Bats and the Pelfrey
Wichita advances to meet Rice
By Jonathan Yardley
Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com
Jonathan Yardley is a Rice University sophomore, sports
editor of the Rice Thresher and a radio announcer for Rice baseball on the Rice
University sports network.
HOUSTON – Wichita State freshman
Mike Pelfrey may not have the experience of his counterpart, Ole Miss senior T.J.
Beam, but he out-dueled the veteran in Friday’s regional nightcap at Reckling
Pelfrey used more effective
off-speed pitches to lead the third-seeded Shockers to a 4-2 win over the
second-seeded Rebels before a crowd of 3,172. The Shockers (48-25) advance to
meet top-seeded Rice, which edged McNeese State. The Rebels (34-26) face the
Cowboys in an elimination game Saturday.
Pelfrey worked seven strong
innings to combat a complete-game outing from Beam. The game pitted two lanky,
hard-throwing right-handers, as both are listed at 6-7 and throw fastballs in
the low-to-mid 90s. Beam and Pelfrey cruised through the first three innings
with only three hits between the two teams, but Mississippi got on the board
first in the fourth.
Sophomore centerfielder Seth
Smith turned on an inside fastball and crushed a line drive well over the
right-field wall for a solo home run. Freshman first baseman Stephen Head lined
the next pitch back up the middle – knocking Pelfrey down in the process – but
the freshman recovered to strike out the side on 13 pitches. Pelfrey, who
improved to 10-2 on the season, then pitched through the seventh inning,
stranding a runner on base in each of his last six innings before turning the
lead over to the bullpen.
“He was a poised competitor and
did an amazing job,” Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson said. “He threw
his best pitches with runners in scoring position. I’ve seen him with better
stuff, but I’m never seen him compete better.”
Wichita State, the Missouri
Valley Conference tournament champion, responded to Smith’s home run, as
shortstop Nick McCoola hit a fifth-inning line drive into a strong wind that
affected most fly balls, just clearing the right-field fence for a game-tying
The Shockers, playing without
leading hitter Phil Napolitan, continued their charge in the sixth, taking
advantage of a leadoff walk to centerfielder Nick Blasi. Stephenson sent Blasi
on a 1-0 pitch, staying out of a double play when Ryan Bell hit a chopper to
third. First baseman Logan Sorensen then doubled down the right-field line, just
under the glove of a diving Head, to make it a 2-1 game. Designated hitter Bryan
Erstad blooped an RBI single for a 3-1 lead before catcher Cody Clark provided
the final Wichita State run of the game with a long triple to left field off the
glove of Ole Miss left fielder Jonathan Swearingen.
“I had looked bad on fastballs in
my first two at-bats,” Clark said. “I just kept fouling off pitches and finally
got one. I thought it might go out, but then I just kept running.”
Mississippi pulled to 4-2 on a
sixth-inning double from third baseman Brian Pettway, but Pelfrey notched
another strikeout to strand Pettway at second base.
Ole Miss tried to rally again in the seventh after a
leadoff single from designated hitter Drew Rogers, his third of the game. But
baserunning got in the way. After Rogers advanced to second on a wild pitch,
Rebels head coach Mike Bianco pinch ran for him before a sacrifice bunt from No.
9 hitter Matt Tolbert. Pelfrey then put the tying run at first base by hitting
Swearingen. With his best bunter at the plate, Bianco called a safety squeeze to
get one run home, but Charlie Waite took the curveball for a strike. Clark then
fired behind Swearingen at first base for a rally-killing pickoff.
Wichita State’s defense also came
to Pelfrey’s aid with huge plays in the third and fifth innings. In the third,
third baseman Brandon Green made a spectacular diving play to his left, capped
off by a strong throw and a great stretch by Sorensen to end the inning and
strand a runner at third. The Shockers’ defense saved another run in the fifth
when right-fielder Drew Moffitt threw out Rogers trying to go first-to-third on
a Tolbert single.
“We can play some defense, and we
can pitch a little bit,” Stephenson said. “We made some good decisions,
especially with runners in scoring position against us.”
Beam settled down after the sixth
and held Wichita State the rest of the way. Shockers relievers Tommy Hottovy and
Mike Dennison nailed the door shut, with Dennis picking up his 14th save of the
“T.J. Beam made us look awfully
anemic,” Stephenson said. “If he had been able to command another pitch beside
the fastball, we might never have been able to score.”
Beam agreed and said he did not
have his best stuff.
“I really didn’t have much of a
curveball tonight,” Beam said. “They were hitting good pitches. [In the sixth],
hitting is contagious, and I had to battle to get out of the inning.”
Beam finished with a
complete-game six-hitter, striking out eight and throwing a heroic 139 pitches,
but it was the breaking pitches of Pelfrey that helped him strike out nine and
walk none in seven innings.
“Pelfrey was outstanding,”
Stephenson said. “He had command of three pitches for strikes.”
WSU is expected to send freshman
left-hander Steve Uhlmansiek to the mound Saturday, while Rice will counter with
6-9 right-hander Jeff Niemann.