For WSU and its fans, anyway. The Shockers lost 2 of 3 in this important series, but can feel good about knowing they won the most convincing game of the series, a 7-0 decision Sunday at Eck Stadium.
Fullerton didn't look like the same team it did on Friday and Saturday. The Titans didn't make the most of their scoring opportunities, leaving seven men on base. Their pitching was shaky and the defense, which was errorless in the first two games, made four miscues in the final game.
The Shockers, meanwhile, got outstanding pitching Sunday. Anthony Capra and Kyle Touchatt combined on the shutout, and WSU saved its bullpen. That's important because WSU's midweek starters usually last 4-5 innings, so the bullpen will be needed on Tuesday when the Shockers meet Oklahoma State, arguably WSU's biggest rival.
Thanks for reading this weekend. Happy Mother's Day to all. Signing off...
WSU caught a break in the top of the eighth. Fullerton, trailing 7-0 but trying to mount a rally, had runners on first and second with nobody out. No. 2 hitter Josh Fellhauer slapped one down the line. It appeared to kick up chalk, but home plate umpire Ken McQueen called it foul.
The run probably doesn't score from first, but the Titans can make it 7-1 there and continue to threaten with the middle of the order coming up. It would have been much better than the alternative, which turned out being Fellhauer grounding into a double play on the next pitch. Two pitches after that was a fly ball to right field to end the inning. Now the Shockers have three outs to go for a win, and Noah Booth is warming up. Game (probably) over.
The win may come with a price, however. Right fielder Matt Brown, the Shockers' best all-around player, left the game in the third. We'll have to wait until after the game to figure out why, but Brown has been dealing with bad hamstrings for a while, and we suspect that is the culprit. Losing Brown hasn't hurt today, as Ryan Jones doubled off the wall in his first at-bat. But WSU won't be able to do much damage in the postseason without him.
Meanwhile, the Shockers are looking to put it further out of reach. They have the first two runners on in the bottom of the eighth with the top of the order coming up. WSU is doing a good job of removing the doubt from this one. Since putting up four in the second inning, they've continued to add on while getting some beautiful pitching.
Kyle Touchatt has done his job, getting through his two first two innings with one hit allowed and not a runner past first base. I expected Touchatt to only go two innings, but the Shockers' bullpen is empty so it looks like he'll keep going.
This game has been much more uneventful than the previous two. WSU starter Anthony Capra was very good, but not great like Fullerton's starters on Friday and Saturday. The Shocker pitching has been good at limiting Fullerton's chances to rally. What made the previous two games interesting was that WSU always appeared to be on the verge of coming from behind and never did. Fullerton rarely appears to be on the verge, getting just one runner to third base.
WSU coach Gene Stephenson, in today's Wichita Eagle, called Fullerton a College World Series team, and certainly the Titans appeared nearly flawless. Today, however, Fullerton has two errors, has struggled at the plate, and the Titans' pitching has been, at best, so-so. Maybe it's the Shockers that will go deep into the postseason. They certainly have the pitching to do so.
WSU starter Anthony Capra just made it through the fifth. He escaped a jam he created by walking the first two batters, but both were stranded and he kept the Shockers' 5-0 lead.
Fullerton dimmed its chances of a big inning with a failed sacrifice, when No. 8 hitter Billy Pinkerton popped his bunt to catcher Tyler Weber. My philosophy is to not sacrifice bunt when trailing by five runs, but Titans coach George Horton didn't ask my opinion. Maybe he should have. Why make intentional outs when the chance for a big inning is there?
Capra's day is probably over, but he gave the Shockers everything he asked. He threw around 80 pitches, a lot for someone who is used to pitching from the bullpen. Capra took the No. 3 starting job when Aaron Shafer was hurt earlier this month. Shafer was the Missouri Valley Conference freshman and pitcher of the year last season, but he hasn't been quite as good this year and is now close to returning after missing time because of elbow discomfort. The Shocker coaching staff is very careful with its pitchers, which I highly admire, so they won't bring back Shafer until he is absolutely ready.
The job of keeping the lead will now be handed to reliever Kyle Touchatt, who has had an incredible senior year after being up and down for his first three seasons. This year he's become one of WSU's most reliable bullpen arms, so the Shockers appear to be in good hands. Don't count out the Titans just yet, though. They've had a few big innings this series and could be primed for another.
Hard to call a run in the third inning an insurance run, because anything can happen in the final six innings, but I couldn't think a creative title for this entry, so that's what you're stuck with.
Anyway, the Shockers made it 5-0 with a run in the third. They could have added more, but a wild pitch set in motion WSU having to settle for one. Runners on first and second were moved up to second and third on a wild pitch. With first base open, that allowed Fullerton to intentionally walk Tyler Weber, who has hurt the Titans in this series, and face No. 9 hitter Dusty Coleman, who has struggled.
Coleman flew out to right, leaving three stranded. New pitcher Dustin Birosak didn't have much better luck in the third than starter Michael Morrison did in the first two innings. Birosak allowed three hits and a walk, and it appears the Shockers finally have the bats going.
Starting pitcher Anthony Capra has been solid, so it looks like the Shockers' day. But Fullerton's hitters can wear down pitchers by taking a lot of pitches and working the count, so I'm not ready to say it's in the bag just yet. There's still a long way to go.
The Shockers are taking out their frustrations from the last two days on poor Michael Morrison. He needed 31 pitches to escape the second inning and allowed four WSU runs. After Hill's RBI single, Tyler Weber singled. They both scored two batters later on a no-doubt home run by Andy Dirks to right-center.
Dirks is one of those fan-favorite types. He's tough, no-nonsense, all-out and he's a good player, too. His home run was just his 10th extra-base hit of the season and his average is hovering around .300.
Capra appears up to the task of keeping the lead. The Shocker coaches won't ask much of him, just make it through five innings, maybe six and let the bullpen take it from there. WSU's relief aces -- Kyle Touchatt, Noah Booth and Noah Krol -- are all well-rested, so the Shockers can definitely shorten the game. A four-run lead gives them plenty of breathing room, but I'm sure WSU wouldn't mind if it's offense picked up a few more.
WIchita State took its first lead of the series in the bottom of the second, when a Tyler Hill single scored Conor Gillaspie from second. Gillaspie doubled off the wall to start the inning.
Since I criticized WSU coach Gene Stephenson for a bad call yesterday, let me applaud him for making the right decision in the second. After Gillaspie's double, Josh Workman came to bat. The obvious play would have been a sacrifice bunt, but Workman is a left-handed hitter with speed. All he had to do was hit it to the right side to hit Gillaspie to third, and maybe he could find a hole and get on base. The Shockers want Workman on base, since he's their fastest runner, so Stephenson didn't call for the bunt.
Unfortunately for WSU and Stephenson, Workman didn't reward his faith, fouling out to the catcher. Even though it didn't work, Stephenson made the right decision. And Hill's single scored Gillaspie, anyway, so it all worked out.
I'm back for the third and final day at Eck Stadium. The Shockers are trying to salvage a game in this series after getting carved up by Fullerton's pitching the previous two days. Like yesterday, the pitching matchup appears to favor WSU.
The Shockers send Anthony Capra to the hill. He's 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA, but is making just his fifth start of the season after 14 mostly dominant relief appearnaces. Capra doesn't have a wide array of pitches, and his overpowering fastball makes him highly effective out of the bullpen. As a starter, he can't rely as heavily on his fastball. It's still his best pitch and he uses it to get outs, but if it gets to the point where Fullerton hitters can sit on the hard stuff, Capra could be in trouble. That means Capra will have to mix in off-spped pitches and throw them for strikes, which isn't his specialty but something he's highly capable of doing.
Like WSU, Fullerton sends a pitcher to the mound who predominantly pitches in relief. Michael Morrison starts for the Titans, and his numbers pale in comparison to Capra's. He's thrown just 31 innings and walked more batters (22) than he's struck out (21). He's making his fifth start, compared to seven relief appearances, and he has a 5.81 ERA with a .287 batting average against. I'll give the edge again to the Shockers, but I did that yesterday and they didn't come through. Still, a 5-4 WSU is the forecast.
I really like the WSU pregame music. I mentioned the Gwen Stefani effort "The Sweet Escape" yesterday, and today I'll let you know about "Dust on the Bottle." It's a country tune sung by either Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, John Michael Montgomery, Sawyer Brown, David Lee Murphy, Aaron Tippin, Mark Chesnut, Alan Jackson, or Joe Nichols. I love using Limewire to download music, but they sure have no idea who sings songs. It's kind of funny, really. But I'll say "Dust on the Bottle" is by David Lee Murphy.
On a final note before the game, I'd like to wish everyone a happy Mother's Day. Especially to my own mother, who is the only person I have confirmed to be reading this blog. So happy Mother's Day, mom. Enjoy the afternoon and have a relaxing day. And don't forget to check the blog. That goes for the rest of you, college baseball fans.
If WSU doesn't get something going in the ninth, Rob Musgrave's 13 strikeout performance will go for naught. A tough break for the left-hander who has pitched great this season. But in perhaps is greatest effort, he'll be saddled with the loss. Tough break.
Fullerton is impressive. The lineup isn't overpowering by any stretch, but there isn't an easy out because the hitters are so patient. Musgrave succeeded because he stayed in the strike zone, making Fullerton swing at his pitch instead of theirs. His 13 strikeouts were a product of getting ahead in the count frequently and rarely giving in. He was brilliant, but so was Fullerton starterJeff Kaplan and it appears Kaplan will have the 'W' next to his name in tomorrow's paper.
The Shockers have some salvaging to do. Three runs in the ninth to salvage this game, or a win tomorrow to salvage a game in the series. WSU needed a strong showing in the series to solidify a regional berth, and the Shockers definitely haven't helped their cause. With only Missouri Valley Conference games to go, it's tough to say how much they can improve their regional resume' the rest of the season.
The Shockers better tie it or take the lead here in the seventh, because coach Gene Stephenson is going for broke. First, he pinch-hit for his fastest runner, Josh Workman, when speed on the bases is of utmost importance. Danny Jackson was called on to hit, and he singled, but he was removed for a pinch-runner.
If I'm Stephenson, I leave Workman in and save Jackson for the 8th or 9th, when I may really need him. Yes, Jackson crushes left-handed pitching, but he's not bad against righties. Now you've lost your fastest runner and your best bench guy, who was replaced by Ryan Jones, who rarely plays. I'd rather have Jackson up in the 8th or 9th than Jones, so the Shockers have to do some damage now. They've got another pinch-hitter up now, and Fullerton coach George Horton has offset the matchup by bringing in a right-handed hitter, who struck out the pinch-hitter, Bret Bascue.
Now it's all up to Tyler Weber, who homered in the sixth for WSU's only run. I'll stay with this entry until Weber's at-bat, probably the biggest of the game for the Shockers, is over...
Now there are runners at second and third. On the second pitch of Weber's at-bat, the double-steal was executed. Now the pressure is really on. But the Shockers don't come through. Weber grounded out weakly to third on an off-speed pitch and the Titans keep the lead. Six outs to go and Fullerton has a series win.
Not by Joe Brown (umpire, not judge), but by WSU coach Gene Stephenson. With runners on first and third and one out with No. 3 hitter Damon Sublett up and the Shockers trailing 3-1, Stephenson called an ill-advised hit and run.
I dislike the "hit" part of this call because it's wrong to force Sublett to try to hit the ball the other way, when he has the potential to pull it and hit a home run. I dislike the run part because Sublett is the go-ahead run. If someone gets thrown out trying to steal, a Sublett homer only ties the score.
So Sublett does as asked and hits a rocket up the middle. Just where the shortstop is standing to cover second base. He catches it, throws out the runner from first, and the inning is over. WSU will struggle to get that momentum back, but it's the Shockers' own fault they lost it in the first place. Let your No. 3 hitter swing there and maybe win the game because of it.
WSU starter Rob Musgrave, meanwhile, has regained his form. His 13 strikeouts have shattered his career high of nine, and as I write this he is being removed after 6 2/3 mostly masterful innings. Aside from four hitters in the fourth inning, when Musgrave allowed three runs, he's been outstanding. He's pitched around some bad defense and an inconsistent strike zone. He probably doesn't deserve to lose this game, but Kaplan has been just a tick better.
Musgrave can't get the win, but the Shockers have nine outs to get him off the hook. Can they rediscover that precious dynamic called momentum?
Kaplan couldn't beat those 92.6% odds not in his favor, as he lost the no-hitter in a big way.
Tyler Weber, my hero if you haven't read this blog much, hit Kaplan's first pitch of the bottom of the sixth onto the street well beyond Eck Stadium's left field wall. It landed right in front of a couple moving cars. Two batters later, Kaplan issued a walk to Andy Dirks after going ahead 0-2. Then Derek Schermehorn singled Dirks to third. All of a sudden, the Shockers are rallying and Kaplan is struggling. He may not be long for this game. There was already a mound visit and Fullerton has two pitchers in the bullpen.
The Shockers are in the heart of the order, down 3-1 with one out in the 6th. The fans are back into it and WSU has all the momentum. What happens next?
A couple amazing statistics I just looked up: When someone mentions a no-hitter, the no-hitter is lost within three outs an astoungind 76.4% of the time. I've avoided that misfortune because Jeff Kaplan, who has held WSU without a hit through five innings, made it through the fifth without a hitch after I mentioned his no-no in the fourth. But in an unbelievable 92.6% of no-hitters, there is no mention of the no-hitter by anyone anywhere at all. So it's not looking good for my man Kaplan. I certainly have done him no favors.
OK, so those stats were obviously made up, but here's something that's no joke. WSU coach Gene Stephenson or one of his assistants will likely get kicked out of this game. They perceive Joe Brown (umpire, not judge)'s strike zone to be favoring Fullerton, with WSU starter Rob Musgrave no longer getting the outside strike call. I can't say I disagree, but since I rarely embed myself in controversy, I will abstain from this topic for now.
Stephenson is ready to go to his third base coache's box for the bottom of the sixth. Let's see what happens.
... (to indicate a passage of time)
... Stephenson is still by the dugout, apparently eager to not start an argument with Joe Brown (umpire, not judge). And sure enough, his trip to the box was uneventful. He may have said something under his breath, but it was ignored by the umpire not judge. Stephenson is showing rare restraint. I like it.
Here's an example of behavior that should get you kicked off the planet:
Top of the 5th, Fullerton leadoff hitter Clark Hardman hits a high pop-up behind the plate. WSU catcher Tyler Weber has it measured and tosses away his mask while approaching the netting in front of the first row of fans. When Weber gets there, a fan in the front row gets up and screams right in Weber's face. Why? Can you imagine a more idiotic thing to do in that situation? It doesn't affect Weber, however. He makes the catch and briefly stares down the fan. For a guy as nice as Weber, that's practically a punch in the face, an act which would have been totally justified. I don't know if he was a WSU or Fullerton fan, or neither, but he definitely doesn't deserve to be here today.
I'm not legitmiately calling for this guy to be shot, but if he trips over his shoelaces and falls on his nose on the way out of the stadium later today, I'd say that would be suitable punishment. He definitely has something unfortunate coming to him.
Oh, and Jeff Kaplan, Fullerton's starting pitcher, remains dominant, having retired 10 straight. Before I go, a quick note to my fellow bloggers: Stop posting pictures. It really makes me look bad. I'd like to prove that WSU basketball coach Greg Marshall is here, but I can't. I don't have the technology to take or post pictures. So please just leave everything to my imagination from now on. Thank you.
Could my blog entry titles be any more cliche? Really, could they?
Musgrave has matched his career high in strikeouts with nine through four innings, but he might not be around much longer. That's because in the fourth he was rocked for three runs on four hits, all smashes. A two-run home run by Nich Mahin, his eighth, was the big blow in the fourth. Mahin has eight homers and the rest of the Fullerton lineup has combined for 12.
Musgrave's fastball still looks great. It's his secondary/out pitches that gave him trouble in the fourth. He left too many of them over the plate, whereas in the previous innings he was spotting them on the corners. Joe Brown (umpire, not judge)'s strike zone is a little less liberal now. He must enjoy hearing Shocker fans complain. Nonetheless, I take back the props I gave him earlier for consistency with the understanding that he could re-earn them. But if he re-earns consistency props, doesn't that kind of mean he's being inconsitent? This could spawn a great internal debate.
Shockers have the perfect chance to rally in the fourth, with the middle of the order coming up. Jeff Kaplan has settled in, though, so WSU has a tough task ahead. The Shockers are still hitless. Or maybe I just jinxed it. I don't wanna be that guy...
Here's something you don't see very often: In the second inning, both pitchers struck out the side. Six batters, six strikeouts. The wide strike zone has contributed to so many early strikeouts, but umpire Joe Brown (I'm trying my hardest not to turn this into a blog about TV judges. I could go for days) is consistent, even if the Shocker fans, who complain at every perceived slight, feel otherwise.
If you haven't heard the song "The Sweet Escape" by Gwen Stefani, it's time to download it. I'm probably late on hearing this song, but I don't listen to music on the radio a lot. My bad. It's played at Eck Stadium a lot, and it always brightens my day. And my day has needed some brightening. Now, blog readers, you have me at complete mental and physical strength.
Crazy stuff up in the press box today. Some guy from a neighboring small town is here, representing his local newspaper. He knows one of the WSU players, and he felt this was good enough to get him access to the press box. It wasn't, and eventually he was asked to show his credentials, which he did. I know the story doesn't sound too interesting, but it's been a saga. He was here yesterday too, wearing a WSU hat. Who wears a hat of the team he's covering? So far, his behavior can only be described as erratic. But he seems like a nice enough guy, so I'll stop ripping him. You have my love, neighboring small town guy.
Rob Musgrave is making a charge for Roger Clemens territory, having struck seven through 3 innings. He's on pace to strike out 21 (thank you, first grade math). I don't know what the NCAA strikeout record is. Anybody wanna look that up for me? His counterpart, Jeff Kaplan, has 3 Ks through two innings. We could be looking at a classic.
If the first inning is any indication, my prediction will be right in the money. Why not use six outs as an excuse to toot my own horn, right? But Rob Musgrave mowed down the Titans in the first, striking out to and getting a weak flyball to right.
Musgrave took advantage of a wide strike zone from umpire Joe Brown. Not the TV judge. But speaking of those, Judge Mathis has always been my favorite. Jeff Kaplan tried to do the same thing, but he didn't get the call, or his pitches were a little further outside. That led to two walks. Kaplan got out of the jam, but it took a lot of pitches.
In other news, new WSU basketball coach Gregg Marshall is in attendance. Sitting next to a woman we can only assume is his wife. If it isn't, this blog could quickly change its course.
Something funny just happened. Tyler Weber caught the third strike and rolled the ball back to the pitcher's mound. Nothing major, right? Yeah, well there were only two outs, so Weber looked kind of goofy running back to the dugout when no one was doing the same. It's hard to play something like that off, so I imagine the kid is pretty embarrassed. I can't make fun of Weber too long, though; he's one of my favorite guys on the team, and a go-to interview. Wouldn't wanna burn that bridge.
While I've been writing this, Musgrave struck out the side in order in the second. That's five Ks through two innings. He came to play. Can Kaplan match him? Time will tell.
Fullerton's coaches use metal fungoes when hitting infield. Metal. That bothers me.
Anyway, it's a gorgeous day in Wichita, a beautiful day for baseball as they say. The River Festival downtown is officially underway, the sun is shining. And, most important for an optimal day in this city, the wind isn't blowing. It's true.
Should be another outstanding pitching matchup today. Jeff Kaplan for Fullerton opposes Rob Musgrave. Both have solid numbers with good peripherals. I don't really know what "peripherals" means, I just read it on a lot of baseball websites and I like it. Actually, I do know what it means. And Musgrave's peripherals are a little bit better, so I'm giving the edge to the Shockers today.
But Fullerton's lineup impressed me last night with the way they turned scoring opportunities into runs. The Titans get on base a ton, too, so Musgrave has his work cut out for him. WSU's lineup, while not hot lately, is nothing to scoff at, either. I'll utilize the new "Predictions" feature of this blog and call it a 5-3 win for WSU.
Oh, Kevin Costner went to Fullerton. So did Cedric Ceballos. And J-Stew, for those Jim Rome fans out there. But Costner is clearly the most famous alum. My best friend shook his hand when he was here for Fullerton's appearance in a Wichita regional about 12 years ago or so. Quite a moment for the youngster. He still talks about it.
This one belongs to the Titans. WSU went quietly against Adam Jorgenson in the ninth, striking out twice. For the game, Fullerton pitchers Jorgenson and Wes Roemer combined to strike out 12 while allowing six hits and three walks.
The only Shocker to have much success was Josh Workman, who singled in both official at-bats and walked twice. If every WSU hitter had the same approach as Workman, it might have been a different story. But the Shockers couldn't get comfortable against Roemer, understandable considering his usual dominance.
Joe Scott, Fullerton's No. 9 hitter, had three hits. That made things easy for the top of the order, as Clark Hardman and Josh Fellhauer combined to drive in three runs. Only two Titans didn't have a hit, run or RBI. Back at it tomorrow, which could be tough considering the mental and physical strain this game was sure to take on both teams.
Tough to rip a guy who just got drilled in the head, but Derek Schermerhorn made another WSU baserunning mistake.
Schermerhorn was hit in the side of the helmet on a pitch by Adam Jorgenson. He went to the ground but stayed in the game after being checked on by the trainer and coach Gene Stephenson. As I've been writing this blog, things have gotten especially dramatic, however.
Reliever Kyle Touchatt, perhaps in response to Schermerhorn's beaning, hit Josh Fellhauer in the foot, which prompted a warning from home plate umpire Ben Harlow. Stephenson blew a gasket, initiating a lengthy argument with Harlow. The argument stemmed from Stephenson's belief that a warning was unnecessary because Fellhauer's getting hit on the foot was hardly as serious, even if it was on purpose, than Schermerhorn getting hit in the head. Stephenson had a point. Maybe Harlow agreed because Stephenson, despite his animation, stayed in the game.
Anyway, back to the original idea of this post. A few pitches after Schermerhorn was hit, he took off for second on a pitched ball that barely skipped by the catcher. He was easily thrown out. It's been a common theme for the Shockers -- get guys on base and either leave them there or have them thrown out on bad baserunning plays. The rally the Shockers made in the seventh appears to be going for naught. Titans lead 6-2, top of the ninth. And the Cleveland Indians are on MLB.tv now, so this game needs to see something big in order to keep my interest.
Fullerton starting pitcher Wes Roemer, in a span of just a few minutes, went from dominant to spent. Titans coach George Holton recognized it a batter too late, removing Roemer after Tyler Weber's RBI double left runners on second and third. WSU scored two in the seventh off Roener and was threatening before reliever Adam Jorgenson struck out Dusty Coleman for the final out.
The Shockers' best chance was to get to the bullpen fairly early, and they have six outs to make up three runs. Jorgenson has half of Fullerton's 12 saves, so going to him in the seventh may have been a mistake. He's thrown 48 innings in his 20 appearances, though, so he can probably handle extended work. The Shockers have the top of the order up against him in the 8th, so another potential rally could be looming. Stay tuned...
Travis Banwart's night is over, and this game appears to be, as well. The junior lasted 6 1/3 innings and allowed five runs, the last two coming on three straight hits by the Titans in the seventh. It's 5-0, and with WSU not hitting, all hope appears lost. Banwart had a taxing evening. Despite allowing five runs and nine hits, he pitched through several long at-bats. The Titans have three hitters above .300 in the lineup, but the team on-base percentage is .369. Banwart walked just one, but was worn down by Fullerton's patient approach.
Roemer, meanwhile, continues to mow down the Shockers. He isn't doing anything particularly impressive, but he appears extrmely mentally tough, staying locked in and thinking through each pitch. In short, he knows what he's doing. And what he's doing in this game is keeping each of his pitches in the strike zone and letting WSU's hitters get themselves out. The two-seam fastball is particularly impressive. It's produced a couple strikeouts and induced a plethora of
We're already in the sixth, a quick game thanks to only three runs (all Fullerton's) and eight hits being collected so far. Josh Workman is the only Shocker to figure out Fullerton starter Wes Goedert; he has two of WSU's three hits, both bouncing singles through the turf infield.
In a more recent development, I can't spell. And I hate to self-edit, so the errors are frequent. I apologize. WSU's fans are begining to quiet, perhaps resigned to the fact that this just isn't the Shockers' night.
I may have jumped the gun on projecting Wes Roemer as a closer, because he looks pretty dominant as a starter. He's faced the minimum through three innings and looked especially good at the end of the third with back-to-back strikeouts of Tyler Weber and Dusty Coleman.
The Shockers are getting baserunners but having a problem keeping them on base. Josh Workman singled in the second but was thrown out trying to steal. In the third, Tyler Hill drew a rare walk from Roemer but was picked off. WSU, which has struggled to score recently, can't afford to squander any chances. As I write this, Fullerton is threatening. John Curtis led off the fourth with a double, and he's on third with one out after a sacrifice bunt. The Shockers have the infield in, recognizing that falling behind by two runs against Roemer is potential doom.
The only controversy of the night, so far, involves the press box food spread. Apparently a little league team in a skybox felt our pizza was meant for them, and the coach traveled the few feet to the press box to voice his complaint, which was summarily dismissed. Everybody appears happy now, though -- the press is full and the little league team is enjoying its pizza. The Shockers and their fans are looking for a similar happy ending.
Banwart appears to have settled down, needing just six pitches, all strikes, to retire the Titans in order in the second. Fullerton's Wes Roemer, meanwhile, appears to beas advertised. He has a ton of energy, changes speeds and even his release point, occasionally dropping to a sidearm delivery. He has closer written all over him, and if I had to guess, I'd say he'll probably be a successful late-inning guy in the big leagues someday. Nice how I can make these calls after one inning of seeing a guy, isn't it?
I mentioned this in the last entry, but it bears repeating. WSU's fans, despite seeing their team scored upon in the first inning and well aware of the Shockers' recent hitting struggles, haven't lost any enthusiasm. They clearly have faith in the Shocks and, in particular, Banwart. Surely he'll keep the Shockers close. But will they score? Tough to say, but Roemer got two outs in the bottom of the second in the time it took to write this entry.
A pitcher's duel is still a possibility, and it's probably likely, but Fullerton didn't take long to get on the board, scoring a run in the top of the first. A good baserunning play led to the game's first run. Running on a 3-2 pitch, Josh Fellhauer made it from first to third on a single by Nick Mahin. The ball was in front of him, so Fellhauer saw that WSU left fielder Tyler Hill was playing deep and didn't hustle after the ball. Fellhauer made it easily despite a throw by Hill. Banwart left two on and escaped the first with minimal damage despite throwing 25 pitches. He has his work cut out for him because Fullerton looks pesky at the plate. The Titans won't go down without a fight.
So Fullerton has struck first, but it hasn't taken much steam out of the packed crowd at Eck Stadium. Fans arrived early to the Coleman Hill, beyond the outfield wall, and they stadium seats are beginning to fill. The River Festival, an annual event downtown which starts tonight, will draw plenty. But I can't imagine a better place in Wichita to be than Eck for a showdown between two of college baseball's top programs of the last 25 years.
I've been in the press box at Eck Stadium, on the campus of Wichita State, for five minutes and I've already seen something incredible. The members of WSU's opponent tonight and in a three game non-conference series, Cal State Fullerton, are either really tough, really crazy, or a combination of both.