TERRE HAUTE —
Wichita State’s baseball program has been the bellwether of the Missouri Valley Conference for more than a quarter-century. And 2014 is no different. When a team has success against the Shockers, picked to win the league in the preseason coaches’ poll, it still has cachet.
On Sunday, Indiana State tasted success, as it’s never had before against the Shockers. ISU’s tense 5-4 victory over Wichita State at Bob Warn Field gave the Sycamores their first three-game sweep over WSU in school history.
ISU had swept a two-game series against the Shockers in 1984 and had won three games in the four-game series the MVC played in the 1990s and 2000s, but never have the Sycamores had the chance to dust off their broom.
More importantly, the three-game sweep vaulted ISU (21-7, 5-4) back into the MVC race and went a long way to validate the team’s early nonconference success with an MVC statement. The Sycamores are 11⁄2 games behind MVC leader Dallas Baptist.
“We knew Wichita State has a lot of pride and a lot of history with their program. Losing two on Saturday? You knew they’d be embarrassed and looking to win, but our pitchers did a great job all weekend,” said ISU right fielder Jacob Hayes, who was 3-for-4.
ISU’s pitching kept the Shockers at arm’s length all weekend long. Sunday starter Kurt Kudrecki shook off a poor start against Illinois State a week ago and took a no-hitter into the fourth inning. He finished with four strikeouts against no walks.
ISU’s bullpen did its part, too. After A.J. McElderry had a shaky, three-batter stint, Nick Kolarik pitched three innings of shutout relief to get ISU to the ninth inning for closer Ryan Keaffaber, who got himself out of a jam against the heart of WSU’s lineup.
“We had a rough start to conference (ISU lost its first two series against Evansville and Illinois State) and didn’t play our best ball. We knew it would be three really good games,” Keaffaber said. “We’ve been wanting to get ahead and attack. We’ve talked about it from day one with the coaches.”
ISU once again had timely offense and continued to inflict damage with two outs. ISU’s first run was the only one of five scored with less than two outs as Derek Hannahs’ RBI single scored Jeff Zahn in the second to make it 1-0.
Tony Rosselli, a spot-starter for the Sycamores, made the most of his start in the third inning. With Mike Fitzgerald on, Rosselli lifted a towering home run to left to put ISU in front 3-0.
If not for Casey Gillaspie, the Shockers might have limped away without a fight. The WSU slugger hit a long home run to right to break up Kudrecki’s no-hitter in the fourth to make it 3-1. Rosselli — who was 3-for-4 with four RBI — put ISU up 5-1 in the fifth with a two-out double, but Gillaspie struck again in the sixth with another home run. Another WSU run scored on an error, and the Shockers trailed 5-3.
There were nervous moments yet to come. Kolarik pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh when he got Garrett Bayliff to ground out.
Keaffaber walked a tightrope in the ninth, including escaping the wrath of Gillaspie with a walk. WSU scored on a Hannahs error to make it 5-4 … as the tension was ratcheted up even more. But with runners at the corners, Keaffaber got Bayliff to ground out to second to seal the victory.
In the series, WSU hit 1 of 21 with runners in scoring position.
ISU has a pivotal mid-week stretch to come before it travels to Southern Illinois for its next MVC series. ISU plays at Vanderbilt on Tuesday and at Indiana on Wednesday. Both teams are in the RPI top 20. ISU is floating just outside of the RPI top 20, as it ranks 22nd.
WICHITA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Dearman lf 5-1-2-0, Parker 2b 4-0-1-0, Gillaspie 1b 3-2-2-2, Simpson 3b 4-1-2-1, Bayliff rf 5-0-1-0, Green cf 4-0-0-1, Bobbit dh 4-0-0-1, Arens c 3-0-0-0, Kirk ss 4-0-1-0. TOTALS 36-4-10-4.
INDIANA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Curry cf 4-0-0-0, Zimmerman 3b 4-0-0-0, Hayes rf 4-1-3-0, Fitzgerald c 1-2-0-0, Rosselli dh 4-1-3-4, Wampler ss 4-0-1-0, Zahn 1b 4-1-1-0, Hannahs 2b 3-0-1-1, McClain lf 2-0-0-0. TOTALS 30-5-9-5.
Wichita State 000 102 001 — 4
Indiana State 012 020 00X — 5
E — Hannahs 2 (5); LOB — WSU 10, ISU 5. 2B — Rosselli (2), Wampler (4); HR — Gillaspie 2 (8); Rosselli (1). S — Parker (3); McClain (2). SB — Dearman (14), Parker (1), Gillaspie (2); Hayes 2 (8). CS — Dearman (3).
Wichita State IP H R ER BB SO
Tewes (L, 4-2) 5 6 5 5 3 3
Gardner 3 3 0 0 0 2
Indiana State IP H R ER BB SO
Kudrecki (W, 4-3) 5 4 1 1 0 4
McElderry 1⁄3 3 2 2 0 0
Kolarik 3 2 0 0 2 0
Keaffaber (Sv, 8) 2⁄3 1 1 0 1 0
WP — Tewes 2 (4). HBP — by Kudrecki (Arens). T — 2:25.
Next — ISU (21-7, 5-4) plays at Vanderbilt on Tuesday. WSU (16-14, 2-4) plays at Kansas State on Tuesday.