Injury to Tulsa pitcher allows Shockers to grab lead in sixth, get win
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Tulsa pitcher Lexi Blevins pitched the first four innings without giving up a hit to Wichita State. As senior Kelli Spring hit a single up the middle that brought in the tying run, things only got worse for Golden Hurricane.
Freshman Madison Perrigan hit a hard liner towards Blevins, where she was unable to get her glove up in time before the ball struck her head.
As Blevins was taken into the training room with concussion symptoms, Tulsa was forced to bring in freshman reliever Madison Higley. With runners at the corners, sophomore Laurie Derrico took full advantage of the pitching change by hitting a left field single that scored senior Kelli Spring from third to give WSU the go-ahead run and the win 2-1 at Wilkins Stadium on Thursday night.
“I had no idea what year (Higley) was,” Derrico said. “All I was thinking in my head is that she’s coming in, hasn’t thrown much warm up since (Blevins) got hit. I figured she was going to throw somewhere close to the plate, so I was prepared for her to bring it to me and I took advantage of it. I stayed calm and got the hit.”
Neal bobbled a grounder at second that allowed senior Ashley Johnson to get on base. Spring’s single allowed Johnson to score the tying run in the bottom of the sixth.
After senior Katie Malone’s first strikeout, Tulsa’s third spot batter, Morgan Neal, drilled a hard single down the right field line to put runners at the corners. Maddie Withee drove in the game’s first run from third base with a sacrifice fly to give the Golden Hurricane a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
Three consecutive two-out singles loaded the bases up in the top of the second inning, but Malone forced a groundout to third baseman Mackenzie Wright for the throw out at first to keep the deficit at one.
Blevins managed to get seven of the Shockers’ first nine outs by herself. Her four strikeouts and three groundouts to herself kept WSU hitless through the first three innings.
“(Blevins) doesn’t show any kind of differences,” head coach Kristi Bredbenner said. “You were going to get two, maybe three, maybe four changeups in an at-bat and we struggled with the changeup this past weekend, we struggled with it today. We started making some adjustments that third time through the lineup.
“I wish it could be a little quicker for our team (to adjust) sometimes, but unfortunately that’s a pitch that we struggle with. She did a great job of mixing it and (head coach) John (Bargfeldt) did a great job of calling it.”
Malone pitched her fourth straight complete game, striking out four Tulsa batters and forced the Golden Hurricane to hit .222 for her 18th win of the season.
“I actually got asked today if I ever get tired and when I’m at the field, I’m not. But as soon as I leave, as soon as I take off the uniform, I feel like I’m dead,” Malone said. “When I’m on the field, I really don’t feel like I have fatigue or anything.”
With Tulsa ranked 32 in the RPI, WSU (20-13) got their second win over a Top 50 RPI team this season. The Shockers continue MVC play with a road trip to Peoria, Illinois to face Bradley starting on Saturday.
“(The game) was very important, since we haven’t had a lot of success beating those high RPI teams,” Derrico said. “I think it will give us some momentum since we’ve been losing to teams we shouldn’t have. I think we will have momentum going into this weekend and hopefully the rest of the season.”