MANHATTAN — Wichita State will spend its hours before Saturday’s elimination game trying to convince itself Friday’s nine-run loss didn’t mean as much as it seemed.
The Shockers pitched so poorly in the 20-11 loss to Kansas State, they sounded convinced they got their bad performance out of the way on a 100-year-flood-kind-of-day for the arms. With all due respect to a strong hitting team, WSU can’t imagine things going worse than they did on Friday.
“I was shocked,” WSU catcher Tyler Baker said. “I’m speechless. I can’t say how that happened.”
Sometimes those losses are easy to put away. The Shockers, who must win Saturday and twice Sunday to get to a championship game on Monday, hope so.
“Forget about it,” first baseman Casey Gillaspie said.
WSU does own recent experience recovering from disheartening losses. Southern Illinois defeated WSU 5-1 to open the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The Shockers won five straight to win the tournament. The competition is much tougher in a regional; the idea is the same.
“Our first game is out of the way and there’s nothing we can do about it,” designated hitter Johnny Coy said. “It starts (Saturday).”
Once the Shockers trailed big early, coach Gene Stephenson went deep into his bullpen. Throwing little-used pitchers contributed to the 20 runs. T.J. McGreevy, who threw 18 pitches, was the only prominent reliever who pitched after the first inning.
“After we gave up the nine-spot in the first inning, by two of our really, really good pitchers, we didn’t really go to our bullpen with any strength,” he said.
Starter Cale Elam threw 28 pitches. Reliever Albert Minnis threw 17. Both could pitch again, Minnis as soon as Saturday, Stephenson said.
“We can’t pitch any worse in my mind,” Elams said. “You can’t put too much stock in it, you’ve just got to hope that maybe (I’ll) get another chance down the road, maybe in relief. I didn’t throw a lot of pitches.”
Around and around -- The Wildcats scored nine runs in the first inning to threaten the regional record, sending 15 hitters to the plate.
Three teams scored 11 in the first inning and all three went on to win their game.
The one-inning record is 18 runs set by LSU in a 1996 regional win over Georgia Tech, 29-13.
The good with the bad -- Kansas State’s 20 runs did a decent job of smoothing over what was a rough outing by the Wildcats’ pitching staff against WSU, which coughed up a double-digit figure of its own in a 20-11 win.
K-State starter Levi MaVorhis struggled mightily, going just two innings while giving up four hits, four earned runs and walking three.
“Our offense covered us today,” K-State coach Brad Hill. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m an offensive guy and I loved the 20 runs we scored. I just hated the 11 that we gave up.”
It was the second consecutive rough outing for MaVorhis, who rose to the top of the Wildcats’ rotation after starting the year in the bullpen — he lasted just 2 2/3 innings against Baylor on May 24 in the Big 12 Tournament, giving up five runs on four hits.
“I thought the last time Levi pitched he looked tired, but this time I thought he looked nervous,” Hill said. “Hopefully he’ll be ready the next time he pitches for us and he’s been solid all year. I think he’ll bounce back but when you quit throwing strikes we’ve got to get somebody else in there. We’ve gotta find someone who will find the zone and fill it up, who can beat you by making you swing the bat.
“That was too many balls for (MaVorhis) … three walks for him is unheard of. He’s not like that.”
K-State’s next three pitchers — Jared Moore, Jordan Witcig and Matt Wivinis — fared a little better, combining for five innings, three earned runs and one walk. None pitched for very long, though, with Moore going the longest at 2 1/3 innings.
“Moore got off to a good start but couldn’t finish,” Hill said. “We wanted to get three or four innings out of him.”
Star power -- Kansas State’s first time hosting a regional brought out some of the most familiar faces. ESPN cut to several shots of K-State athletic director John Currie’s private box, where he was surrounded by K-State football coach Bill Snyder, wearing a suit-and-tie in the 80-degree heat, K-State men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber and K-State basketball legend Ernie Barrett, who led the Wildcats to the 1951 Final Four.
Head over heels -- Even before K-State posted nine runs in the bottom of the first inning, the Wildcats had a momentum-changing play in their pocket.
Leading K-Stated 2-0 after an RBI double by Johnny Coy, WSU coach Gene Stephenson waved Coy home on a shallow single by Mikel Mucha with two outs.
The throw from K-State left fielder Tanner Witt to catcher Blair DeBord beat Coy to home plate by five yards and.…
“I didn’t get a good jump and it was a close play at the plate,” Coy said. “I’m actually kidding. It wasn’t close at all. I tried to juke (DeBord) and go around him, but instead I went over him and he flipped me in the air. I was out by a mile.”
It was quite a sight to see the 6-foot-8 Coy go head-over-feet over DeBord, a 6-foot Manhattan native, who also fell to the ground.
DeBord actually checked on Coy to see if he was OK afterward.
“He wasn’t trying to be malicious, he was just out by so much because of the great throw by Tanner,” DeBord said. “I really couldn’t believe (Stephenson) sent him because he was so far away. I think that kind of got the crowd back in it because they were shocked we were down two runs.”
Fisher delivers -- All-Big 12 shortstop Austin Fisher was a game-time decision for K-State because of a sore back, but was in the lineup batting ninth and ended up having a big game. Fisher, fresh off an 18-game hitting streak, went 3 for 4 with two runs and three RBIs in the win over the Shockers.
Bryant 4, Arkansas 1 — Third-seeded Bryant used three pitchers to hold the Razorbacks to three hits.
Starter Peter Kelich held second-seeded Arkansas to two hits and one run over five innings. After Trevor Lacosse gave up a hit, Salvatore Lisanti finished with four hitless innings.
"Very complete effort by our guys," Bryant coach Steve Owens said. "We got 11 hits against elite pitching."
Arkansas took a 1-0 lead, scoring on a bases-loaded walk, in the fifth inning and had them loaded again with no outs. Two strikeouts and a ground ball ended the threat.
"We just didn't do a very good job at all, in a lot of phases of the game," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We had a chance to blow that thing open in the fifth."
Bryant (45-16-1) tied the game in the sixth inning, scoring an unearned run after a throwing error. The Bulldogs scored three runs in the eighth against reliever Jalen Beeks. Kevin Brown and Carl Anderson drove in runs with singles. John Mullen tripled in a run.
Starter Barrett Astin struck out seven and allowed one unearned run in seven innings for Arkansas (37-21).