Late WSU Rally Stuns Jayhawks, 7-6

Box Score Final Box (.pdf)

WICHITA, Kan. – Wichita State rallied back three different times including scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Kansas baseball team fell to the Shockers, 7-6, Tuesday night at Eck Stadium.
The Jayhawks (20-32-1) led three different times throughout the course of the game, but each time, the Shockers (20-33) answered to tie or take the lead. Kansas scored one in the first and Wichita State scored three in the bottom. KU hung up a four-spot in the sixth to take a 5-4 advantage and WSU tied it in the home half, 5-5. The Jayhawks took another lead in the eighth, 6-5, and once again Wichita State found a way and scored two in its at bat to take its second and final lead, 7-6.
“It was a tough loss,” head coach Ritch Price said. “Both teams had opportunities to score and it seemed like the pitchers got into and out of trouble all night. When we put the four spot up in the sixth to take the lead, I really liked our chances, especially after scoring again in the eighth – we had a one-run lead.”
However that one-run lead late in the game didn’t last as Wichita State took advantage of a situation where Kansas had to call to its bullpen when reliever Sam Gilbert had to exit after just one batter in the eighth inning. Gilbert recorded the out, but left due to a back injury that he had been battling for the better part of the season.
With Gilbert out, the Jayhawks needed to bridge the gap to closer Stephen Villines and that fell to righty Ryan Ralston (1-1). The sophomore gave up a double and then an RBI-single to erase the one-run Kansas lead. A walk, single and fielding error by senior right fielder Joe Moroney, and Wichita State took its final lead of the game, 7-6.
“I feel so bad for Gilbert,” Price said. “This is about the seventh-straight week he goes out there and can only pitch one inning or has to leave battling that back injury. Ralston came in and battled – they had some really good at bats against him.”
Pitching was key and Kansas found itself on the wrong side of that early in the game when starter Jackson Goddard gave up three runs off four hits in the first inning. That forced Price to make a move and bring in junior lefty Jeremy Kravetz for three and 1/3 innings, who gave up just one run off four hits.
The Jayhawks used that momentum and rallied to score four runs in the top of the sixth after senior second baseman Colby Wright blasted a two-out two-run double to spark the rally. Junior centerfielder Joven Afenir followed and forced a WSU error before Marcus Wheeler hit a pinch-hit RBI-infield single to give KU the 5-4 lead.
That lead didn’t last long as KU reliever Blake Goldsberry gave up a home run to the first batter he faced in the bottom of the sixth and tipped Price’s hand to call upon freshman righty Zack Leban – making his first appearance since March 30.
Leban shut the door for the next inning and 2/3 retiring all five batters he faced. KU scored a run in the top of the eighth thanks to a clutch RBI-single by Afenir to take the 6-5 lead. Leban then handed the ball off to Gilbert to close it out who was forced to relinquish his spot to Ralston with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Wichita State hit up Ralston for two runs and Kansas couldn’t recover, 7-6.
“It was great to see Leban come back out and have a chance to pitch a couple innings for us,” Price said. “He commanded the strike zone and that is pretty remarkable when you haven’t pitched since March. He looked sharp.”
That loss to the Shockers snapped a seven-game winning streak Kansas had in the series dating back to the 2013 season and it also gave WSU head coach Todd Butler his first win in the series since becoming the Wichita State skipper.
The Jayhawks are back in action May 19-21, as Kansas travels south to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for its final conference series of the season at Oklahoma State. All three games can be seen on TV with Thursday’s game on Cox, Friday’s on Fox College Sports and Saturday’s on Fox Sports Oklahoma. In addition, fans can listen to all the action live on the Jayhawk Radio Network via with Thursday’s contest on KLWN 1320 AM.  The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.