LAWRENCE Wichita State’s Aaron Rea and Albert Minnis posed for pictures after the game, but only after a lot of hugs and handshakes from the friends and family waiting for them near the dugout.
The two Lawrence High products and their fans had plenty to talk about after WSU’s 6-4 win in 16 innings at Hoglund Ballpark. It ranks as the longest game for the Shockers (20-15) since last season’s 17-inning affair at Oregon and ties a 2004 game against Kansas State for the program’s second-longest. WSU survived in large part thanks to Rea and Minnis and by the end Shocker fans dominated the small crowd, most of them there to cheer those two.
Rea drove in the go-ahead run with a double. Minnis capped a superb effort by the Shocker bullpen with four scoreless innings to earn the win.
“I love Lawrence and I’m glad I had a lot of people who could come out and see me,” Rea said. “This means a lot that I got a chance to do something like that in front of my family.”
The Shockers didn’t celebrate for long. They were eager to get back on the bus and return home. They won for the sixth time in eight games one day after a nine-hour bus ride from Normal, Ill., to Wichita. Playing for 4 hours and 12 minutes wasn’t anybody’s idea of fun.
“It was definitely a marathon,” Rea said. “Everybody is probably a little tired and hungry. Our guys did a good job of staying positive even though it was a long day and a long night.”
Rea, who came in at third base in the 10th inning, kept it from going longer.
Tyler Baker started the 16th by doubling over the head of the left fielder. On a 2-1 pitch, Rea doubled to right to put WSU up 5-4. KU reliever Jordan Jakubov left a slider up and Rea took advantage.
“I wanted to make sure I got Baker over, at the least,” he said. “After he led off the inning with a really good at-bat to get a double out of it, I could feel the energy in our dugout. I wanted to help continue that. We were all ready to eat a little food and get out of here.”
Rea moved to third on Kevin Hall’s fly ball to center. With two outs, Don Lambert hit a groundball that second baseman Ka’iana Eldredge couldn’t handle. Lambert beat the throw after Eldredge recovered the ball and Rea scored for a 6-4 lead.
Both bullpens performed tremendously, especially considering both teams are one day removed from three-day weekend series on the road. KU’s Tanner Poppe held WSU to one run and two hits over five innings. WSU’s bullpen held KU (12-20) to three hits and no earned runs over 12 innings. Minnnis struck out out three and worked around two walks in a bounceback effort after Illinois State knocked him around in Saturday’s 6-5 loss.
“I felt good with pretty much everything,” he said. “That’s the first time this year I can honestly say I can throw all my pitches for strikes at any time.”
Both teams will look back at missed opportunities.
WSU took a 2-0 lead on Dayne Parker’s first home run of his career, a shot to left field. WSU went up 3-2 in the sixth on Lambert’s single, driving in Taylor Doggett from second base.
Kansas tied the game and took the lead without needing a hit.
In the sixth, WSU reliever Foster Vielock walked Jordan Dreiling with one out. Dakota Smith bunted and Vielock’s throw sailed over first baseman Johnny Coy’s head, moving Dreiling to third. He scored on Eldredge’s sacrifice fly to left to tie it 3-all.
In the eighth, Shocker reliever Aaron LaBrie walked Connor McKay and hit Dreiling, who was trying to bunt. McKay moved to third on a bunt and scored on a passed ball for a 4-3 lead.
That should have been enough for the Jayhawks.
Hall started the ninth with a walk and stole second. Afer Lambert struck out, Hall moved to third on Coy’s flyball to right. Casey Gillaspie followed by smacking a ball to center that Smith appeared to have a bead on. But after taking a few steps, he lost the ball in the lights and it sailed over his head. Hall scored to tie the game 4-all. WSU stranded Gillaspie at second when Erik Harbutz flew out.
The Shockers will regret several errors on the bases that cost them chances to score. KU starter Robert Kahana picked off Gillaspie with one out in the second inning and Hall in the third. In the fourth, Lambert got caught straying off second base with one out and was tagged at second after a rundown. In the 10th, Micah Green didn’t let a groundball get through the infield before heading to third and shortstop Kevin Kuntz, from his knees, threw him out for the second out of the inning. Green pinch-ran for Parker, who reached when Kuntz dropped a pop fly behind second base.
Despite all that, WSU won in Lawrence for the first time since 2008. The game was the second-longest in KU history, topped by an 18-inning loss to Oklahoma State in 1967.
“We hung in there, and we battled and that’s a good sign,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “For the last couple weeks, we’ve seen that.”
E- Vielock (3) , Harbutz 2 (4), Kuntz (6), Eldredge (4). DP - WSU 2, KU 1. LOB - WSU 3, KU 16.
2B - Gillaspie (6), Baker (6), Rea (2); Tharp (1), Eldredge (1), HR - Parker (1). HBP - Kuntz, Manship, Dreiling. SH - Hall (9), Baker (2), Smith (2). SF- Eldredge (2). SB - Doggett (12), Hall (14), Lambert (11), Smith (1). CS - Hall (6), Lambert 2 (4), Knight (2), Kuntz (2), Moroney (1).
WP - Gardner (3). HBP - by Vielock (Manship); by LaBrie (Dreiling); by Elam (Kuntz). PB - Baker (2).
Umpires - Home, Bill Maguire; First, Matt Ossenfort; Thir, Randy Wetzel. T - 4:12. A - 1,332.