Behind a combined six home runs and two superb starts, the Wichita State baseball team rolled to a doubleheader sweep over South Florida on Saturday at Eck Stadium.
It was a much-needed pair of victories after a late rally came up short in a 10-9 loss to the Bulls in Friday’s series opener. WSU bounced back to win 9-2 in Saturday’s first game, then followed that up with a 12-1 run-rule victory in seven innings to conclude the home portion of the season schedule.
Entering the final weekend of the regular season, Wichita State (29-21, 12-8 AAC) trails Houston (31-20, 15-5 AAC) by three games and East Carolina (38-14, 15-6 AAC) in the American Athletic Conference championship race. While WSU’s hopes for a title remain bleak, the Shockers are in the driver’s seat for the No. 3 seed at the conference tournament and a series victory at UCF (29-23, 10-11) next weekend could clinch the program’s best winning percentage in conference play since moving to the American.
WSU junior star Brock Rodden, preseason AAC Player of the Year, delivered another standout weekend, batting .600 (9 for 15) with two home runs, four RBI’s and five runs scored for the Shockers. For the season, Rodden is hitting .355 with a team-high .456 on-base percentage, .680 slugging percentage, 15 homers, 60 RBI’s and 53 runs scored.
Meanwhile, breakout sophomore star Payton Tolle continued to make a compelling case for All-American honors with another sterling two-way performance in WSU’s 9-2 victory over USF on Saturday. Tolle improved to 9-2 on the mound by striking out 10 in seven innings, allowing two earned runs, four hits and walking two, then crushed a 491-foot home run at the plate for his 13th long ball of the season and to break a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning.
Seth Stroh followed with a solo homer of his own for a 4-1 lead, while Rodden added another home run in the seventh inning to extend WSU’s lead to 6-2. A 2-RBI double by Rodden and RBI ground-out by Garrett Pennington put the finishing touches on the victory, as Jace Miner tossed two scoreless innings in relief to close out the win. The freshman left-hander has made nine straight relief appearances without allowing a run.
Tolle’s third home run of the weekend plated two in the bottom of the first inning in Saturday’s nightcap, as the Shockers jumped on USF from the start. Chuck Ingram, Rodden, Mauricio Millan and Kyte McDonald all finished with RBI hits, while David Herring and Jack Little both hit home runs in the run-rule victory.
Derby native Grant Adler pieced together another excellent outing, striking out eight batters in six innings of work, allowing just one earned run on six hits and no walks to improve his record to 5-3 and lower his ERA to 2.41.
WSU’s offense finished with 30 runs and 39 hits in the three-game series win over the Bulls.