Missouri wins College HOF Classic in Kansas City
Everett delivers walk-off single in 10th inning at Kauffman Stadium
KANSAS CITY -- For one night in late April, before they rush back into the rigors of conference play, college baseball players from Wichita State and Missouri were able to put on the uniforms and walk out to their own field of dreams.
Those members of the Shockers and Tigers who don't go on to reach the Major Leagues will always be able to reflect on what happened Tuesday night when they had the opportunity to play at Kauffman Stadium in "The National College Baseball Hall of Fame Classic at The K." The Tigers wound up with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings, but the biggest winner was the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, which benefits from proceeds associated with the game.
The Kansas City Royals, under the direction of David and Dan Glass, hosted the game, and Farmland Foods was the presenting sponsor.
"The origin of this game had to do with people who are supportive and recognize the importance of the college game within the whole context of baseball," said Hall of Fame executive vice president of development Jana Howser, daughter of the late Royals Hall of Fame manager Dick Howser.
Dr. Mike Gustafson, the president and CEO of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, expressed his appreciation for Tuesday's inaugural event.
"Visibility is a big part of this," Gustafson said. "With the Royals stepping up and hosting a college game in this venue, it provides a platform for these two programs, but also may attract a different group of fans."
Gustafson would love to see the Kauffman event continue in 2015 and beyond.
"We want to shift it around to different programs because they can recruit to that," Gustafson said.
A crowd of 1,613 saw Missouri pull out Tuesday's game on Dillon Everett's RBI walk-off single. With the bases loaded and one out in the 10th, Everett laced his game-winning hit to right field off Drew Palmer. It was sweet redemption for Everett, who had bounced into a double play when faced with the same bases-loaded situation in the eighth in a tie game.
"I couldn't get it done there in my fourth at-bat, and luckily I got another opportunity," Everett said. "It was a great finish. It's definitely special to play here at Kauffman Stadium. We wanted to wear the Missouri colors proudly. There were bigger lights, but at the same time, it's the same game. You have to stay within yourself and get it done."
Everett didn't try to do too much in his final at-bat. The right-handed hitter stayed inside the ball and went the other way, pumping his fist as the ball landed well inside the foul line.
"I knew he was going to come right at me," Everett said. "Bases loaded, there's nowhere to go. My mindset was to be aggressive, and he gave me something to hit with the first pitch."
The Shockers (21-19) were in control early against Missouri starter Alec Rash. Wichita State burst to a 3-1 lead after three innings and maintained the two-run lead until Missouri struck for three runs in the sixth.
Wichita starter Kris Gardner allowed just two hits and one run through four innings before the WSU bullpen ran into trouble in the sixth. Wichita said the plan was to limit Gardner to 65 pitches.
"Disappointing loss, but they are a good club," WSU coach Todd Butler said. "Other than that one inning, it was a well-played game. But the sixth inning really hurt us."
Shockers cleanup hitter Casey Gillaspie went 4-for-5, but WSU could only manage one run through the final seven innings.
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson was happy to see Everett get another chance to atone for his inning-ending double-play grounder in the eighth.
"You could just tell by his body language that he really wanted to be up there for that last at-bat," Jamieson said.
Missouri (18-21) will try to use the walk-off win as a springboard for a late-season push.
"The stadium is great, and we really appreciate the Royals for giving us the opportunity to play here," Jamieson said. "For us to be able to play before the Missouri alumni in Kansas City, that's a big deal, too."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.