This Wichita State baseball team is becoming pretty easy to figure out.
The team’s defense has seemingly taken the central role in whether Wichita State wins or loses.
When the Shockers are focused and errorless, they are 9-1 this season. Then they have games like Tuesday night’s 7-1 loss to Oral Roberts at Eck Stadium when sloppiness takes over. WSU committed two errors and fell to 1-7 when it commits at least one error.
“Defense is always important,” WSU’s Johnny Coy said. “We just have to concentrate on making the simple, easy play and not trying to do too much with it. Just make the routine play and everything else will be good.”
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The blip was a disappointing step backward for the Shockers, who entered the game on a six-game errorless streak. Making things worse was that it came against Oral Roberts, which featured Nate Goro as its shortstop. Goro played at Wichita State his freshman season before transferring and eventually landing at ORU for his junior season.
“I consider Oral Roberts to be a rivalry game,” said Erik Harbutz, who was in Goro’s recruiting class. “They had a guy on the other side that played here and we wanted to beat the crap out of them.”
But things combusted in the second inning when Oral Roberts scored four runs to grab a 4-0 lead. WSU second baseman Dayne Parker made a good play stopping a ball up the middle, but his throw hit the ground before it reached Coy and skidded past him at first base.
“That’s a pick I should have made,” Coy said.
That allowed Oral Roberts’ first run to score. Then lead-off hitter Tyler Coker lofted a fly ball to right field that Wichita State’s Don Lambert had trouble playing. The ball appeared on the verge of landing over the fence, but Lambert attempted the catch and the ball ricocheted back in the field of play.
It took Lambert time to recover, then his relay throw was off line. The result was an inside-the-park home run for Oral Roberts and a 4-0 lead, all on runs WSU felt could have been prevented.
“That ball has to be caught,” coach Gene Stephenson said. “If it stays in the ball park, it has to be caught. That’s disappointing, but it happened. You can’t give in. We just couldn’t muster anything.”
Wichita State failed to capitalize on lead-off hits in five innings. The Shockers only had four at-bats with runners in scoring position.
That caused Stephenson some irritation, but not as much as his team’s fielding.
“Those are plays that we normally would make,” Stephenson said. “I do not have the answer for why we didn’t make them, it just didn’t happen.”
Not only does Wichita State have an abysmal record when it commits an error, the losses aren’t coming by close margins. In the seven losses this season where the Shockers have committed an error, they have been outscored 34-10.
“The answers sound simple,” Stephenson said. “But the players have to make adjustments through the course of the game and through the course of an at-bat.”
abrhbibbsoavgCoker rf523300.217Cho cf401102.298Schiller 2b501001.291Schlehuber 1b501000.354King lf322010.220Trevino 3b300000.220Goro ss400001.276Williams dh422201.286Pickar c411002.325Totals37711617WICHITA STATEHall cf401001.286Harbutz ss300011.254Coy 1b402000.394Gillaspie dh200010.208Lambert rf412002.304Mucha lf400002.286Parker 2b401000.308Hege c300000.260Knight ph101100.333Baker 3b402000.240Totals3319126
E — Coy (1), Parker (3). DP — ORU 2, WSU 1. LOB — ORU 6, WSU 8. 2B — Coker (2), King (5), Williams (1), Baker (2). HR — Coker (2), Williams (1). CS — Hall. SH — Cho, Trevino.
iphrerbbsoeraSmith W, 1-0 6600251.00Martony S, 13311010.69Wichita StateLadwig L, 1-15651040.40Gardner2422112.81Bouman2100023.00
HBP — by Smith (Gillaspie). WP — Ladwig. Umpires — Home, Tony D’Aquano; First, Travis Olson; Third, Bob Homolka. T — 2:02. A — 2,581.