CLEARWATER, Fla. (WSU release) Sophomore Ross Cadena went 3-for-5 and drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth, while freshman Brady Slavens belted a three-run homer in the top of the ninth to help the Wichita State University baseball team upend top-seeded and No. 8-ranked ECU, 6-2, in the opening round of the American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship presented by Air Force Reserve Tuesday, May 21, at Spectrum Field.
Wichita State (27-29) advances in the winners' bracket of the championship and will take on fourth-seeded UConn Thursday, May 23, at 2 p.m. CT (3 p.m. ET).
The victory for WSU marked the third straight season where the No. 8 seed in the tournament upset the top seed in the first round.
Senior Clayton McGinness (7-4) earned his third consecutive win on the mound for Wichita State, throwing 6 1/3 innings and allowing only one earned run on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks on 106 pitches. Sophomore Jacob Lindemann secured his first-career save, tossing a scoreless bottom of the ninth with one strikeout and a walk.
With the game tied, 1-1, going into the eighth, sophomore Paxton Wallace led-off the frame with a double to left field, before rounding third and crossing home plate on Cadena's one-out single the center, putting the Shockers in front, 2-1.
After reliever Alex Segal worked a 1-2-3 bottom-half of the inning, the Wichita State bats caught fire in the ninth, scoring four runs – all with two outs, ballooning the lead to 6-1.
Wallace drove in David VanVooren, who led-off the inning with a bunt single, on a single to right field for the opening run of the frame, before Slavens stepped to the plate and crushed a 2-2 pitch over the right field wall for a three-run homer. The round-tripper was the first of Slavens' young Wichita State career.
The Pirates (42-14) didn't go quietly though, and led-off the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run, trimming the WSU lead to 6-2. ECU had runners on first and second with no outs when Lindemann entered the game. He coaxed a fly-out for the opening out of the inning, before getting a strikeout and ground-out to seal the win for Wichita State.
Cadena paced WSU at the plate with his three hits, while Wallace, Jordan Boyer and Luke Ritter each had doubles, and Slavens drove in a game-best three runs on his home run.
Brady Lloyd went 3-for-4 in the batter's box to lead the Pirates.
ECU reliever Gavin Williams (1-4) took the loss on the bump after giving up one earned run on two hits with a pair of strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings.