Of all the ways to help usher in the first season for Wichita State baseball coach Todd Butler, Garrett Bayliff found one of the toughest to predict.
Bayliff, one of the Shockers best hitter but never a power threat even during a junior season in which he batted .379, muscled up for his first career home run during Saturdays 7-3 win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at Eck Stadium.
Bayliffs fifth-inning feat matched the two-run homer from Casey Gillaspie in the first, allowing the Shockers to put up runs quickly a day after a small-ball approach netted them a season-opening win.
The home run was surprising considering Bayliffs history, but he didnt revel in the novelty because it was the product of intensified offseason labor with assistant coach Brian Walker.
I know, in the fall, I worked a lot on the inside pitch, said Bayliff, a redshirt senior outfielder. I didnt think I got to the inside pitch very well last year I was more of a gap-to-gap guy. I really worked on it with coach Walker and felt like I found some power that I didnt know I had.
In his first full season after missing much of his first three years due to injuries, Bayliff became WSUs best contact hitter, if not its best hitter outright. His averaged weighed heavily on a .439 on-base percentage and Bayliff had more RBIs from the No. 2 spot than strikeouts, but he never supplemented his ability to hit to all fields by doing so with authority.
Over the prior three seasons, 103 of Bayliffs 127 hits were singles. His ability to reach base made pitching to Gillaspie in the No. 3 slot more difficult, but Bayliff recognized a need to become a more complete hitter.
In the first two games, the left-handed hitting Bayliff has shown a knack for turning on inside pitches, like the one he got from Jake Stauffenberg that he deposited barely over the wall in right-center.
I was kind of expecting it this year, getting into a few more balls and having some better power numbers, Bayliff said. I give the credit to coach Walker and the work I put in. It wasnt by accident I hit a few bombs in the fall, so I knew I had the power.
A newfound power stroke from Bayliff makes WSUs heart of the order potentially more dangerous, especially when catcher Tyler Baker, who tied Gillaspie for the team RBI lead in 2013, returns from suspension. Transfer Chase Simpson has batted cleanup in his first two games as a Shocker, giving WSUs lineup length it didnt possess last year.
Another less favorable trend continued an early reversal, as WSU has followed a stellar defensive season by making seven errors so far, including five on Saturday. That was the primary subject of a long postgame talk by Butler to the Shockers, who misplayed other balls into hits and were responsible for three unearned runs.
Middle infielders Tanner Kirk and Zair Koeiman combined for three errors.
Very disappointed with the defense, WSU coach Todd Butler said. Infielders arent ready every pitch, their footwork is not very good, so were going to work on that. Probably play a different lineup (Sunday) and give some other guys an opportunity to play.
Starting pitcher A.J. Ladwig mostly pitched through the trouble, laboring through a defensively subpar sixth inning after an efficient first five in which he threw 57 pitches.
Reliever Drew Palmer was also the victim of shoddy defense, along with his own wildness, but he worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh. Junior college transfer Ray Ashford closed the second-straight game, a sign that he earned confidence for high-leverage situations during the fall and winter.
Hes really come back from Christmas with an even better breaking ball than he had in the fall, Butler said. I just loved his competitiveness. Hes a heck of a competitor. He loves the challenge of it and he wants to be out there when the game is on the line.
|C. Green 2b||5||1||1||0||0||1||.111|
|M. Green cf||3||0||0||1||0||1||.143|
E Saikal, Kirk 2, Gillaspie, Ladwig, Koeiman. LOB SIU 9, WSU 5. 2B Lombardo 2 (2), Geissinger (1), Gillaspie (1), Mucha (1). HR Bayliff (1), Gillaspie (1). SF Simpson, M. Green.
|Ladwig W,1-0||5 2/3||5||2||0||0||6||0.00|
|Ashford S,1||2 1/3||0||0||0||0||4||0.00|
HBP Zimmerman (by Stauffenberg), Bayliff (by Miller). Balk Miller. Umpires Larry Waggoner, home; Mike Lentz, first; Phil Plantz, third. T 2:21. A 2,558.