Three up, three down: Shockers win first sweep at home

Wichita State defeated New Mexico 6-5 in game three Sunday to end the series 3-0, giving the Shockers their first home series sweep this season.

It’s been up and down for the Shockers. Out of 10 series matchups, four ended in a sweep — two wins, two losses.

Sam Hilliard played exceptional Sunday, hitting 3-4 with a single and two triples, and racked up 51 strikes, six hits and giving two runs in four innings of pitching.

“It feels great, first streak at home,” Hilliard said. “This is a pretty good ball club here, and we just competed all week so it feels good.”

New Mexico would be the first to score. A homerun and a sacrifice out gave the Lobos an early lead in the top of the second. Wichita State would answer back with two runs in the second from a single to leftfield by Trey Vickers.

New Mexico had bases loaded in the third, threatening to take the lead right back. Unable to get a man across homeplate, New Mexico would leave the inning bases loaded.

Shortly after, Hilliard put the Shockers up 3-2 with a triple to right center, bringing in Daniel Kihle for the run at the bottom of the third.

Wichita State’s bullpen called up Taylor Goshen in the fifth to relieve Sam Hilliard. Then came Jon Ferrendelli to relieve Goshen, then Chandler Sanburn relieving Ferrendelli. Not being able to find help from the bullpen, Shockers gave up three runs and two hits, allowing New Mexico to regain the lead at 5-3.

Once again, Wichita State would match New Mexico, scoring three of their own to take the lead back in the fifth. Hilliard would triple again, bringing in two of the three runs.

In the sixth inning, the Shockers would escape another bases loaded situation by New Mexico.

Struggling at the mound, Wichita State called on closer John Hayes in the eighth inning. Hayes would close the game with 38 pitches, 22 strikes and one hit, ending in a 6-5 victory for the Shockers.

Hayes has taken the role of closer this season. More than just closing a game out, he can calm the game down to help his team focus.

“I guess that’s kind of been my role here lately,” Hayes said. “I’ve done it a few times now so it’s kind of getting to be my thing.”

Right when you think all hope is lost, the Shockers seem to find their stride time and time again, playing really good baseball.  What’s more impressive is how this team is able to bounce back from the low points as often as they do.

Head coach Todd Butler may struggle finding the right player for each position at times. In Butler’s defense, adding 26 new guys to the roster and dealing with early season injuries is a curveball of it’s own.

How Butler has kept moral high in the locker room is an aspect of coaching rarely seen. Finding the grit in a team is vital when dealing with a losing record.

“At 6-12, we had to stare that record in the face every day,” Butler said. “Now we are 17-26 and looking forward to the tournament. And our guys have stayed positive. There’s no one that has quit or is pouting. We are still playing and it’s exciting.”