He makes the catch
Mikel Mucha joins Matt Brown and Bret Bascue in the triumvirate of fantastic catches — risking life and limb — in foul territory by a Wichita State outfielder.
Mucha careened into the club with his running and falling catch for the second out of the ninth inning in Friday’s 5-4 win over Indiana State. Mike Fitzgerald lofted a fly ball high over foul ground in left. Mucha, playing toward the gap, motored at least 30 yards into foul territory, through the bullpen, ignoring Sycamore pitchers on a bench, and caught the ball while running into a waist-high chain-link fence. Then he toppled over, head first, before landing on his back with the ball in his glove.
“Amazing,” reliever Brandon Peterson said. “We really needed that.”
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His teammates and Shocker fans soon started a Twitter campaign to make ESPN notice the play for its top 10 highlights. With the wind blowing the ball back toward the field, Mucha knew he couldn’t give up on it.
"I was close enough that I thought to myself that two outs would make a huge difference," he said. "They’ve only got one life left. I had to make a play, regardless of what’s going to happen."
After a few minutes recovering with trainer Dan Cahill and a few more loosening up in the outfield, Mucha stayed in the game.
“It knocked my head a little bit,” he said. “I had to take a breath.”
WSU coach Gene Stephenson ranked it on par with spectacular grabs made by former Shockers Brown and Bascue. Brown’s is the most famous. He earned an ESPY nomination for catching a foul ball before crashing over the wall in right field at Eck Stadium against Oklahoma. Bascue made a similar catch, witnessed by fewer people, at Long Beach State.
“Unbelievable,” Stephenson said. Those three are probably three of the best we’ve ever had. This one tonight really made a difference. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t made that play.”
WSU and Illinois State haven’t played since March 30. The teams played a rare doubleheader at Eck Stadium, changing the schedule for an important reason.
Sarah Mohl, wife of Illinois State pitching coach Bill Mohl, died from cancer on March 25. The Redbirds left Wichita after the Saturday doubleheader so the team could attend her funeral in Ohio on Monday.
“That whole weekend for us was a blur,” Illinois State coach Mark Kingston said. “We were very appreciative of Wichita State and Gene being willing to work with us that weekend.”
The Redbirds will start Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year Chris Razo.
He threw seven innings in an 11-1 win over Bradley on Tuesday, allowing four hits with four walks and five strikeouts.
“We were able to manage Chris’ pitch count in that first game, so he should be strong and ready to go,” Kingston said. “He’s in great condition.”
The Redbirds will have a rested bullpen behind Razo. They needed only two relievers to get through three games, thanks in large part to a complete-game victory by Dan Savas. Jeremy Rhoades, an All-MVC reliever, threw three innings on Thursday against Evansville.
The Redbirds compiled a 1.38 ERA in three games, allowing 17 hits and holding opponents to a .183 batting average.
Razo and WSU’s Cale Elam met on March 29, a game WSU won 4-3 in 12 innings. Razo threw six innings and allowed eight hits and two earned runs. He struck out six and walked three. Elam gave up five hits and three earned runs, walking four and striking out four, in five innings.
Indiana State’s Koby Kraemer left Bass Field with an ice-pack on his hand. He helped the Sycamores rally in a painful way in the seventh inning.
Facing WSU’s Foster Vielock, he took a pitch off his elbow pad, appearing to lean into the pitch. Home-plate umpire Wayne Harris declined to award him first base.
"The first pitch was a slider,” he said. “Maybe I went down a little bit, but I was just trying to hold my ground. It caught me in the elbow and all of my fingers went numb, so I had to take some time for that.”
After a delay and a check with the trainer, he took the next pitch off his hand while trying to check his swing. Harris sent him to first.
“On the next pitch, it was a fastball up-and-in and I thought about swinging at it,” Kraemer said. “As soon as I moved my hands, it hit me right in the knuckle. It swelled up right away. What can you do?"
WSU is 17-8 in championship games. It hasn’t won championship away from Eck Stadium since 2004 at Springfield, Mo. Illinois State won the title in 2010, its only other appearance in the title game.… WSU junior Garrett Bayliff earned MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week honors. Bayliff went 11 for 15 last week and drove in four runs in four games.… Center fielder Chad Hinshaw is hitting .545 with two doubles and two steals for Illinois State in the tournament. Shortstop Brett Kay, the MVC’s Defensive Player of the Year, has walked six times and is hitting. 250 for an on-base percentage of .600.… Mucha is hitting .500 to lead the Shockers in the tournament. He has driven in a team-high seven runs and is slugging .813.… First baseman Johnny Coy has six RBIs and is batting .444.
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.)
Wichita State 11, Creighton 4
Indiana State 5, Southern Illinois 0
Evansville 4, Bradley 3
Illinois State 6, Missouri State 1
Wichita State 15, Southern Illinois 0
Wichita State 5, Indiana St. 0
Evansville 4, Missouri State 2
Illinois State 5, Evansville 3
Wichita State 5, Indiana State 4
Championship: Illinois State vs. Indiana State-Wichita State winner, 7:07 p.m. (FSKC)