Scores: UE 5, WSU 4; WSU 8, UE 4; WSU 5, UE 2
Key stats: WSU’s bullpen filled a lot of innings after an injury to Friday starter Cale Elam limited him to three innings and Sunday starter Drew Palmer lasted the same amount. WSU pitching held SIU to six earned runs and their control decided the series. The Shockers walked two batters in 26 innings; SIU walked 10 and hit two. WSU took advantage of SIU’s free passes and fielding errors. It hit .252 and only got one RBI apiece from middle-of-the-order hitters Casey Gillaspie and Johnny Coy. Ten Shockers drove in runs, with OF Garrett Bayliff leading with three.
- A team can win the MVC Tournament with four starting pitchers. The Shockers possess one (Elam) that they have total confidence in. A.J. Ladwig is on the right track. Beyond that, WSU needs at least one starter to step up. The bullpen is so deep the Shockers can win Sunday’s game after pulling Palmer in a situation most teams let ride. He pitched well for two innings and then struggled in a third. WSU’s offense didn’t help by leaving runs on the table while forging a 2-all tie. Asking the bullpen to cover two short starts (or more in case of losers bracket) is dangerous. Getting Palmer, Kris Gardner or Garrett Brummett into shape to get deeper into games is important for the late May trip to Duffy Bass Field.
- Freshman third baseman Tanner Kirk, like second baseman Tanner Dearman, apparently didn’t waste time pouting when he didn’t play. When Kirk got a chance to start, he produced and it appears he isn’t coming out the lineup. He went 4 for 12 with a double against SIU and is 6 for 16 with two doubles and one strikeout in four games since starting against Oral Roberts. At SIU, he refused to let two errors (on the same play) in Friday’s game ruin his weekend. He learned to be more aggressive to take away hops and played good defense on Saturday and Sunday, handling a field made for bad-hops in wet conditions. “You’ve got to want the ball and be ready for it,” Kirk said. “I had two errors (Friday) and I know I can field. You’ve just got to fight through it and be ready for the next one.”
- The MVC race is headed for showdown weekend, with WSU and Missouri State, tied for second, meeting in Springfield. Fourth-place Creighton plays at Illinois State, which leads WSU and MSU by percentage points. The Redbirds are blessed with the best schedule _ home series against Creighton and Evansville and at struggling SIU. Creighton has the toughest road, playing at ISU and WSU before finishing with a home series against MSU. The Bluejays are in fourth place, but are the only team in the top four that hasn’t played another.
- This week: At Kansas, 6 p.m. Tuesday; vs. Kansas Wesleyan, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday