Wichita State hasn’t led — not one inning — since March 30. The Shockers are in a nasty habit of falling behind early and nothing changed on Saturday at Braun Stadium.
Evansville dumped the Shockers deeper into last place in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 13-2 run-rule victory in seven innings. WSU’s eighth straight defeat forced coach Todd Butler to talk, hopefully, about hitting rock bottom. That’s eight games without a lead and eight straight losses.
“Maybe they’ll respond,” he said. “Maybe this is the bottom. I’m really getting tired of teams making fun of the Shockers.”
Evansville (22-11, 4-1 MVC) led 1-0 after the first inning and 4-0 after the third inning, a familiar scene for the Shockers (16-18, 2-6). Unexpectedly, senior pitchers Cale Elam and Aaron LaBrie contributed to the problems. Elam lasted a mere three innings and Butler wondered about his health. Elam took a ball off his right elbow a week ago at Indiana State.
Elam entered the game with a 5-0 record and a 1.50 ERA and seemed the staff’s best candidate to stop this slide. Instead, he gave up seven hits and six runs in three innings.
“I don’t know if Elam was healthy,” Butler said. “We were cleared to throw him and he felt good, but he didn’t have his good stuff.”
Elam said the elbow wasn’t a problem. There is no visible bruise.
“It was just one of those days,” he said. “Nothing was where it should be. Everything was up in the zone. I just never really did get comfortable out there.”
Down 4-0, the Shockers managed two weak rallies, but never seriously challenged Aces starter Cole Isom.
Isom, a senior lefty, held WSU to six hits and walked one. His off-speed pitches kept the Shockers off-balance and making defensive swings. WSU’s Casey Gillaspie extended his hitting streak to a career-long 20 games with three singles and drove in a run in fifth. Garrett Bayliff doubled in Gillaspie in the fourth.
As for the rest, it looked like the previous seven losses. WSU hit a few singles and stranded a bunch of runners. Cody Bobbit flew out to center with the bases loaded to end the fourth. Bayliff and Chase Simpson popped out with two on in the fifth to douse a threat.
“Offensively, we’re poor right now,” Butler said. “We don’t put at-bats together.”
Elam set the sloppy tone with an errant pickoff throw that set up Evansville’s first run. He exited after starting the fourth with a walk and hitting No. 9 hitter Jarod Perry in the elbow. Usually an excellent fielder, he also threw poorly to second base attempting to start a double play in the second inning.
“That never happens to me,” Elam said. “Nothing really worked for me.”
LaBrie finished the fourth by giving up a two-run single to Kevin Kaczmarski and an RBI single to Boomer Synek. LaBrie also contributed an error, failing to field a comebacker by Jake Mahon. The Aces kept it up against the WSU bullpen, adding three runs in fourth and five more in the fifth to go up 12-2. One run in the sixth made it 13-2 and Isom closed out the run-rule game by working around Dayne Parker’s two-out single in the seventh.