On May 5, Wichita State pitcher Garrett Brummett beat Missouri State without striking out a batter. He said he needed to work on a finishing pitch.
It didn’t Brummett long.
He struck out seven batters combined in his next two starts and topped that with a career-high seven in Thursday’s 15-0 seven-inning win over Southern Illinois. Brummett, a freshman from Concordia, appears to be hitting a growth spurt every time he takes the mound. He is throwing harder than earlier in the season.
“I’ve been able to develop my slider a lot better, late in the count,” he said. “And I’ve been able to have my changeup as a put-away pitch, too. I think my velocity is starting to pick up because my arm is getting in shape.”
Brummett made his sixth start and didn’t allow a run, which is becoming routine. He has thrown 31 innings as a starter and allowed one run. In his early starts, he relied on his defense to gobble up groundballs and pop-ups. Now he can mix in strikeouts, he can better escape trouble. He struck out SIU’s Brock Harding with runners on first and third with one out in the fifth. He ended the inning getting Matt Jones to foul out with the count full.
“He doesn’t go out there scared,” WSU left fielder Mikel Mucha said. “He goes out with a chip on his shoulder and battles and competes and makes people swing the bat.”
Top-seeded Illinois State will rest Friday while WSU and Indiana State play.
The Redbirds eliminated fifth-seeded Evansville 5-3 on Thursday night and are the tournament's lone unbeaten team.
Starter Brad Sorkin held Evansville (24-34) to four hits and one run over six innings. Jeremy Rhoades pitched the final three innings for his sixth save and ended the game with runners on third and first. Brock Stewart went 2 for 4 and scored two runs for the Redbirds (39-18).
Mucha kept repeating that he knows he’s not a power hitter after Thursday’s first game. Maybe not, but he picked a good time to impersonate one.
Mucha, a sophomore, hit his first home run in 239 college at-bats to break open the game in the fourth inning. With two runners on, he smacked a 3-1 pitch off the bottom corner of the scoreboard in right field. In the ninth, he doubled off the wall in right to drive in another run.
“He gave a hitter’s count at 3-1 and I was thinking hit up the middle,” Mucha said. “He left it up. It’s good to get the first one.”
Mucha promised not to try to muscle up and change his approach to hitting.
“I’m not a power hitter and I’ve got to remember that,” he said. “It’s an accident. I can’t keep trying to pull them out of the park.”
WSU’s Casey Gillaspie and Johnny Coy kept their tournament momentum going on Thursday.
Gillaspie went 2 for 7 and walked twice and drove in two runs in the two games. Coy went 4 for 6, walked twice, and drove in four runs. WSU’s offense runs a lot more smoothly when its power hitters are productive.
“It’s huge,” catcher Tyler Baker said. “Johnny’s been squaring up balls left and right. It’s awesome to have those guys hitting behind you.”
In the past three games, Coy is 7 for 11 with six RBIs. Gillaspie is 4 for 9 with five RBIs.
WSU starter Kris Gardner short-circuited two Indiana State threats by picking off senior Robby Ort.
Ort singled in the first inning to give the Sycamores two runners on with one out. Gardner, on a play called by assistant coach Jim Thomas, picked him off with Mike Fitzgerald at bat, with first baseman Casey Gillaspie tagging him after a rundown.
In the sixth, Ort singled with one out. Gardner threw over, and then broke his routine by picking again. He caught Ort breaking to second and Gillaspie threw to shortstop Dayne Parker for the tag.
“We hadn’t been going back twice at all,” Gardner said. “So I kind of had a feeling he was going to go.”
Ort, 10 of 12 stealing entering the game, had the green light in both situations.
"I got on base twice and I had the steal, but he just caught me,” he said. “I have to give credit to him on picking the right time to catch me off guard.”
Another close one
Fifth-seeded Evansville remained alive with a 4-2 win over fourth-seeded Missouri State on Thursday afternoon.
Evansville starter Josh Biggs held the Bears (31-23) to seven hits over eight innings. Jake Mahon went 2 for 4 and drove in a run for the Aces. Chris Pearson went 3 for 4 and scored twice. Evansville opened the tournament with a 2-1 loss to Missouri State and stayed alive with a 4-3 win over Bradley on Wednesday on Kevin Kaczmarski’s three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.
WSU’s win over SIU was its first run-rule victory in the tournament since a seven-inning 20-3 win over Missouri State in 2008 at Eck Stadium.… WSU’s previous shutout came in 2011, a 9-0 win over Indiana State.… MSU scored five runs in three tournament games.
— Paul Suellentrop