Weekend review: Creighton at Wichita State

Scores: Creighton 6, WSU 5; Creighton 3, WSU 1; WSU 4, Creighton 1

Records: WSU 31-24, 15-6 MVC; CU 28-14, 11-7

Key stats: WSU ranked No. 25 nationally in fielding percentage entering the weekend, .975. The Shockers committed five errors, contributing to five unearned runs for Creighton. Errors – and walks – figured into most of Creighton’s scoring, especially in Saturday’s game. Creighton’s error-less defense magnified the Shocker mistakes. Most painfully, the errors (and walks) let Creighton get leads and neutralized WSU’s bullpen. Shocker relievers again starred, with four combining to pitch 9 2/3 scoreless innings. WSU out-hit Creighton 25-18, stole nine bases to its zero, walked 11 times to Creighton’s eight and struck out 12 fewer times than the Bluejays. Both teams scored 10 runs and Creighton won two of three because of timely hitting and Shocker mistakes.

  • WSU blew a chance to clinch the MVC title and build itself a good stretch of baseball after sweeping at Missouri State.  It went 1-3 (with a 7-5 loss to Kansas). Had the Shockers gone 3-1, they’re MVC champions and a team with a slim chance to win 40 games. Instead, Creighton almost did to WSU what WSU did to Missouri State. In two close wins, the Bluejays got the timely hits, executed and played cleaner baseball. In total, going 4-2 vs. the Bears and Bluejays is good. It’s disappointing that WSU had the MVC race in its hands and let it slip away at home.
  • Nine of WSU’s past 11 losses are by one or two runs (the other by three).  In four of those games, WSU score three runs or fewer. In the other five, it scored five or more.
  • WSU needs one Illinois State loss (at Southern Illinois starting Thursday) to win a share of the title. More important is the No. 1 seed in the tournament, which WSU would get because of its 2-1 series win over the Redbirds. The Shockers will either finish No. 1 or No. 2, avoiding the host Redbirds until the championship game. The No. 1 spot appears to be critically important because of the pitching matchups. The No. 1 seed is grouped with Nos. 4,5 and 8. The No. 2 seed gets Nos. 3,6 and 7. The current No. 7 seed is SIU, which will throw Shocker-killer Cody Forsythe in the opening game of the tournament. The No. 1 seed gets Bradley, which is 1-16 in Valley play. Forsythe beat WSU this season, holding it to three hits and one earned run over seven innings in a 5-4 victory. In the 2012 tournament, he struck out eight in seven innings and SIU won 6-3. In the regular season, he struck out seven in seven innings and didn’t allow an earned run in a game WSU won 4-3 in 10 innings. The Shockers want no part of Forsythe in the tournament.
  • WSU shortstop Dayne Parker went 3 for 4 on Sunday, scored and drove in a run. He played flawlessly at shortstop. What made the effort more impressive is that Parker, a junior who started 59 games last season, hadn’t played since April 28 at Southern Illinois. Losing his starting job, during a hitting slump, didn’t keep Parker from preparing for another shot. “He is a great student of the game,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “Sometimes that opportunity helps guys a little bit, meaning that they get to sit and look at things and evaluate how they would approach something. He is an excellent team guy and he’s been putting in his work so that he could be in a position, if the time came, that he could help us.” Parker kept a bat in his hands even when he wasn’t starting, often working with junior infielder Sean Moore in the Eck Stadium batting cages. “Me and him hit after every game,” Parker said. “You’ve got to take a lot of reps on your own. I hit every day before practice and then after games.”
  • Creighton’s departure to the Big East hurts MVC baseball, although less than in men’s and women’s basketball. The addition of Dallas Baptist next season helps repair the damage some.  The Valley will miss Creighton, which is one of the schools that takes baseball seriously and plays a good non-conference schedule. It will also miss TD Ameritrade Park, which is a marquee place to hold a conference tournament. The Valley appears to be going in a strange direction for the tournament by downgrading from the home of the College World Series to smaller fields. This season’s tournament is at Illinois State and MVC officials recently visited Indiana State to evaluate its worthiness as a host. The fact they needed to go to Terre Haute to check out Bob Warn Field is troubling. It is a fine park for the Sycamores and it’s been upgraded in recent years. It is not worthy of hosting the MVC Tournament. When the MVC Tournament has options such as TD Ameritrade, Eck Stadium and Hammons Field, regression shouldn’t be considered.
  • Creighton is worth the price of admission for its defense. I would love to accompany Bluejays coach Ed Servais on a recruiting trip where he describes his style of play and the defensive practices. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to hit against Creighton and see the groundballs that scoot through, or force errors, against other teams end up in easy outs. The Bluejays are a fantastic defensive team. WSU is a very good defensive team – even after the weekend its fielding percentage is .974, which ranks second in the MVC. But it is bunching errors recently – two or more in seven of the past 11 games. WSU’s margin of error with its pitching and offense is not enough to overcome two-plus errors and that trend must stop in the MVC Tournament.
Next up: vs. Oklahoma State, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (Cox 22)