Oral Roberts opted for a bullpen day against Wichita State on Tuesday, using 10 pitchers — seven that threw less than one inning.
WSU had a bullpen day, too — a bullpen day off.
A.J. Ladwig allowed two hits over 6 2/3 innings, necessitating the appearance of just one Shockers reliever in WSU’s 8-1 win at Eck Stadium. Ladwig didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning, carrying a shutout into the seventh in a rebound from two subpar outings to start the year.
“That’s the whole story,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “A.J. came out and not only got ahead in the count but made some really good pitches with two strikes on the hitters. That’s something he’d been not doing so well and that’s why people were getting base hits off him a lot.”
WSU (6-4) hadn’t played a home game since Feb. 18, when Pittsburgh finished off a three-game sweep before eight games were canceled because of weather. The Shockers returned from an impromptu five-game stretch in Arkansas a vastly different team than the one that departed.
The Shockers won four of five games in Arkansas to go above .500, scoring 33 runs after being held to four or fewer in two games against Pittsburgh. The greatest contrast between the early-season Shockers and the present-day version was the performance of Ladwig, a sophomore right-hander.
In his two previous starts, Ladwig allowed 16 hits and eight runs in 9 1/3 innings. Examining Ladwig’s statistics more carefully suggested a possible turnaround, as he struck out 11 with one walk in spite of his 7.71 ERA.
On Tuesday, Ladwig continued his pattern of strike throwing but without the mistakes that caused trouble in his earlier outings.
Without the velocity to overpower batters, Ladwig relies on superior location. He established that early by striking out three of the first seven batters, then he worked the edges of the plate even further to induce weak contact as his start progressed.
His command was best exhibited in the downward movement of his two-seam fastball and changeup, and it baffled the Golden Eagles, whose only baserunner before the sixth inning came on a two-out walk in the third. A leadoff double in the seventh led to ORU’s only run.
“I was just spotting up and I had all my pitches working for me, so that’s a big help,” Ladwig said.
WSU’s consistency at the plate didn’t always translate to tangible production, but the Shockers’ execution made clutch hits more possible and helped lead to a pair of big innings.
A hit-and-run single and a bunt hit by Garrett Bayliff preceded Erik Harbutz’s two-run double in WSU’s four-run third inning, and Mikel Mucha sparked a three-run seventh with a single and a stolen base. Every Shocker starter had a hit, and WSU’s top three hitters reached base seven times.
“I thought we did a real good job in those two innings where we were able to manufacture a few runs,” Stephenson said. “We got a couple of bunts down for base hits and that was really good. Then we got a key base hit with two outs from Harbutz, and we strung together some key base hits in that (seventh) inning.”
Note — Stephenson said Zach Beringer, who suffered eight fractured vertebrae and knee injuries in an alcohol-related car accident in Nov. 2011, will start Wednesday’s game against Nebraska-Omaha. Beringer’s injuries kept him out all of last season, and Stephenson suspended him for the first 10 games of this year. Tobin Mateychick, a passenger in the vehicle, was suspended for 10 games following his return from elbow surgery last March. “He was ready to go at the start of the season,” Stephenson said. “He’s fine. He’s going to be all right, I think.”
E — Goro, Domenico, Migliaccio, Bobbit. LOB — ORU 4, WSU 9. 2B — Brandy (2), Harbutz (1). S — Bayliff. SF — Coy. SB — Mucha 2 (4). CS — Gillaspie.
|Wilson L, 0-1||2/3||4||4||1||0||0||4.50|
|Ladwig W,2-1||6 2/3||2||1||1||1||4||5.06|
HBP — Colt (by LaBrie). Balk — Gomez, LaBrie. Umpires — Terry Harrison; Travis Olson; third, Jason Blackburn. T — 2:28. A — 2,193.