Wichita State Shockers

Shockers stumble at Creighton

Wichita State reliever Foster Vielock took all the blame, which isn’t fair to him. That’s what relievers — the good ones, at least — do and Vielock refused to make excuses.

It’s all on me, not on anybody else,” he said. “That game is simply on me.”

WSU’s 7-3 loss to Creighton on Thursday at TD Ameritrade Park was a bit more complicated than that. The Shockers didn’t hit, and that stuck the pitchers with little room for error. But the bullpen couldn’t keep the game tied in the eighth inning, and that meltdown also loomed large.

The Shockers (33-23, 10-9 Missouri Valley Conference) missed a chance to gain ground on second-place Missouri State and fell into a virtual tie for third, percentage points behind Illinois State. To move past Missouri State, the Shockers must win the next two and hope Indiana State, which clinched the MVC title Thursday, sweeps the Bears. Then there’s Illinois State to worry about. Creighton (22-26, 6-12) ended WSU’s five-game winning streak with pitcher Ty Blach limiting the Shockers to three hits over seven shutout innings.

“If they hadn’t taken him out, we would never have scored,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said.

Creighton, with an eye on next week’s MVC Tournament, hooked Blach after 89 pitches. The Shockers rallied against the Bluejays bullpen, scoring twice in the eighth to tie the game 2-all.

“I felt like we were going to win the game,” Stephenson said.

The Shockers enjoyed good reason for optimism with Vielock, and his 1.74 earned run average, on the mound and closer Cale Elam ready behind him. On Thursday, however, Vielock wasn’t sharp after he struck out Brad McKewon to start the eighth. He walked Nick Judkins on five pitches and that started his problems.

“I just lost all feel for everything,” he said.

Facing Anthony Bemboom and the count 1-1, catcher Tyler Baker called for a slider. Bemboom, on a hit and run, belted a fastball in to the right-center gap and it rolled to the wall.

“I don’t know what I was thinking; I shook him off and threw a fastball and the guy hit a triple,” Vielock said. “I shouldn’t have shook him off.”

Stephenson agreed and likely wants Baker, a freshman, to be more persistent in that situation next time.

“That’s been addresssed,” he said, after a clubhouse meeting with the team.

Bemboom’s triple _ the only extra-base hit of the game _ scored Judkins and started Creighton on a five-run inning. For his reward, teammate Jerry Mitchell gave him a shaving cream pie in the face.

“I was just looking for a ball up to hit,” Bemboom said. “And that’s what I got.”

Alex Staehely followed with a single to drive in another run. Vielock intentionally walked a batter and then struck out Scott Thornburg. Stephenson went to lefty Kyle Bouman to face left-handed hitter Jake Peter, who walked on four pitches to load the bases. A single by Brennan Murphy, also a left-handed hitter, scored a run. Chance Ross singled to drive in two more and put Creighton up 7-2.

The bad ending didn’t absolve WSU’s hitters from a miserable night. Blach baffled them by working ahead and producing a series of groundballs and flyballs held up by a wind blowing in. It was a bad night for hitting, made worse by good pitching. Blach retired 17 straight before walking No. 9 hitter Josh Halbert with one out in the eighth. Eight of those came on groundballs and six on flyballs.

“We didn’t square up any balls,” WSU second baseman Dayne Parker said. “He changed up it up. He didn’t throw two off-speed pitches in a row very often, or two fastballs in a row. He hit his spots pretty good, too.”

Blach struck out three and didn’t walk a batter. He gave up two two-out singles in the first inning and another single in the second. After that, the Shockers went down without protest.

“I was just throwing the ball in the zone and letting the defense make plays,” he said. “It was fun.”

Not so much for the Shockers, who lost a conference series opener for the fourth time and narrowly avoided a third shutout.