eight hits through 6 1/3 innings. In the third, he got a flyball and a groundout to strand two runners. In the sixth, he survived a two-out error by shortstop Tyler Grimes that put runners at first and second.

Elam struck out Ryan Oesterle with the bases loaded in the seventh after the Aces cut the lead to 2-1 against Lowell.

Evansville totaled 10 hits, stranding 13 runners.

"Lowell really clamped down with runners in scoring position," Carroll said. "Any time you throw a four-hitter and get beat, it's going to be tough. You've to lean on your offense at some point to break free, and we never did that."

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