SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Wichita State will give a freshman pitcher his first weekend start in a road series that could decided the Missouri Valley Conference title.
It can’t go any better than Tuesday’s start at Kansas for Garrett Brummett. He proved he deserved a chance to stabilize WSU’s weekend rotation with his display of composure in a game the Shockers lost 1-0 in 11 innings. He survived three errors — one his own — in the first three innings to hold KU without a run in 4 2/3 innings. He also gave up a leadoff double in the fourth and loaded the bases in the fifth with two outs before reliever Albert Minnis got the final out.
Throughout all that drama, Brummett never got rattled.
“I kept on telling him, ‘Just be you,’ ” catcher Tyler Baker said. “He calmed himself down and came through for us.”
WSU (26-21, 11-4 MVC) is tied for second place with Missouri State (27-13, 11-4) and likely needs to win at least 2 of 3 this weekend to stay in a title race. The series, delayed one day by forecasts for rain and snow, starts Saturday at Hammons Field and continues with a Sunday doubleheader.
Brummett will make his third college start in Sunday’s second game. He replaces junior Drew Palmer, who is sidelined with an unspecified injury. Brummett, however, made his case for inclusion in the rotation with five scoreless innings against Oral Roberts, followed by his work at Kansas.
WSU coach Gene Stephenson isn’t surprised at Brummett’s steadiness on the mound, since he grew up learning from his father. Greg Brummett, coach at Cloud County Community College, was the 1989 College World Series MVP for the Shockers and pitched in the major leagues.
“Great composure,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “I think it’s a bloodline thing. He’s much further advanced as a freshman than his father was. He’s had his father as a teacher.”
Brummett, from Concordia, ignored the setting on Tuesday. The errors and two doubles didn’t throw him off his plan. He didn’t walk a batter and stranded a runner at second in the third inning and at third in the fourth. When the situation grew dicey, he was able to find the right pitch to produce a groundball or harmless fly ball to avoid trouble.
“At first, I was thinking about playing KU and being on TV,” he said. “It was a little frightening at first. I just stayed as relaxed as possible. I try not to think about too much and just throw strikes.”
Brummett, in part because of rainouts, made only five appearances, none longer than three innings, before starting against Oral Roberts on April 24. He kept improving by taking practice sessions seriously and listening to Baker, a sophomore with a good reputation for working with pitchers. He uses a slider to complement his fastball and would like to improve his changeup, a pitch he believes he need to hone as a strikeout pitch. Four times he got two strikes on Kansas batters and wasn’t able to strike any out.
“I’ve been able to learn how to hit my spots a little bit better and try to control my breaking ball and control that for a strike,” he said. “I’ve definitely been throwing my slider a lot and if I could develop a pretty good changeup, that could help me a lot.”