(Photo courtesy of The Sunflower/Joseph Barringhaus)
WICHITA, Kan.— When Wichita State coach Todd Butler tried to sell freshman pitcher Liam Eddy on signing with the Shockers, a key element in him inking the letter of intent was having the opportunity to showcase his arm early.
After a six-strikeout performance and leading the Shockers to a win at McNeese State on Feb. 17, Butler gave the nod to Eddy once again in Sunday’s doubleheader against Omaha.
Eddy struck out six Maverick batters and only gave up three hits without letting a run score in 7 1/3 innings of work, allowing the Shockers to come up with a 3-0 victory. Wichita State capped things off with a four-run win in the second game to move them to a 6-0 record and claim their second straight non-conference sweep of the season.
“He doesn’t act like a freshman,” Butler said. “He’s very mature, he thinks things through very well, he’s had very good bullpen (workouts). If you go back to the first weekend at McNeese State, I thought he pitched and performed and located better than any pitcher we had. He did the same thing again.
“He’s older than a freshman the way he acts mentally. He’s had two good outings. Our guys really like him. The older players really respect him as a freshman and he’s a big part of our pitching staff right now.”
The nerves got to Eddy in the first inning, where he threw 11 straight balls that put two Omaha runners on in the top of the first. After third baseman Alec Bohm shared some quick words of encouragement, the freshman started a double play that got the Shockers out of the inning.
A calm and collected Eddy powered his way through 6 1/3 more innings, making life at the plate strenuous for Maverick hitters. Eddy’s command of the strike zone resulted in Omaha hitting just .111 in Sunday’s first game.
“When I saw him, he was kind of babying the ball a little bit,” Bohm said. “He just didn’t look like himself there. He looked like he was a little bit rattled. I just wanted to slow him down, calm him down. He’s got a real good, quiet confidence about him. I just wanted to let him get that back and go back to work.”
With Eddy taking the pressure off the Shockers defensively, that allowed for Wichita State’s batters to relax at the plate in the later innings. Junior outfielder Dayton Dugas belted a ball that hit the Eck Stadium video board, giving the Shockers the go-ahead run with his first home run of the season.
Wichita State strung together two more hits that resulted in two more runs, with Gunnar Troutwine hitting a sacrifice grounder to second and Dugas scoring on a wild pitch to give the Shockers a three-run lead.
When Eddy’s day was finished, it was senior pitcher Chandler Sanburn’s turn to keep the fire on the Shocker pitching mound flaming. Sanburn struck out four out of the five batters he faced in 1.2 innings, giving him his first save of the season.
“He said he had my back and I knew he had it,” Eddy said. “I was just excited for me and for him to get out of (the game) with no runs.”
Wichita State vs. Omaha Highlights
Junior Connor Lungwitz continued Eddy and Sanburn’s spark from game one, pitching six shutout innings in the second game of the double header. The Shockers’ started clinging in the bottom of the fifth, pushing out to a five-run lead.
Junior infielder Jordan Boyer and sophomore designated hitter Alex Jackson got the Shockers on the board with RBI singles. Wichita State’s two preseason All-Americans Bohm and junior outfielder Greyson Jenista, who the Shockers nickname “The Bash Brothers”, delivered on their name by hitting back-to-back home runs to push the lead out 5-0. Freshman Hunter Gibson extended the lead out to six runs by hitting his first home run of the season as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“We trust our pitching staff fully,” Bohm, who extended his hit streak to eight games, said. “They work harder than anybody. Today, they were throwing strikes, blowing up the (strike) zone and they were doing everything right. It kept us in the game and (we) finally got the bats going there in the fifth and went from there.”
Wichita State (6-0) returns to action on Friday to take on Nebraska in a three-game series at Eck Stadium. Nebraska qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and are 5-3 this season.