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Shockers fall to third place with loss to Indiana State

The WSU dugout watches as the game against Indiana State comes to an end. The Shockers lost to the Sycamores 6-0 Saturday at Eck Stadium. (May 14, 2011)
The WSU dugout watches as the game against Indiana State comes to an end. The Shockers lost to the Sycamores 6-0 Saturday at Eck Stadium. (May 14, 2011) The Wichita Eagle

Wichita State’s lack of energy was so obvious it compelled radio voice Mike Kennedy to start “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” by imploring “Let’s wake this thing up.”

Credit Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea for putting the Shocker bats and Eck Stadium in a sleeper hold on Saturday. He limited WSU to five hits over seven innings to start the Sycamores on their way to a 6-0 win on Saturday, the first time this season the Shockers have been shut out.

Indiana State’s pitching numbers didn’t inspire any fear before the series. Its 4.46 ERA ranked sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference and its ERA in conference games was 5.63 before the series. In two games, WSU’s totals are a measly one run and 11 singles. On Friday, one run was enough in a 1-0 victory. That didn’t get it done Saturday, not with starter Brian Flynn unable to throw anything other than a fastball.

“They’ve stuck it on us both days,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “When you’re having trouble putting the ball in play, it looks like you don’t have much energy. We haven’t had an extra-base hit in two days, and that’s as dominating as you can be.”

The loss knocks WSU (31-24, 10-7 MVC) into third place behind Creighton and Missouri State. The series finishes today and the Sycamores (25-23, 7-10) will try to win a series from WSU for the third straight season.

To stay in the MVC race, the Shockers must compete better at the plate. They entered the weekend hitting .334 in conference games and averaging 7.3 runs a game.

Those bats are nowhere to be found.

Manaea struck out nine, five looking. Even when his fastball dropped from the low 90s to the low 80s in the middle innings, the Shockers couldn’t take advantage of his control problems.

“My arm wasn’t really feeling the greatest, but I tried to push through it,” Manaea said.

Manaea didn’t allow a runner to reach second until the fourth inning. The Shockers didn’t get two runners on until the sixth. A botched hit and run erased a leadoff walk in the second. Manaea picked off Micah Green after a leadoff single in the third.

He walked four, but the Shockers couldn’t string together hits.

“We definitely helped him out a little bit by swinging at some bad pitches early,” WSU first baseman Johnny Coy said. “He got in a groove and we couldn’t get him out of it.”

A sharp-breaking slider baffled the Shockers, especially in the middle innings when he abandoned the fastball.

“He got me out twice on it,” Coy said. “He had a lot of confidence in it and he was throwing it quite a bit.”

Indiana State steadily pecked away at Flynn. Robby Ort’s two-out homer, with the wind howling out to right field, started things in the first inning. Flynn’s slider, a pitch he used effectively in recent outings, didn’t work. The Sycamores added runs in the third and fourth innings before knocking Flynn out with two singles to start the fifth.

“We were able to make him a one-pitch guy for the most part,” Sycamores coach Rick Heller said.

Indiana State put the game away with three runs in the fifth. That was plenty for Manaea, a freshman lefty. He used the wind to keep the Shockers in the park and his defense made every play.

“You can see what he’s going to be like down the road,” Heller said. “He’s tough to hit. He has some days when he walks some guys and gets himself in trouble, but he really hasn’t been hit hard all season long.”

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