The score of Tuesday night’s game between Wichita State and Kansas State was stuck at 7-all for so long that late in the game, a fan in the stadium joked that the scoreboard was broken.
“I didn’t know if we were ever going to score,” said Gene Stephenson, the head coach of Wichita State.
But the Shockers eventually broke through, scoring two runs in the 15th inning to defeat the Wildcats 9-7 at Tointon Family Stadium.
Wichita State (25-19), which led 6-1 after three innings, scored just one run over the next 11 innings. But in the 15th, K-State reliever Jake Doller walked the first hitter he faced. Casey Gillaspie followed with a single to right, which was misplayed by right fielder Tanner Witt, allowing both runners to advance to second and third.
Doller then walked Erik Harbutz to load the bases, and then Don Lambert laced a 1-1 pitch down the right-field line to score two. Doller managed to get out of the inning without another run crossing the plate, but the damage done proved to be too much as K-State (19-22) went down 1-2-3 in the bottom-half of the inning.
“I’m proud, thought we really competed tonight, much better than we did on Sunday,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said. “The guys really invested a lot of passion and energy into trying to win, which was much better. We just couldn’t get the last base hit to win.
“We matched them pretty much till the end, we just couldn’t manufacture any offense.”
The Wildcats, who played their longest game since 2004 (20 innings against Texas), battled back from the early five-run deficit to take the lead. K-State scored four runs in the sixth inning, three of which came on a home run by catcher Dan Klein that gave K-State a 7-6 advantage.
But with two outs in the eighth inning, the Shockers’ Ryan Hege hit a solo home run to left to tie the game — a rare mistake K-State’s bullpen.
Matt Wivinis threw four scoreless innings in relief of starter Jared Moore. Johnny Fasola followed with another scoreless frame before Nate Williams surrendered the game-tying homer in the eigth. Matt Applegate pitched two hitless innings in relief of Williams, and Gerardo Esquivel followed Applegate with four innings of two-hit baseball.
“Our bullpen was outstanding,” Hill said.
As good as K-State’s bullpen was, the Shockers’ was even better. Cale Elam pitched 2 2/3 hitless innings before handing the ball to A.J. Ladwig in the 10th inning. Ladwig, who improved to 3-1 on the season, pitched five innings, allowing just one base runner on a walk.
“Those guys who threw at the back end were really good,” Hill said.
K-State got a one-out hit from Ross Kivett in the seventh inning. That proved to be the last hit for the Wildcats on the night. K-State had just five hits in the game, with no hitter getting more than one hit.
“That’s a disappointing thing,” Hill said. “We should be better than five hits. We just couldn’t quite finish it off. Showed a lot of fight, a lot of heart, just came up short again.”
And after nearly four hours of baseball, the Shockers were able to load up the bus and head back to Wichita feeling good about themselves.
“Holding them to five hits in 15 innings is phenomenal,” Stephenson said. “Great pitching performance up and down except for just a few precious innings. I thought our pitching staff really held up. A.J. really did a good job and of course Elam was awesome. We were thankful for that.”