Tyler Grimes' first inning throwing error didn't lose Wednesday night’s baseball game against Kansas. Plenty of Wichita State mistakes and bad breaks added up to the Jayhawks' 11-2 win at Eck Stadium.
But Grimes' miscue set a bad tone for the Shockers and put in motion a chain of events from which WSU couldn't undo itself.
Grimes made another error two batters later, allowing KU to score the second of its two first-inning unearned runs. Starting pitcher Albert Minnis, his confidence shaken, allowed four runs in the second and couldn't make it past his 23rd pitch.
By the end of the second inning, the Shockers trailed 6-0. They didn't have many chances to make it interesting, but their offense wasted the ones it got. They endured their most lopsided home loss to the Jayhawks in front of 5,096 fans.
"I'll just say this — baseball is a humbling game," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "We've been humbled many times in the past. This was the most humbling performance this year, I believe."
Aside from relief pitchers Grant Muncrief and Chance Sossamon combining to strike out seven in one trip through KU's order, it never really got better for WSU. And after it got better, at least for that nine-hitter stretch, it got worse.
The Shockers finally scored on an RBI groundout by Walker Davidson after hits by Kevin Hall and Micah Green, preventing what would have been the first shutout by opposing pitching. But when WSU had chances to score runs that made a difference, it failed.
With WSU trailing 6-0 in the fifth, Hall led off with a double to right field, moving to third on an error on the play by Casey Lytle. The Shockers' following three hitters stranded him there with a strikeout, fly out to shallow left and Grimes' hard out to center.
The Shockers also got their leadoff man on in the sixth courtesy of a Tyler Coughenour single, but the middle of their order — Chris O'Brien, Preston Springer and Johnny Coy — were unable to move him along.
"Just didn't execute," Coughenour said. "We've got to work on that. We'll probably, actually for sure we'll be working on execution (today). We've got to move runners when they're in scoring position and get them in when we have a chance."
WSU never got consistently strong pitching, but Minnis had bounceback potential after a hard-luck first inning in which he was betrayed by his defense and softly-hit balls that found grass.
Minnis was undone in the second with help from another soft single. It preceded an RBI double, and Minnis was relieved after a walk to Brandon Macias. Muncrief was unable to keep the two runners he inherited on base, and the Shockers found themselves behind 6-0 after 34 pitches.
"Me, personally, you just have to do a little better at stopping the bleeding," Minnis said. "You can't let a couple of infield hits and a couple of plays behind you dictate what happens to you in the game. I think it's a good experience to learn from."
Minnis wasn't the only pitcher betrayed by poor defense. The Shockers committed four errors, all coming in innings in which KU scored. Green, playing left field, lost a ball in the lights and misplayed a hit down the line. The Shockers had a passed ball, a hit batter and two wild pitches.
With so many areas of the game failing them, the Shockers’ starting pitchers aren't afforded the luxury of subpar outings.
"We have to pitch well, and when we don't do that (we) fall behind," Stephenson said. "(We) make errors on routine plays again. I want to emphasize, these are routine plays out there. I'm very disappointed for our fans, because we had a nice crowd tonight and we had every reason to be upbeat and positive and focused on what we needed to do. We had a poor performance the first two innings, and the rest was as you saw."