March 2, 2008

Around the Bases

Around the Bases
No. 10 LBSU tops No. 13 Wichita for second straight day
By Abbey Mastracco


LONG BEACH, Calif. - The Shockers failed to shock by pulling off an upset win in California, as a back and forth game at Blair Field ended in No. 13 Wichita State (3-2) being handed just their second loss in a row by No. 10 Long Beach State (4-2), on a cloudy Saturday afternoon at Blair Field.

A five-run sixth inning, in which three Wichita pitchers faced 11 batters, gave the Dirtbags a series-clinching victory, as the Shockers eventually fell 8-5. This was LBSU's second consecutive series win against a top-15 team.

Despite the second series win, the Dirtbags have been struggling offensively this season. Head coach Mike Weathers said this was the offensive outing he was looking for out of his team.

"We geared up for them to do some things different," Weathers said. "I thought they had a really good batting practice before the game. We emphasized some things and then they did it, and it carried over into the game."

The Schockers' offense struggled to gain a strong enough lead, as they left 10 men on base.

"We had numerous opportunities today to blow the game open," said Gene Stephenson, Wichita State head coach. "We had chances today to really do some good but we didn't capitalize on them."

Both teams battled back and forth, as starters Aaron Shafer and Vance Worley had bumpy outings for Wichita State and LBSU.

Shocker starter Shafer gave up two runs early on, one in the first and one in the third, and effectively shut the Dirtbags down, almost getting better toward the end of his outing retiring 10 batters in a row, until the bottom of the sixth, when LBSU put up five more on the board.

Stephenson feels that part of the problem is the depth of Blair Field. The dimensions, which go as deep as 400 feet in center field, coupled with the thick marine air make offensive surges difficult.

"Even if we pitched the way we wanted to pitch, five or six runs in this ballpark wouldn't be enough," Stephenson said.

The Shockers backed up Shafer's solid outing by taking a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning. Tied at 2-all, Bret Basque led off with a single, and an error by second baseman Jason Tweedy put Andy Dirks on first. With no outs, and a runner in scoring position, Ryan Jones got aboard with a bunt single to load the bases. Connor Gillaspie slapped a ball just over Worley's head for a 2-RBI single to take a 2-run Wichita State lead.

Worley got himself out of the inning, retiring the next three batters.

On track for the win, Shafer took the mound for the Shockers with a 4-2 lead and retired his tenth batter in a row. But Shafer pitched himself into trouble soon after, as the Dirtbags put in a 5-run rally.

After hitting Taylor Krick, Shafer gave up a double to Ted Lemasters and walked Rylan Sandoval to load the bases.

Jason Tweedy then roped a 2-RBI double down the right field line, tying the game at 4-4. Shafer was replaced on the mound by Logan Hoch, who immediately gave up a pinch hit double to Jason Corder, to drive in two more, leaving the Shockers down by two with just one out.

Matt Smith came on the mound and recorded the second out, but Danny Espinosa kept the inning alive with a seeing-eye single to drive in Corder. Smith loaded the bases, walking Shane Peterson and hitting Zach Barger with a pitch, but got himself out of it, forcing Taylor Krick to ground out.

The Dirtbags added an extra insurance run in the seventh on a squeeze play driving in Sandoval.

"Shafer should have been sharper than he was today," Stephenson said. "I think that our relief pitching is a real sore spot right now."

Shafer finished up 5.1 innings, giving up six earned runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out one.

Andy Dirks led the Shockers at the plate. Dirks went 3-for-5 with a triple and a run. Conor Gillaspie went 2-for-5 with one run scored and two RBI.

"We're still light years away from being a good team," said Gene Stephenson, the Shockers' head coach. "We don't play all of the phases of the game the way I want to play it."

For the Dirtbags, Danny Espinosa, who has started the season very hot, coming in today batting .600, went 2-for-5 with one run scored, Taylor Krick went 2-for-4 with a run, an RBI and was hit by a pitch. Four Dirtbags had multi-hit games.

LBSU relief combined for 2.2 scoreless innings of 2-hit ball. Tyler Topp fanned three, as he helped Worley earn his first win on the season.