The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Cougs comeback to haunt Big 12’s Kansas in Round Rock Tournament, win 5-4

Joey Kramer’s eighth inning go-ahead blast completes Cougar comeback, Wickersham fires 3.0 scorless from pen
WSU infielder Kyle Russell sprints toward home plate during an NCAA collegiate baseball game against Utah, April 1, at Bailey-Brayton Field.

Joey Kramer did not think it was gone when he pulled a ball out to left field in the bottom of the eighth.

“Off the bat, no, I didn’t think it was gone,” Kramer said.

Much to his and the Cougars’ delight, the transfer senior first baseman out of California State University Northridge hit a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth.

WSU (5-1) beat Kansas (3-3) 5-4, Saturday in the Cougars’ second game of Round Rock Classic Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas.

Following a gritty 6-4 win over No. 24 Kentucky, Friday in which starter Grant Taylor and the Cougar pen allowed a collective two hits, the Cougs turned their attention to a KU Jayhawks squad that beat Texas State 7-4 Friday.

The announcers got a particular kick out of a historic anomaly in the first inning. WSU junior outfielder Alan Shibley hit a home run deep out to right field, homoring against his dad, Steve Shibley’s college team. Steve was in the park to see his son do damage against his alma mater, wearing Cougar crimson of course.

Shibley’s home run gave the Cougs an early 1-0 lead and locked him in as one of three Cougars to have reached base in each of the Cougs’ first six games (joining Max Hartman and Cole Cramer) and one of two Cougs to have hit safely in each (joining Hartman).

The Cougs scattered six hits through six innings, but only came up with one run thanks to Shibley’s solo blast. 

“I think when you get frustrated and you hold onto those at-bats, it just builds on you and you can’t really focus,” Kramer said.

KU freshman Dominic Voegele puzzled the Cougs all day. He threw 6.0 innings, allowed one run struck out three and walked one.

“I thought their guy threw really well, we were pretty frustrated offensively,” first-year head coach Nathan Choate said.

Choate’s team is off to a promising start to the year, particularly the pitchers.

Choate prides himself as a pitching-minded coach and his hurlers are keeping the Cougs in tough early competition.

Senior Connor Wilford was not quite as efficient as he was in his 6.0 scoreless inning season debut Feb. 17 vs. Utah Tech. He matched his career-high of 6.0 innings, proving his increased durability as a starter against a power five lineup. 

Wilford pitched 6.0 innings, allowed four earned runs on nine hits and struck out three while walking one.

Much to Wilford’s credit, he did not allow the game to get out of hand. He allowed a runner aboard and a home run to put the Cougs back 2-0 in the top of the second, but kept the ball in the yard over the next five batters, forcing a groundout, a single, a looking strikeout another single and finally a groundout to end the inning with no further damage.

In the top of the sixth, he allowed a two-out two-RBI double. KU led 4-1 after five and a half innings.

Choate turned to junior right-handed pitcher Kaden Wickersham to spin 3.0 quality innings out of the pen.

Wickersham is a native of Oklahoma City and a transfer from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.

Wickersham tossed 3.0 scoreless innings versus the Jayhawks, allowing just one hit, walking no one and striking out two. His heroics kept the game within striking distance for the Cougar offense.

Feeding off of KU’s sophomore relief pitcher Gavin Brasosky, Puyallup High School’s Will Creswell singled down the left field line on an 0-2 pitch. Cole Cramer doubled down the left-field line to advance Creswell to third.

Following Nate Swarts’ pop-up, Jacob Morrow pinch-hit hit for Crew Parke and did not allow the coaches to regret their decision. Morrow singled down the third baseline to score Creswell and make it a two-run game.

This seventh-inning production came from two guys who were recruited by and played for former head coach Brian Green but chose to return to the program.

Oregon State transfer Ely Kennel pitch ran for Morrow but was caught stealing to end the inning.

Wickersham worked a 1-2-3 top of the eighth setting up the Cougar comeback.

The Cougs continued to feed off of Brasosky as Kyle Russell and Casen Taggart singled aboard. KU brought in senior reliever Grant Adler to put out the fire.

All Alder did was pour hot coals onto the inferno as Kramer’s go-ahead shot engulfed KU’s lead, sending Russell and Taggart home. WSU 5 KU 4.

Wickersham worked another efficient inning, forcing a groundout, flyout and striking out KU’s final hope looking. Wazzu won 5-4.

WSU lost to Texas State Sunday but won the Round Rock Classic, leaving Round Rock, Texas with a ranked win over No. 24 Kentucky and a solid comeback win over the Big 12’s KU

“I think it shows them that if we play good baseball, we can play anybody in the country,” Choate said.

Choate said several guys who did not play a lot or at full health last year such as Russell return to the program and start the year strong. He also pointed to the fact that the Cougs were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 Conference as providing a chip on their shoulder.

 “These guys are playing hard together, they’re playing for each other, they’re playing loose,” Choate said. “We’re just playing really good baseball.”

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About the Contributors
SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor
Sam is a senior multimedia journalism major from Lacey, Washington and the sports editor for spring 2024. He was the sports editor for the 2022-23 school year and managing editor for the summer and fall 2023. He plays the trumpet in the Cougar Marching Band, loves sports and has worked at the Evergreen since fall 2021.
COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer
Cole Quinn is a photographer and columnist for the Daily Evergreen. Cole primarily shoots sports for the Daily Evergreen and writes album reviews in his spare time. Cole is a junior broadcast production major and sports communication minor from Snoqualmie, Washington. Cole started working for the Evergreen in the fall of 2020 as a photographer. Cole was the Photo Editor during his sophomore year and Deputy Photo Editor for the fall 2022 semester.