LAWRENCE — Wichita State first baseman Casey Gillaspie has played enough baseball to know hitting a ball hard can mean nothing. Or worse than that, as in the case of his eighth-inning smash that started a double play in a 4-2 loss to Kansas on Tuesday.
With a runners on third and first and no outs, he fired a line drive toward right field. First baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk, a defensive replacement, snagged it and tagged first. Gillaspie didn’t even allow himself a range of emotions.
“That’s kind of how baseball is,” Gillaspie said. “I wish I could go back and elevate it a little more, but you can’t really do that.”
WSU (16-11) stranded seven runners and went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and that doesn’t tell the whole painful story at Hoglund Ballpark. Kansas starter Drew Morovick picked off a runner at second for the second out of the first inning and a runner at third to end the second. Execution failed the Shockers at other times, as well, continuing a disturbing trend for coach Todd Butler.
“We can hit,” he said. “We get 10 hits and score two runs. It’s just not smart enough baseball. We need to get smarter.”
WSU is down five starters due to injury, leaving Butler with a new lineup each game and almost no options for pinch-hitters. He doesn’t want to use that misfortune as an excuse.
“These players that are on the bench can play well,” he said. “Why can’t the other guys step up?”
The Shockers let Morovick escape in the early innings and fell behind 4-0 after two. Kansas (19-10) defeated WSU for the third straight time by battering starter Drew Palmer for six hits and four runs in 1 2/3 innings. It almost went differently, as Morovick knew after allowing four hits in the first two innings.
In the first, Tanner Dearman led off with a single and moved to second with one out. Morovick, using an inside move, picked him off for the second out and the inning fizzled. In the second, Morovick locked in on his catcher going through the signs and allowed Parker Zimmerman to head for second with no throw. He turned and looked at third and saw a chance to redeem himself by picking off Micah Green to end the inning.
“I saw him dancing off third and I just threw it in there,” Morovick said. “Luckily, I put it right on the tag. It really helped me out of those jams.”
KU took a 4-0 lead in the second. No. 9 hitter Aaron Hernandez ignited the Jayhawks with a double, past diving Green in center, for the first score. With two outs and two on, Joven Afenir chopped a ball that took Gillaspie behind first toward foul ground. Afenir beat Palmer to first and two runs scored. Michael Tinsley’s bloop into shallow center scored Afenir from second for a 4-0 lead.
Butler didn’t like Palmer’s brief argument with first-base umpire Andrew Fulton while the Jayhawks ran the bases.
“We don’t get to the bag, and then we argue with the umpire while the second run scores,” Butler said. “That’s two runs right there that, really, if we’re playing good, sound baseball, fundamental baseball, they shouldn’t have scored.”
Three Shocker relievers combined to hold KU scoreless on three singles the rest of the way.
WSU scored twice in the fourth on an RBI double by Dayne Parker and Green’s sacrifice fly. Zimmerman’s leadoff double in the fifth went to waste when Tanner Kirk bounced into a double play to end the inning with Zimmerman at third. WSU’s best threat came in the eighth when Dearman led off with a single and moved to third on Kirk’s single.
Pidhaichuk, however, took the fire out of that rally with his double play. Gillaspie’s shot took him toward the bag and he caught the ball and slapped the base with his glove. Kirk barely had time to react.
“Right when it was hit, I knew I had a shot at it,” Pidhaichuk said. “I knew I had lots of time to touch the base, so I just took my time.”
Worth noting — Dearman (12 games) and Gillaspie (13) extended their career-best hitting streaks in the first inning.… WSU catcher Tyler Baker did not make the trip. He is suffering from a concussion from Sunday’s game and will be out as long as he exhibits symptoms. Outfielder Daniel Kihle, out with a broken hamate bone in his left hand, took batting practice and was available to run or play defense. Butler said he may be able to play within two weeks. Outfielder Garrett Bayliff’s strained left hamstring is improving and he may play this weekend. Infielder Erik Harbutz is day to day with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
E — Beck. DP — KU 2. LOB — WSU 7, KU 10. 2B — Parker (4), Zimmerman (4), Hernandez (6). S — Haddox, Afenir. SF — Green. SB — Phillips (2), Zimmerman (1).
|Palmer L,0-1||1 2/3||6||4||4||2||1||2.46|
|Villines S,2||1 1/3||1||0||0||0||1||0.40|
WP — Tyler. Umpires — home, Bill McGuire; first, Andrew Fulton; second, Tom Svehia; third, Matt Ossenfort. T — 2:35. A — 1,569.