LAWRENCE — Wichita State’s Tyler Coughenour thought he changed the game with one good swing. Kansas right fielder Casey Lytle thought he would catch the ball without much drama.Neither one was right. Lytle, however, doesn’t mind being wrong after making a diving catch with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. The play summed up WSU’s frustrations in a 7-4 loss at Hoglund Ballpark.
“Amazingly, we’re just a little short,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “Every night, it’s something.”
The Shockers (28-20) stranded 10 runners and struck out a mere three times. They made good contact with plenty of balls, but KU’s fielders got in the way of most.
Coughenour can attest to that after his at-bat in the seventh. He hammered the first pitch to right with one out and the Shockers trailing 7-3. It seemed destined to score at least two runs, perhaps three.
“I saw his numbers heading backwards, and immediately I was thinking triple,” Coughenour said.
Lytle, playing shallow, read it differently.
“I first thought I was going to catch it standing up,” he said. “Then it kept going and going.”
Lytle ran and dove, reaching back across his body to grab it.
“Bases loaded, you’ve got to give an A-plus effort,” he said.
Coughenour could appreciate the effort, even if he didn’t like the result.
“You’ve got to tip your cap to plays like that,” he said.
The runners, wisely, didn’t get too giddy and Chris O’Brien tagged and scored easily to cut the Kansas lead to 7-4. Preston Springer moved from second to third.
“The right fielder made a great play,” Stephenson said. “But we tagged up at third like we were supposed to and came off the bag at second like we were supposed to.”
That ended the drama.
Don Lambert bounced into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. The Shockers didn’t threaten in the eighth or ninth against reliever Frank Duncan.
WSU starter Zach Beringer had the Jayhawks (21-24) under control until the fourth. Then he walked the leadoff batter. With one out, James Stanfield slapped a hit-and-run single — the first hit off Beringer — to left to move Jimmy Waters to third. Beringer froze Lytle with a nasty breaking pitch for the second out.
He couldn’t do the same to Jake Marasco of Maize, who doubled in two runs for a 2-0 lead.
Shocker reliever Aaron LaBrie, coming off a solid effort on Saturday at Southern Illinois, struggled in the fifth inning after Beringer reached his pitch count. He gave up two singles to start the fifth inning and hit Jordan Dreiling. Waters singled to drive in two runs for a 4-0 lead. A groundout and a sacrifice fly made it 6-0.
“He just wasn’t sharp,” Stephenson said. “If I had to do it over again, well, never mind. I don’t have that luxury.”
The Jayhawks totaled 10 hits, bunching them to maximum effect. They also executed — the hit and run and a bunt by cleanup hitter Zac Elgie that loaded the bases in the fifth.
“We managed to get hits at crucial times, and it worked out,” Marasco said.