College baseball: Valparaiso offense can’t back Cole Webb’s solid effort
By John Mutka Post-Tribune senior correspondent April 5, 2013 11:38PM
Valparaiso's Cole Webb follows through with a pitch during the third inning of the Crusaders home game against UIC Friday April 5, 2013. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 7, 2013 6:16AM
VALPARAISO — Pitcher Cole Webb can’t catch a break.
In eight starts, Valparaiso University has provided him with exactly 15 runs, which explains his 2-5 record despite a nifty 1.88 ERA.
Coach Tracy Woodson sympathized Friday.
“Cole’s lost 2-0 twice, 1-0 and now this,” he said after a 2-1 loss to UIC dropped the defending Horizon champs 51/2 games behind league-leading Milwaukee.
The Crusaders (10-18, 1-6 Horizon League) outhit UIC 9-6, but hit into three double plays and stranded 12 baserunners. Hitting was supposed to be their strength, but they’re averaging fewer than four runs a game
“Getting runners in from second and third has been our weakest point,” Woodson said.
That glaring defect showed up when VU failed to score in the fifth inning after Bryce Hara, Andrew Bain and Tanner Vavra singled to load the bases with none out. That threat died when John Loeffler lined into an unassisted double play and Chris Manning grounded out.
Injuries have turned a strength into a weakness, stripping the Crusaders of their 3-4-5 hitters in Michael Morman, Elliott Martin and Karch Kowalczyk,
“Morman’s probably out for the year with a stress fracture in his back,” said Woodson. “Karch is our closer and DH. Martin’s out with a hamstring, but we hope to get those two back sometime.”
The Crusaders don’t have a single .300 hitter and have hit just four home runs in 28 games. Compare that to UIC’s Alex Gruenenwald and Evan Boss (Lake Central), who have combined for eight.
Webb struck out seven and walked none, but the Flames (14-13, 4-3) snapped a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning when John Coen singled and scored on Andres Ortegano’s two-out infield hit.
At the start of the season Webb was projected as the second or third man in VU’s rotation, but has stepped up.
“He’s been our best pitcher,” said Woodson. “Every time he pitches we’re in the game.”
UIC lefty Tim Suminski, summoned when Tomas Michelson developed an arm problem in the fourth inning, blanked the Crusaders in 41/3 innings of relief to pick up his first victory of the spring.
The Horizon rivals meet again at 1 p.m. today.