KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Everything proceeded in order for a mid-week game for Wichita State — an early advantage and a solid start by pitcher Kris Gardner handed a lead to the bullpen.
Then a checked swing threw all those good intentions in the dumpster, along with WSU’s five-game win streak. The Shockers couldn’t hold a lead and fell 5-4 to Missouri in 10 innings on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium in the National College Baseball Hall of Fame’s Classic at the K.
“The one big inning got us,” WSU coach Todd Butler said. “Disappointing loss.”
Missouri (18-21) snapped a four-game losing streak when Dillon Everett slapped a single to right with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th, scoring Logan Pearson with the winning run. The Tigers mobbed Everett near second base to celebrate while the Shockers quietly walked off the field.
“You could tell, body language, he wanted to be up there,” Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said. “We got our first walk-off win of the year, so it feels good.”
WSU (21-19) led 2-0 in the first inning, after all six batters took good swings against Tigers starter Alec Rash. It led 3-1 entering the bottom of the sixth inning with reliever Ray Ashford looking sharp after striking out two batters to sit Missouri down in order in the fifth.
A good start by Gardner and a rested bullpen gave Butler a good feeling entering the middle innings. His relievers, however, couldn’t find the strike zone and couldn’t hold the lead. Four relievers combined to walk five hitters, which made almost every inning stressful.
WSU’s meltdown started with a check-swing by Missouri’s Eric Anderson. The ball rolled slowly toward shortstop Tanner Kirk, who tried to get lead runner Jake Ring at second and failed on a close play. Anderson arrived safely and Ashford couldn’t stop the slide. He walked Logan Pearson to load the bases and Butler went to senior lefty Aaron LaBrie.
“We probably shouldn’t have gone to (second),” Butler said. “The infield is saying ‘One.’ We tried to get the force at second and then the inning kind of fell apart.”
LaBrie is normally as solid a pitcher as WSU has, but even he struggled to put the ball in the right places. His wild pitch scored Ring to cut WSU’s lead to 3-2. Dylan Kelly’s single to left tied it 3-all. LaBrie walked Ryan Howard to load the bases and Josh Lester put the Tigers up 4-3 with a sacrifice fly to center.
“That was uncharacteristic,” Butler said. “He didn’t command his fastball and location tonight.”
WSU stranded nine runners, but the Shockers looked like the more physical team for most of the game. Micah Green and Chase Simpson blasted balls to the warning track early on. Butler counted 24 quality at-bats in the game.
The Shockers tied it in the top of the eighth. Chase Simpson’s single moved Casey Gillaspie, who singled with one out, to third. Tyler Baker drove him in with a sacrifice fly to center.
Garrett Bayliff drove in WSU’s first run with a single in the first inning, scoring Daniel Kihle from second base. Bayliff scored on Simpson’s sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead. In the third, Bayliff drove in Tanner Dearman, on after getting plunked in the leg, with a single to right.
The Tigers cut WSU’s lead to 2-1 in the second when Dillon Everett doubled to left. Josh Lester scored and the Shockers cut down Everett at third with a relay from Kihle to Kirk to Simpson.
WSU threatened in the late innings, only to see the rallies die for lack of a clutch hit. Parker led off the ninth with a sharp single up the middle. Kirk’s bunt moved pinch runner Wes Phillips to second, where he stayed despite good contact by Kihle, who lined out to right, and Dearman, who bounced out to the first baseman.
In the 10th, pop flys by Tyler Baker and Micah Green stranded Gillaspie at second and Simpson at first.
Pearson started the bottom of the 10th with a single off reliever Drew Palmer. Kelly’s bunt moved him to second and WSU intentionally walked Howard to set up a double play. Palmer walked Lester to load the bases and bring up Everett. He jumped on Palmer’s first pitch and sent it to right field.