If Wichita State is serious about competing for the Missouri Valley Conference title, it didn’t show on Saturday. The Shockers entered the game tied for third place, two games out of first. They won Friday and looked good doing it.
On Saturday, it went bad quickly and never improved.
WSU committed five errors and looked mystified hitting with runners in scoring position. Dallas Baptist led all the way to an 8-2 victory at Eck Stadium, dumping the Shockers (26-25, 10-7 MVC) three games behind leader Evansville. The Patriots (32-18, 10-7) pounded out 13 hits and own 23 in the series, eight for extra bases.
“Our preparations were good,” WSU third baseman Chase Simpson said. “As soon as the game starts, strange things are sometimes happening. I guess lack of focus all around the baseball field is showing.”
The Patriots scored five unearned runs to end WSU’s eight-game Valley winning streak. It ended badly, very badly.
Even starter A.J. Ladwig and his 1.23 ERA in MVC play couldn’t survive the sloppy defense. The bottom of WSU’s batting order provided some runners, most of whom stayed put because of the heart of the order’s power outage.
Even WSU’s dream situation — first baseman Casey Gillaspie hitting with runners in scoring position — went to waste.
“That’s a big-league hitter right there,” Dallas Baptist pitcher Paul Voelker said. “He could have easily gotten a couple of those pitches, but I think I shook off enough times where I got him guessing and made some big pitches.”
WSU’s offensive misery can be summed up by the third and fifth innings. Voelker walked No. 9 hitter Erik Harbutz and leadoff man Daniel Kihle both innings, normally a gift-wrapped run or more.
“My fastball had good life on it, but I wasn’t locating it,” Voelker said.
In the third, Voelker escaped by inducing Garrett Bayliff to reach for a pitch and fly out, followed by striking out Gillaspie and Simpson. In the fifth, Bayliff bounced into a double play. Voelker struck out Gillaspie on a high fastball to strand Harbutz at third.
The Shockers managed little else. Tyler Baker homered to lead off the fourth. Zair Koeiman’s two-out double scored shortstop Dayne Parker in the sixth. Voelker and reliever Drew Smith held the Shockers to six hits, largely by producing 11 fly-ball outs and two double plays.
Voelker’s changeup bedeviled Gillaspie, who bounced into a double play to end the first inning to start his frustrating day. He struck out on a changeup in the third and a high fastball in the fifth.
“He was throwing pretty good changeups and I couldn’t pick it up off of him,” Gillaspie said.
The Shockers needed a lot more offense on a day when its defense fell apart, tying a season-high with five errors.
“Five errors and five unearned runs, so it’s not a very good day,” WSU coach Todd Butler said. “We pretty much helped them.”
WSU’s parade of errors started with two on one play in the second. No. 8 hitter Camden Duzenack slammed a line drive off the glove of Simpson with one out and two on. The ball bounced into left field and Micah Green threw to the plate and the ball bounced away from catcher Tyler Baker. Justin Wall scored on the throwing error and runners moved up to second and third.
Nash Knight, the No. 9 hitter, started his four-RBI day with a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead and the Shockers never recovered. Every time Ladwig appeared to gain ground, the defense gave it back.
The potential of a double play distracted Simpson just enough to send the inning off course.
“It was above my head, and I was looking towards turning the double play too fast,” he said. “It went in the glove and out.”
The Patriots made it 3-0 in the fourth, helped when Simpson slipped on the artificial turf after going to his knees to field a potential double-play ball with one out. He regained his footing too late and Duzenack‘s infield single loaded the bases for Knight, who drove in another run with a groundball out.
Two more errors helped the Patriots take a 5-1 lead in the sixth. Wall reached on a fielding error — a bouncer over the mound slipped under Parker’s glove in front of second base — by Parker. R.J. Talamantes lined to center and Kihle, playing shallow, took a shot to throw out Wall at second. His throw zipped by the infielder covering first and skipped through the infield, sending runners to second and third.
Duzenack and Knight followed with RBI singles to end Ladwig’s day.
The Patriots added three more runs in the late innings against the bottom of WSU’s bullpen as Butler saved arms for Sunday’s finale. The Shockers may need to win to stay in the upper half of the MVC standings. They haven’t finished lower than third since finishing fourth in 1984.