LAWRENCE — Soon, Tuesday night will remembered as the Squirrel Game. Perhaps it will also be remembered as the game in which Wichita State freshman pitcher Garrett Brummett locked up a spot in the weekend rotation.
Either distraction is good for Wichita State. Forcing the Shockers to ponder the rest of the game could plunge them into baseballs pit of despair.
Kansas defeated WSU 1-0 in 11 innings at Hoglund Ballpark, ending a pitching masterpiece by the winners and a hitting nightmare for the losers. The winning team pitched repeatedly out of jams; the losing team squandered golden opportunities. It wasnt clear until the 11th which team should wear those labels and it took Dakota Smiths single through a drawn-in Shocker infield to settle the matter.
It was an opportunity to redeem myself from all the other at-bats from that game and not getting any hits, Smith said after receiving a shaving-cream-pie-in-the-face. I came through this time.
Until the 11th, WSUs Tyler Baker owned the night with his squirrel whispering performance in the fourth inning. While Baker stood at second, a small brown squirrel darted onto the infield. KU shortstop Kevin Kuntz tried to corral it with his hat. When it eluded Kuntz, Baker fearlessly coaxed the squirrel into his batting helmet, where it curled up and looked at him. He carried it off the field, pumping his fist on the way, and deposited it on the rocky berm that surrounds the stadium. When he returned, fans applauded.
He walked up to me like he wanted me to pick him up, Baker said. I was saying Come here, little guy.
Baker reported another squirrel sighting, one near the Shocker dugout. Later in the game, WSU left fielder Micah Green herded a different squirrel off the field and into the Shocker bullpen.
A baby, Green said. We got him out here and then I saw him in the trees in the back afterwards.
KU (26-18) got to WSU closer Brandon Peterson in the 11th when his control faded. Michael Suiter singled on a 3-2 pitch and Peterson hit Alex DeLeon with a 3-2 pitch. Jordan Dreilings successful bunt loaded the bases and Smith punched a 1-1 slider into left field.
Playing pest control gave the Shockers something to smile about. The rest of the game made the hitters nuts.
WSU (26-21) totaled five hits against three KU pitchers. Starter Robert Kahana, who made five previous appearances in April to total 11 walks, four strikeouts and 11 earned runs, shut down WSU over a career-high eight innings. He struck out five and didnt walk a batter. The Shockers, hitting into the wind, gave KU outfielders many chances to track down lazy fly balls. WSU wasted leadoff singles in the second and fifth and a leadoff double in the fourth. None of those runners advanced a base.
Very frustrating, Green said. They were keeping us off balance. They were throwing first pitches for strikes. We couldnt square any of them up, and after that everything was in the dirt.
The Shockers failed to deliver the big hit numerous times. Freshman Tanner Kirk failed to get a bunt down in the fifth, instead hitting into a double play. In the eighth, WSU put runners at second and third with one out. Tanner Dearman lined to the shortstop, who doubled Mikel Mucha off third base.
I know I got a lot of pitches I should have hit and I didnt, Baker said. Youve got your pitchers throwing a great game out there. Offensively, weve got to put it together.
Baker almost scored after his squirrel rescue. Casey Gillaspie smacked a ball down past first that hugged the line and sent Baker in a sprint for home, until the umpires called him back. Gillaspie flew out to center on a 3-2 pitch for the first out. Green followed with a line-drive out and Erik Harbutz grounded out.
WSU coach Gene Stephenson disagreed strongly after the foul ball, saying the ball hit first base and offering first-base coach Jim Thomas testimony as proof.
He would not lie in a situation like that, Stephenson said. That ball hit the bag. That game should have been over, 1-0. I cant help it that certain people have trouble seeing.
The loss ruined a superb night for WSU pitching. Brummett likely earned himself a start on Sunday with 4 2/3 scoreless innings in which he held his composure through bad breaks and base hits. He stranded two runners in the second, a jam of his own making after he dropped a pop-up. In the third, Baker helped him handle an error to start the inning when he threw out Tucker Tharp at second. He worked around a leadoff double in the fourth.
Brummetts most significant escape came in the fifth. DeLeon, with the bases loaded, hammered a ball to left that curved toward the foul pole. Umpires called it fair, which brought strong protests from the Shockers on the left side of the field and Stephenson. The three umpires huddled and called the Jayhawks back from the dugout to erase the grand slam.
Sunday starts are available in the WSU rotation and Brummett may get his chance at Missouri State. He hasnt allowed a run in 9 2/3 innings in his past two starts.
He earned that tonight, Stephenson said. Hes earned the right to start any time, regardless of who it is.
Worth noting Garrett Bayliffs 15-game hitting streak ended with three groundouts and a strikeout. It took a fortunate bounce to retire him in the ninth. Bayliff bounced a ball off the first basemans glove and into foul territory. The ball bounced stayed close enough for DeLeon to grab it and he flipped to the pitcher covering first base. . . The teams played a 16-inning game in Lawrence last season, won 6-4 by the Shockers. . .WSU designated hitter Johnny Coy singled twice, his first two-hit game since April 23 at Oklahoma State and his second since April 6 against Indiana State.
None out when winning run scored.
E Brummett, Dearman, Harbutz. DP WSU, KU 2. LOB WSU 4, KU 11. 2B Baker (10), Protacio (5), DeLeon (15).
WP . HBP Kirk (by Kahana), DeLeon (by Peterson). Umpires Tom Svehla, home; Josh Shepis, first; Randy Wetzel, third. T 2:43. A 1,323