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Sycamores complete sweep of Shockers

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, April 6, 2014, at 7:31 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, April 7, 2014, at 5:56 a.m.

— Wichita State went 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position on its way to getting swept by Indiana State and no other statistic matters much.

The Shockers are mired in a nasty slump, the kind that is defined by hitters watching fastballs sail by and swinging futilely at pitches out of the strike zone. Indiana State defeated WSU 5-4 on Sunday at Warn Field to compete its first sweep of the Shockers.

WSU (16-14, 2-4 Missouri Valley Conference) pitched well enough to win in all three games. It played better defense than the Sycamores (21-7, 5-4), who committed four errors. First baseman Casey Gillaspie homered three times, two of them Sunday and from both sides of the plate.

That’s about it. Coach Todd Butler sees a team full of hitters trying to do too much during this four-game losing streak.

“It’s a pressing offense,” he said. “We’re sitting on off-speed and can’t pull the trigger. It’s hard to score, other than Gillaspie doing his thing. He was pretty much our offense.”

Before Sunday, Missouri State was the only other MVC team to sweep the Shockers. WSU had its chances to avoid that fate on Sunday, but it stranded 10 runners and went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

“You’ve got to relax, and I mean everybody,” third baseman Chase Simpson said. “We’re trying so hard to win instead of letting our talent take over and letting the coaching we’ve received take over.”

Every slump is built on portions of bad luck, bad timing, bad execution and shaky confidence. The Shockers saw all of that this weekend.

On Sunday, rightfielder Garrett Bayliff short-circuited a sixth inning with big potential by trying to stretch a single into a double. The Sycamores threw him out for the first out of the inning with Simpson standing at third base. In the seventh, Bayliff hit a sharp groundball with the bases loaded and, of course, it rocketed straight to the second baseman to end the inning.

In the ninth, Dayne Parker decided to try to surprise the Sycamores (and avoid a double play) by pushing a bunt past the pitcher with a runner on first and one out. Indiana State’s Ryan Keaffaber threw him out for the second out of the inning, dramatically reducing WSU’s chances for success.

“It wasn’t called,” Butler said. “I’d rather him hit and get on base with a base hit. I’m not going to push-bunt in that situation.”

Freshman starter Sam Tewes came close to a fine outing, only to see four two-out runs spoil an otherwise good effort. Reliever Kris Gardner pitched three shutout innings.

Tewes gave up a two-out walk in the third and Indiana State’s Tony Roselli made it sting by hitting his first home run of the season for a 3-0 lead. In the fifth, Tewes surrendered a two-out single and another two-out walk. Again, Roselli made them pay with a two-run double to make it 5-1.

“I’ve got to finish innings,” Tewes said. “It’s not acceptable and needs to be fixed. That’s something good pitchers don’t do.”

The Shockers made a charge in the ninth, started by Dearman’s one-out single. Parker’s bunt moved him to second with two outs. The Sycamores pitched Gillaspie carefully before closer Ryan Keaffaber fell behind 3-1 and walked him intentionally. The Sycamores decided bringing the winning run to the plate made more sense than giving Gillaspie a chance to hit.

“I wanted to go after him and (coach Mitch Hannahs) said ‘Don’t give him anything good enough to hit out of the yard,’” Keaffaber said. “You throw him curveballs down and away and pray he swings at one.”

Simpson reached when second baseman Derek Hannahs bobbled a groundball, allowing Dearman to score and cut the lead to 5-4. Keaffaber ended the game by getting Bayliff to ground out to first baseman Jeff Zahn.

The Sycamores wisely avoided Gillaspie, who hit .455 in the three games and drove in three of WSU’s five runs. He came up with runners on base twice Sunday and the pitcher intentionally walked him both times.

“Any time Gillaspie’s over there in the other dugout, you’re counting the guys in front of him and hoping you can get enough outs to you don’t have to face him,” Indiana State coach Mitch Hannahs said. “You hate to walk guys and pitch to the winning run, but that kid’s a heck of a player and we didn’t want to give him anything to hit that last at-bat.”

Gillaspie homered left-handed off starter Kurt Kudrecki in the fourth. He homered right-handed off lefty reliever A.J. McElderberry to lead off the sixth.

Simpson scored on a fielding error by Derek Hannahs to make it 5-3. Groundball outs by Coby Bobbit and Bob Arens ended the inning with Green on second.

Simpson and Butler talked before Sunday’s game about relaxing at the plate. Simpson, hitless in Saturday’s doubleheader, went 2 for 4 on Sunday and drove in a run.

“You just try to take your mind-set back to the basics of the game,” Simpson said. “Remember that it’s a game and it’s supposed to be fun.”

The weekend wasn’t much fun for the Shockers, who face five more road games as part of this nine-game trip.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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