COURTESY: KU Sports Information
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas outfielder Dakota Smith drove a ball through the left side of the infield with the bases loaded in the bottom of 11th inning to propel the Jayhawks to a walk-off win over Wichita State, 1-0, at Hoglund Ballpark Tuesday night.
Smith made his only hit of the night one of the game’s most important by pushing across Michael Suitor and helped Kansas (26-18) snap a three-game skid of one-run defeats, including a 12-inning loss in the series finale with West Virginia Saturday.
Sophomore starter Robert Kahana pitched a career-high eight scoreless innings, giving up only five hits while throwing a season-high five strikeouts before being replaced by Jordan Piche’ in the ninth. Kahana was so effective, the most memorable offensive moment for the Shockers (26-21) may have been when Tyler Baker tracked down a rogue squirrel in his helmet near second base in the top of the fourth, drawing cheers from the crowd as he raced the critter off the field down the left field line.
Kahana entered the game with 21 walks in 28.2 innings, but didn’t allow a single free pass Tuesday night. None of KU’s three pitchers walked a single WSU batter during the game, as Piche’ and Drew Morovick combined for three perfect innings of relief. Morovick (4-2) was credited with the win as the last pitcher of record for KU and helped Kansas recorded its seventh shutout of the season, two shy of the program’s single-season record.
Second baseman Justin Protacio had the Jayhawks’ best hitting performance of the evening, going 2-for-4 with a walk. Wichita State designated hitter Johnny Coy went 2-for-3 and was the only Shocker with multiple hits.
Kansas first baseman Alex DeLeon appeared to give the Jayhawks a commanding lead in the fifth inning when he drove a pitch along the left foul line and out of the ballpark for a grand slam, but after a conference it was ruled foul. The umpires originally signaled foul, then in the confusion it was called a grand slam and celebrated, but they corrected their ruling to a foul ball after a spirited discussion with both coaching staffs.
DeLeon ended up flying out on a center field shot one pitch later, turning what could have been a 4-0 lead into a continued stalemate.
Kansas left eight on base in the game, but wouldn’t be denied in the 11th when Suitor singled up the middle off Wichita State reliever Brandon Peterson (2-1) to start the inning. DeLeon was hit by a pitch on a 3-2 count and Jordan Dreiling found a way to squeeze in a bunt single set up the game-winning hit by Smith.
A crowd of 1,323 watched the Jayhawks open a five-game home stand, with a game against Baker at 5 p.m. Wednesday closing midweek action before KU resumes Big 12 Conference play with Baker at Hoglund Ballpark this weekend. Admission is free to the contest against Baker Wednesday.