The scores: MSU 6, WSU 0; MSU 7, WSU 2; WSU 3, MSU 2
The records: MSU 29-12, 8-3 MVC; WSU 24-19, 6-6
Key statistics: MSU pitchers held the Shockers to 10 hits, with the lone extra-base hit a turf-aided double, in the first two games. For the series, Shocker batters struck out 30 times.
- The number that describes that series is 17. MSU has 17 juniors (10) and seniors (7), which explains why the Bears are No. 35 in the RPI, leading the MVC and looking like a solid NCAA team. The Bears aren’t hitting like I thought they would with all that experience, but they hit enough, pitch extremely well and don’t make mistakes. With Nick Petree and a healthy Pierce Johnson, the Bears could be a dangerous regional team. The Bears won the first two games without much objection from WSU and lost a close one on Sunday. WSU, in contrast, has five seniors and four juniors. To dig into that more, three of the seniors are pitchers and of those 10, I would consider only five as “lifetime” Shockers with a tenure of more than two seasons in a WSU uniform. Not all of the 17 Bears are “lifetimers,” but it’s clear MSU has a big edge in experience. That’s a position the Shockers are in in large part due to a 2008 recruiting class that started with 13 players as freshmen in 2009 and now has two players remaining – P Josh Smith and 1B Johnny Coy. The problem wasn’t the drafted players lost last season – Tyler Grimes, Charlie Lowell, etc. The problem is the four players – Josh Rosecrans, Dalton Banwart, Andrew Letourneau, Cameron Maldonado – who didn’t pan out and are no longer Shockers. That class was also hurt by Logan Watkins signing a pro contract out of high school. WSU’s roster will start to turn next season, depending on the draft, when it could have 14 juniors, five with a redshirt season, in addition to the seniors who don’t sign. The 11-person freshman class also looks like it will produce several starters in future seasons.
- Kris Gardner’s start provided WSU its best piece of news over the weekend. It’s possible to play well with two good weekend starters and patching things together on Sunday. It’s tough to patch together Saturday and Sunday, which is what WSU has been doing. If Smith and Gardner can give WSU two solid efforts, the Shocker bullpen is strong enough to make things work on Sunday. If that happens, the Shockers could finish strong. Gardner isn’t a sure thing after one MVC start, but he appears to be unflappable. He isn’t the kind of guy who will turn a 2-run inning into a 6-run disaster by making a bunch of mistakes. He rarely walks hitters (eight in 42 2/3 innings) and that alone should keep him in games. In his last 22 innings, Gardner has one walk and 17 strikeouts.
- Mitch Mormann will pitch Tuesday at Kansas State. It will be interesting to see if Tobin Mateychick gets another chance to start on the weekend, or if coaches go back to Albert Minnis. I would lean toward giving Mateychick another shot to start. Minnis’ best outing this month came in relief, four one-hit innings at Kansas.
- After showing signs of waking up, the Shocker offense is regressing. They let a lot of fastballs go by this weekend, the sign of a team that is indecisive. WSU hit .204 against the Bears with three extra-base hits, 30 strikeouts and six walks.
- SS Erik Harbutz went 5 for 12 in the series and he has raised his average to .285 from .265 over the past nine games. Harbutz and OF Mikel Mucha (three hits) were the only Shockers with more than two hits. 1B Johnny Coy had two hits and three walks. 1B Casey Gillaspie went 1 for 12 and OF Don Lambert went 1 for 9 with four strikeouts. With OF Taylor Doggett slumping, Kevin Hall returned to the lineup and went 1 for 7 with five strikeouts.