Weekend review: Wichita State at Bradley

Scores: Wichita State 5, Bradley 3; BU 4, WSU 2, BU 3, WSU 2

Records: WSU 14-23, 6-4 MVC; BU 24-10, 3-4

▪  Who’s hot — Freshman SS Trey Vickers went 4 for 7 and drove in two runs, an unexpected boost from a player hitting .173 when the weekend started. But he is 8 for 24 in MVC games (.333) and 7 for 14 his past four games. 2B Jordan Farris went 3 for 8 in two games and OF Sam Hilliard went 3 for 10 with a double and a home run. Ryan Tinkham extended his hitting streak to 18 games, although he went 3 for 13 in the series and didn’t walk. The Shocker bullpen didn’t allow a run and after a two-week period filled with meltdowns, that group needed to perform. John Hayes provided the biggest boost with 3 1/3 hitless innings to earn a save in Friday’s win. Jon Ferrendelli, who had thrown only 5 2/3 innings all season, shut out the Braves for 2 2/3 on Saturday and might start Tuesday at Kansas.

Bradley DH Elliot Ashbeck drove in the go-ahead runs on Saturday and Sunday, both with two outs. He went 3 for 6 in the two games and drove in four runs.

▪  Who’s not — The Shockers hit .216 with 34 strikeouts and five walks. 3B Chase Rader and 2B Tanner Kirk, back after three weeks off with a fractured cheek, both went 1 for 10. Rader struck out five times. Freshman C Gunnar Troutwine went 0 for 6 with four strikeouts.

▪  The numbers for WSU starting pitchers Isaac Anderson (4.76 ERA), Chase Williams (7.71) and Jed Bargfeldt (5.79) look bad. While it wasn’t a Musgrave-Shafer-Banwart weekend, they did enough to give coach Todd Butler hope. He should start the same three next weekend vs. New Mexico to continue pointing them toward the MVC Tournament.

“Let’s think about it, when (Sam) Tewes and (Willie) Schwanke went down, we were trying to get pitch counts up for guys that haven’t been starting,” Butler said. “That took weeks. That’s a positive to look down the road.”

All three showed continued signs of development. Anderson struck out eight in his longest outing since March 7, when he went seven innings. Williams was victimized by a pop-up that dropped and allowed two runs to score. He struck out five in his longest outing. Bargfeldt held the Braves scoreless for four innings, walking one batter, before a walk and two seeing-eye groundballs started his undoing in the fifth.

The Shockers won’t be much of threat until it can get its starters past the fifth inning or sixth innings. Anderson, who missed two weeks in March with tendonitis, went 5 2/3 innings and threw 113 pitches. Williams lasted a season-long 4 2/3 innings in his second start and threw 77 pitches. Bargfeldt also threw 4 2/3 innings, throwing 91 pitches.

WSU pitchers walked 14, nine more than Bradley, but an improvement over the 22 walked the previous weekend against Illinois State. The starters must continue to cut down on walks (and three-ball counts) if they are going to get into the seventh or eighth innings and futher protect the bullpen.

Since Schwanke went 7 2/3 innings against Southern Illinois on March 20, no pitcher has gone more than Anderson’s outing on Saturday.

▪  Lead-off hitters continue to be a problem.

Tanner Dearman, Mikel Mucha and Michael Burns combined to go 2 for 10 with one walk. Butler has tried six hitters in that spot, none with any sustained success. Daniel Kihle, Tinkham and Hilliard are solid middle-of-the-order hitters, but their impact is lessened without men on base.

“It’s crucial,” Butler said. “Kihle, Tinkham and Hilliard, that’s where we score. We’ve been searching for that all year.”

▪  WSU didn’t commit an error in the series, matching its longest stretch of the season. That doesn’t reflect two or three pop-ups that could have or should have been caught, most notably in Saturday’s game. Those type of plays kill a team that isn’t overpowering in other areas.