In the final series of a 2008 season that failed to live up to preseason expectations, Washburn fought back against rival Emporia State (45-7 overall, 31-4 MIAA), ranked No. 6 nationally, to earn its biggest win of the year in the season’s final weekend.
The Bods (17-28, 12-23) were unable to pull out wins in their other two matchups, but beating the Hornets may be enough to spoil ESU’s chances of winning the region and playing at home in the postseason.
Game two on Saturday was a pitcher’s duel most of the way, and ESU entered the final inning with a 1-0 lead. That lead grew quickly in the seventh, and the Hornets added four insurance runs to come away with a 5-1 win.
Both starters pitched well in complete game outings but Bryan Stroth struggled late in the game, giving up three hits and a two-run homerun as he tried to get ESU’s last three outs.
“Our pitching looked a lot better in the last game,” said third baseman Joe Hosey. “In our past few games we gave up more runs, but in this one we just weren’t batting well enough to back up our pitcher.”
In the previous two games of the series it wasn’t the pitching, but the offense, that decided a winner. Earlier on Saturday, WU entered the bottom of the fourth with a 7-0 deficit. The Bods’ bats came to life, scoring once in the fourth then adding nine more unanswered in the fifth and sixth to rally for a 10-7 victory.
Designated hitter Brett Sorensen, the pitcher who allowed 12 runs the day before, was the hero, belting a three-run homer to break open a game that was tied 7-7.
“I hadn’t been batting real well against left-handers,” said Sorensen. “But I just got a good pitch to hit and took advantage of it.”
While ESU’s offense was thriving in game two, and WU’s played well in game one, both teams’ batting was unstoppable in the series opener on Friday. The Bods scored 11 runs off nine hits, erasing another big deficit but falling short in a 15-11 loss.
The Hornets built an 8-0 lead after two innings, but a three-run homer by Joe Hosey followed by a solo shot from Brian Gorges showed the game would not be one-sided, or friendly to either teams’ pitchers.
The game was tied in the middle of the fourth and WU was within one in the eighth, but ESU scored three more in its last trip to the plate to put its run total at an impressive 15.
“It never feels good to lose,” said Sorensen, who struggled as the starting pitcher. “But playing against your rival, one of the best teams in the country, you have to look at the positives and be glad to at least get one win for our seniors in their last series at home.”