Wichita State won’t get much time to ponder anything before Wednesday’s 9 a.m. game. The Shockers should take time to look at the bracket and realize things aren’t necessarily as gloomy as they seemed in the aftermath of Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to Southern Illinois.
WSU, while in the losers bracket, may be in better shape with its pitching staff than its three opponents in the bracket. Indiana State is already into its bullpen after ace Sean Manaea couldn’t throw on Tuesday because of shoulder stiffness. SIU, beyond starters Cody Forsythe and Sam Coonrod, is shaky and closer Todd Eaton is coming off a confidence-busting performance in the regular-season finale against Illinois State. Creighton will start freshman Austin Groth against WSU because No. 2 starter Nick Musec is out with a bad back. No. 1 starter Tommy Strunc walked five batters in 1 2/3 innings before getting yanked Tuesday.
While WSU’s pitching isn’t dominant, it is rested for the tournament with A.J. Ladwig on Wednesday, followed by Garrett Drumright and Kris Gardner and backed by a deep bullpen. Should the Shockers survive Wednesday’s game, Thursday could dawn with them in a better-than-expected position.
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“We’ll respond,” WSU pitcher Cale Elam said. “We’ve got, arguably, I think, the best pitching staff in this tournament. There’s no reason why we can’t make a run at it. You just don’t have a mulligan now.”
Groth’s presence on the mound appears to be a break for the Shockers. They knocked him out in 4 1/3 innings with nine hits and two walks on their way to a 4-1 victory on May 12. Regardless of how the pitching shakes out, the pressure is on WSU’s offense after it managed seven hits Tuesday.
“We didn’t compete very well,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “We have to hit better. We can’t play like that and beat anybody.”
WSU lost its fourth straight tournament game and is in danger of going winless for a second straight season.
The losing streak, which started in the 2011 championship game against Creighton, is WSU’s longest in the tournament. It went winless in 1990, 2001 and 2012.
Indiana State pitcher Josh Negele followed his routine to get ready on short notice for Tuesday’s 9 a.m. game. He drank two ounces of one of those drinks that claims to provide five hours of energy.
Does it? Negele is a believer. He needed to be at his best when shoulder stiffness sidelined Manaea during his warmup pitches.
“I’m used to getting up right away,” he said. “(The drink) gets me amped up a lot more, a little angry.”
Negele held third-seeded Creighton (30-17) to seven hits and one run over 5 1/3 innings. Four relievers held on for a 4-3 victory to put the sixth-seeded Sycamores (25-23) into Wednesday’s 4 p.m. game against SIU.
“That was really gutsy of our team,” Sycamores coach Rick Heller said. “A lot of teams would have bagged it. I told (Negele) to take a deep breath and go out and be himself. The guys would rally behind him if he went out and threw strikes, and that’s what he did.”
Manaea, a junior lefty, started the season on the list of possible early-round draft picks. A strained hip limited his effectiveness over the past two months. On Tuesday, he couldn’t get his shoulder loose in the bullpen.
“Coming back on short rest, I had a little stiffness,” he said. “I’m going to try to work hard and see if I can get myself back on the mound later in the tournament.”
His role the rest of the tournament is unsure. Heller and Manaea must weigh the importance of winning against Manaea’s health and draft prospects. Manaea said he would try to be ready if needed. The Sycamores are guaranteed at least two more games.
“We’ll have to see how things go the next couple days,” Heller said.
Fourth-seeded Missouri State scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat fifth-seeded Evansville 2-1.
Evansville starter Kyle Lloyd held the Bears to three hits in the first eight innings. In the ninth, he gave up a single and two errors by freshman third baseman Jonathan Ramon helped MSU. The Bears scored the winning run, with two outs on a sacrifice fly by Travis McComack.
Creighton’s offense got the expected boost from the return of center fielder Mike Gerber. He went 2 for 5 and drove in two runs in his first game since April 21, due to an appendectomy.… WSU center fielder Taylor Doggett, who sprained a ligament in his right elbow Thursday, pinch hit in the eighth inning, his first at-bat since the injury.… WSU’s Garrett Bayliff singled in the sixth inning to extend his hitting streak to nine games.… Tournament games, until Saturday’s final, are available on espn3.com.
No. 6 Indiana State 4, No. 3 Creighton 3
No. 7 Southern Illinois 5, No. 2 Wichita State 1
No. 4 Missouri State 2, No. 5 Evansville 1
No. 1 Illinois State 11, No. 8 Bradley 1 (8 inn.)
Creighton vs. Wichita State, 9 a.m.
Indiana State vs. Southern Illinois, 4 p.m.
Evansville vs. Bradley, 12:30 p.m.
Missouri State vs. Illinois State, 7:30 p.m.
Losers bracket, 9 a.m.
Winners bracket, 4 p.m.
Losers bracket, 12:30 p.m.
Winners bracket, 7:30 p.m.
If necessary, 12:30 p.m.
If necessary, 4 p.m.
Championship, 7:07 p.m. (FSKC)