At the start of the season, Wichita State’s lack of consistency driving in runs with runners in scoring position was a bit concerning.
Thirty games into the season, it’s become an issue.
Once again the Shockers’ inability to convert their scoring opportunities came back to cost them, this time in a 4-2 loss to Arizona State on Wednesday night at Eck Stadium.
Wichita State put 13 runners on base, but grounded into two double plays and stranded nine. With runners in scoring position, WSU record an out in all 11 at-bats.
“If I didn’t think they were capable, I’d quit,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “We’re capable, we’re just not doing it. We’re not tough enough mentally. We don’t do the things at the plate when we need to do them to win ball games.”
For the second straight night, one disastrous inning betrayed the Shockers. On Wednesday, it came with no runners on and two outs in the first inning.
Starter Zach Beringer suddenly lost his command, issuing a walk followed by a single followed by a hit batter. That loaded the bases, which Trever Allen cleared with a triple that right fielder Garrett Bayliff dove to catch but missed.
Arizona State strung together two more singles for a four-run, two-out rally to knock Beringer from the game before he completed an inning.
“I don’t understand that,” Stephenson said. “That’s inexcusable.”
Once Aaron LaBrie came on in relief, Arizona State was held down.
LaBrie tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings, Brandon Peterson pitched in three more blanks and Foster Vielock closed out the final two innings without a run. Arizona State would reach base only five times after the first inning.
Meanwhile, Wichita State’s offense continued to self-destruct in crucial situations.
The Shockers had base runners in seven of the nine innings and collected 10 hits, but none of them were to continue a rally or drive a runner in.
“A lot of guys might tense up when they see a guy on second and they start to feel that pressure to move him over,” WSU’s catcher Tyler Baker said. “Once you tense up, that’s when you get into trouble.”
Stephenson still held out hope because of the way Wichita State was driving the ball. For the most part, he says, it’s bad luck.
In Tuesday’s game, Johnny Coy connected on a ball Stephenson said would be, at worst, a double in most games but was held down the unseasonable cold. Wednesday, it was a deep fly ball by Garrett Bayliff that was caught close to the left field fence to end the game.
“We need the key hit,” Stephenson said. “We never get it. That’s frustrating.”
The Shockers’ record dropped to 16-14 and leaves them looking for answers heading into the weekend series with Indiana State.
“It’s really frustrating right now because we’re losing games we feel like we should be winning,” WSU freshman Joe Haddox said.
Wichita State isn’t far from winning, but that saying is growing thin.
“You take away the first inning and we win the game,” Stephenson said. “We’re close to being a good team, but we’re still a long, long ways away. Close doesn’t get it. Ever.”
E — . DP — ASU 2. LOB — ASU 5, WSU 9. 2B — Harbutz (6). 3B —Allen (5). S — Stankiewic. SF — Baker. SB — Bottit (5), Bayliff (3), Haddox (4), Doggett 2 (4). CS — McDonald.
HBP — Peevyhouse (by Beringer). Umpires — Larry Waggoner, home; Josh Schepis, first; Bob Homolka, third. T — 2:43. A — 2,322.