Two-out hits are dramatic and gritty, unless a team is forced to build an offense on them entirely. Then they’re frustrating and too little, too late.
Wichita State failed to put a leadoff runner on and seven of its 10 hits came with two outs. Evansville starter Kyle Lloyd cruised through 8 1/3 innings with little stress and the Aces handled the Shockers 6-3 on Saturday at Eck Stadium.
“We started every rally with basically two outs,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “Two outs and nobody on, I might add. It’s very difficult to score very many runs when that’s the case.”
WSU (22-18, 8-3 Missouri Valley Conference) fell behind 4-0 in the first inning and cut the lead to 4-2 in the third. The Aces (14-25, 6-5) ended a seven-game losing streak by executing perfectly to add on runs in the seventh and eighth. The loss dropped WSU into a tie for first in the MVC with Missouri State, which defeated Bradley 12-2 on Saturday. WSU lost a chance to sweep a home series, which is a significant blow in Stephenson’s mind. The Shockers play three more MVC series, two on the road.
“We need to sweep at home, and it’s so difficult to sweep on the road with the travel schedule we have,” he said. “I don’t think 15-6 will win the league. I think it’s going to take 16-5.”
WSU’s weekend rotation beyond Friday starter Cale Elam continued to struggle. A.J. Ladwig gave up four hits and committed a throwing error in the first inning. He recovered nicely to give the Shockers a chance to win and made it to the eighth inning. But his five scoreless innings came too late, thanks to a disastrous beginning.
Evansville’s Kevin Kaczmarski led off the game with a single. Shain Showers bunted to Ladwig, who threw past freshman second baseman Tanner Dearman, still moving to cover first, and into foul territory. Kaczmarski hustled to third; Showers to second and the Aces flustered Ladwig.
“I should have made that play,” Ladwig said. “It’s a play we make all the time. We practice it all the time.”
After an out, Chris Pearson doubled just inside the line past first baseman Casey Gillaspie to drive in two runs. Andy Lasher’s double to left drove in Pearson for a 3-0 lead. The Aces made it 4-0 when Eric McKibban fouled out to Dearman and Lasher tagged and scored from third.
“I just wasn’t the same after (the error), until I cleared my head and started the new inning,” Ladwig said.
The scene looked painfully familiar. WSU trailed Kansas State 3-0 after the first inning on Tuesday and lost 4-1. Two weekends ago, Indiana State led 4-0 after the first and won 7-5.
“That’s happening far too often around here,” Stephenson said. “That’s an awfully difficult thing to overcome when the opposing pitcher is a good one and he’s not walking people.”
Lloyd, meanwhile, rolled through hitters by taking advantage of WSU’s desire to hit fastballs. The Shockers needed two errors to help them score two runs in the third. Lloyd erased the bottom of the WSU order and kept the top of the order hitting with the bases empty. He threw a changeup to left-handed hitters and a few sliders to the right-handers.
“We come at them with (off-speed) pitches and then when they start to catch on a little bit, we try to sneak in a fastball,” Lloyd said. “In fastball counts, I would go with a changeup. That gets them out on their front foot, so if they do make contact it’s not going to be good contact.”
The Shockers threatened in the fifth — with two outs, naturally — when Dearman singled and Garrett Bayliff walked. Tyler Baker smacked a line drive that right fielder Jason Hockemeyer ran down. In the seventh, Dearman singled with two outs and Bayliff moved him to third before Baker flew out to center field. In the ninth, Lloyd got one out before Taylor Doggett singled and Dayne Parker walked. Closer Jake Naumann gave up a run-scoring single to Dearman before recording the final two outs.
The Aces, after the two errors in the third, played smart and efficient baseball. A double steal in the seventh gave them a 5-2 lead. In the eighth, Pearson faked a bunt and slapped a single to left to move Hockemeyer to third and set up another run for a 6-2 lead.
“I give Evansville all the credit,” Stephenson said. “They executed a lot of different things well.”
E — Showers, Hockemeyer, Ladwin. DP — Evansville, WSU. LOB — Evansville 7, WSU 9. 2B — Pearson (5), Lasher (1). S — Showers 2, McKibban. SF — McKibban. SB — Kaczmarski (10), Ramno (1), Hathcoat (1), Dearman (3).
|Lloyd W,5-2||8 1/3||9||3||1||2||8||2.53|
Umpires — Ben Harlow, home; Shane Ravellette, first; Randy Wetzel, third. T — 2:15. A — 3,257.