Early Iowa lead does not hold (again), Wichita gets lone win in Jacksonville

Seth Stroh watches his seventh-inning three-run homer exit the ballpark over the right-field wall, giving the Shockers their first lead of the game. Photo courtesy of @goshockersbsb via Twitter.

By: Nicholas Leo

12 runs in the final four innings, the Shockers rallied around a collective bullpen effort and put runs on the board when it mattered on Sunday, Feb. 25. Iowa, unable to find home plate in the final stages of their contest with Wichita State, lost their third straight closing out both programs time at the Jax College Baseball Classic.

A five-run deficit for Wichita State was short-lived with bats exploding in the later stages of the game at 121 Financial Ballpark. The Shockers (3-3) get their first win of the tournament by a score of 12-6 and the Hawkeyes (2-3) leave Jacksonville with the same win total they entered with.

“All three games pretty much the same story, we get off to a good start against all three teams starters, jump out to a lead, we’d been 3-0 if we were playing six-inning games,” Iowa Head Coach Rick Heller continued. “The bullpen was bad, bad all weekend, unexpected; really never seen anything quite like it where so much damage was done with two outs.”

The action started in the second inning, with two men on and one out, Shockers starting pitcher Daniel Zang hit Iowa shortstop Michael Seegers to load the bases. The next three at-bats by Andy Nelson, Ben Wilmes and Sam Petersen all resulted in grounders that squeaked passed the Wichita State infield; driving in four runs.

“That was an easy opportunity for our team to get down, we weren’t getting shelled but they were hitting them where we weren’t,” Wichita State Head Coach Brain Green said.

The hot Iowa start was backed by premier pitching out the gate, Cade Obermueller’s performance was near perfect. After a first-inning mound visit following two free bases, Obermueller settled into the game.

“It was a real zone today, and when you have a zone like that sometimes pitches that you are used to getting called strikes aren’t getting called strikes. And that happened to him a couple of times early and he fought through it,” Heller said.

Zang’s day ended in the second, the Shockers moving on to Sophomore Caleb Anderson in hopes of more success. Anderson allowed one earned run after inheriting two of Zang’s baserunners, taking the Shockers into the fifth inning by facing seven batters and recording six outs.

“He settled the game and brought some confidence back to our dugout in terms of the tempo on the mound,” Green said.

Caleb Anderson winds up for a pitch in the third inning of Sunday’s contest. Photo courtesy of @goshockersbsb via Twitter.

Iowa added on to the lead in the bottom half of the fifth inning, a Raider Tello double turned to another Hawkeye run as batters sac-bunted and sac-flied to bring Tello home.

Obermuellers final inning proved a test, stranding runners on the corners with an inning-ending strikeout. Completing five scoreless innings before Iowa turned to the bullpen, Obermueller ended the day with six Ks while allowing just three hits and two walks.

“I think when he came out that really enabled us to relax and we were able to put much different swings on the ball,” Green said.

Handing the ball to Reece Bueter, he’d immediately find himself in the same jam with less luck. Wichita State pinch-hit third baseman Josh Livingston for Gannon Snyder, and Livingston went yard on a full count with two outs. The three-run homer ended Bueter’s day and made it a two run ballgame, 5-3.

The scoring for Wichita continued in the seventh, now moving through the Iowa bullpen. A funky play had the Shocker faithful in the crowd on their feet, Derek Williams doubled sending Ryan Callahan around the diamond. Iowa shortstop Michael Seegers found himself in the basepath between second and third, holding up Callahan on his way to the corner.

Second base umpire Chris Tipton saw this and pointed toward the third base bag indicating it was Callahan’s to take. Wichita State third base coach Clay Overcash saw the interference call and sent the runner home where he’d be easily thrown out.

The umpires congregated for a discussion and awarded home plate to Callahan. The decision by Overcash effectively pays off, the call changes the situation from a two-out two-run Iowa lead to a one-run ball game with a man in scoring position.

The tying run in Williams was knocked home on a Jaden Gustafson single, Iowa walked a batter, and Seth Stroh willed the Shockers to their first lead of the day. Driving the ball over the right-field wall for a three-run home run, making it an 8-5 Wichita State lead.

Jaden Gustafson hits an RBI single into right field amidst the Shockers seventh-inning rally. Photo courtesy of @goshockersbsb via Twitter.

Hawkeyes still fighting, they’d get three men on base in the bottom of the seventh but only one across the plate. Working the Shocker bullpen, Wichita State moved to closer Brady Hamilton in an effort to keep Iowa bats at rest.

The Shockers offense continued adding to their lead through the eighth. Mauricio Millan and Williams singled while Callahan was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Gustafson grounded into a fielder’s choice at second base, driving Millan home.

“I was proud of the guys we just couldn’t get those two-out hits, and then when we saw the bullpen just your eyes start to loosen up a little bit,” Green said.

Jordan Rodgers put the cherry on top for Wichita; sending the next pitch over the wall in right field, driving in three runs, and blowing the game open with a six-run lead.

Six up and six down to close the game for Hamilton, giving up one hit against nine batters to get the save, he secured the Shockers their first win of the tournament over Iowa 12-6.

“We left here feeling really confident with our ability to compete and battle and put balls in play and get on base and we got to improve obviously on some things,” Green said. “We’re going to leave here a better club, no doubt about it.”

The 3-day tournament featured college baseball programs from Virginia, Wichita State, Auburn and Iowa; and will return to Jacksonville next year.

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