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Kansas keeps Wichita State’s midweek blues going in 10-3 decision

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, April 29, 2014, at 10:44 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, April 30, 2014, at 5:44 a.m.

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Wichita State’s baseball team isn’t accepting its midweek fate, but at this point it seems as if there is nothing the Shockers can do to change it.

WSU lost to Kansas 10-3 Tuesday night at Eck Stadium, falling for the fifth time in the last six games played on Tuesday or Wednesday and dropping its overall record in those games to 4-6.

This one looked a lot like the others, except those decided in the late innings. WSU got shaky starting pitching, failed to muster and maintain momentum at the plate, and unraveled late with sloppy defense.

The Shockers (22-22) have two more midweek games to reverse the trend, starting Wednesday night as they play host to No. 18 Oklahoma State.

“It’s not a mental thing – they’re going out and giving their best,” WSU coach Todd Butler said. “It’s about having enough talent to survive middle of the week, and you have to have enough players to do so.

“Right now we’re good on the weekends because we can pitch. We have three good starters and we have enough guys to pitch in relief. In the middle of the week, we haven’t found a guy who can give us quality starts all season, and that’s been the problem all year.”

WSU has given multiple starters the opportunity to build from the tone set by weekend pitchers A.J. Ladwig, Cale Elam and Sam Tewes, but not have done it. The latest to get that chance was freshman left-hander Cody Tyler, making his first career start.

Tyler struck out the first batter he faced, then endured a bumpy first inning that concluded his outing. He walked one, hit two and surrendered a pair of two-run doubles to put the Shockers in an early 4-0 hole.

WSU’s best midweek start came from Tewes, who moved into the weekend rotation shortly after an early-season outing against Central Arkansas. In the 10 other such starts, WSU has combined for 22 1/3 innings with a 12.08 ERA.

Kris Gardner, scheduled to start Wednesday, has allowed two runs in his last two midweek starts, but he hasn’t gone longer than four innings in any of his five starts because he’s available from the bullpen on the weekend.

“Midweek, if you pay attention, it’s pretty tough for us in the middle of the week to win,” Butler said. “It’s been like this all year. You have to do more offensively than three runs and six hits. There’s many problems. We didn’t pitch, we didn’t hit, made three errors. It’s the middle of the week. That’s kind of what we do in the middle of the week.”

The Shockers are sometimes rescued by their bullpen or their bats, and both units were on the cusp of a bailout on Tuesday. Ray Ashford and Drew Palmer combined to allow one run between the second and seventh innings, and WSU got within 5-3 on a bases-loaded double by Daniel Kihle in the seventh.

That’s when the ghost of midweek past arrived again. KU scored two in the eighth with the help of a throwing error by third baseman Chase Simpson, then added three in the ninth after Simpson failed to start a potential double play, throwing wildly to second.

WSU didn’t organize much offense beyond the seventh inning, and, other than an unearned run in the second inning, were mostly stymied by Jayhawks starter Jon Hander.

Even though a couple of KU’s loud hits cut through strong wind gusts, Hander pitched to contact up in the zone, forcing WSU into several harmless popups. After Tanner Dearman was caught stealing to end the second, Hander retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced.

“Once we had a couple runs on the board, it gets really easy,” Hander said. “You just have to pitch and let them hit the ball, get outs real quick. It builds up momentum and eventually we started scoring again.”

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