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April 22, 2013

Weekend review: Evansville at Wichita State

WSU first baseman Casey Gillaspie scored in the third inning of Friday’s win over Evansville. Scores: WSU 5, UE 4; UE 6, WSU 3; WSU 6, UE 5

Records: WSU 23-18, 9-3 MVC; UE 15-25, 6-6

Key statistics: WSU pitchers struck out 19 and walked five in the three games, which kept the Aces from doing more damage. That was especially key on Sunday, when starter Drew Palmer gave up two solo home runs and a two-run shot. If Palmer walks a few batters, the story is quite different. Friday starter Cale Elam gave the bullpen a break with 7 2/3 good innings. Closer Brandon Peterson earned a save Friday and a win Sunday with three spotless innings. RF Garrett Bayliff went 6 of 11 and drove in four runs. 3B Tyler Baker went 6 for 12, including the go-ahead home run on Sunday in the eighth inning.

I got my first extended look at the Shockers, so I’m not in position to judge much. They needed a sweep, which makes the weekend outlook gloomy despite the series victory. The schedule gets tougher from here and WSU has put itself in a spot where it likely needs to sweep at Southern Illinois and win the series at co-leader Missouri State and at home against Creighton to win the MVC. WSU is 6-8 on the road, so none of those tasks will be easy. Since the MVC went to a 21-game schedule in 2010, the champions went 15-6, 15-6, 14-7. Palmer and A.J. Ladwig gave WSU solid efforts in their starts. Ladwig recovered nicely from a bad first inning and pitched with more confidence. Palmer stayed in the game despite giving up three home runs on a windy day. WSU’s bullpen is its strength. It needs more innings from its starters to avoid over-working the relievers, especially in busy weeks such as this. Beyond Elam, starting pitching has been a guessing game this season. Ladwig and Palmer need to give WSU 6-8 innings. WSU hit .337 against the Aces, but with an on-base percentage of .375 and three extra-base hits. The loss of Cody Bobbit, who appeared to be finding a groove as a leadoff hitter, hurts the lineup. He was hitting .308 with a .455 on-base percentage in MVC games. DH Johnny Coy went 2 for 12 with three strikeouts and WSU can’t go far with him struggling. The weekend series dropped him to .258 this season with two home runs, far below his career numbers. WSU’s defense appears to be reliable again this season. The Shockers handled almost every ground ball flawlessly – two of its three errors came on throws by pitchers. A year ago, WSU was 24-19 on April 22. It finished the regular season going 11-4, in large part because it stabilized its weekend rotation and solid defense made the job of the pitchers easier.

Next up: at Oklahoma State, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

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