Gayman, Lions in control for win over Gorillas

Mar. 15—PITTSBURG, Kan. — The baseball diamond at Pittsburg State University is named Al Ortolani Field, but the pitcher's bump could have been called "Cole Gayman Mound" on Friday afternoon when the Gorillas and Missouri Southern State University squared off for their first rivalry game of the season.

MSSU's Gayman went 7 2/3 innings, struck out 10 batters and only allowed one run on four hits as the Lions earned a 6-1 win over the Gorillas.

"He had his breaking ball and his changeup. He's just very competitive, throws a bunch of strikes and just pitched really well," MSSU head coach Bryce Darnell said. "He's pitched well all year, and today was no exception."

PSU's head coach Bob Fornelli agreed with that competitive factor from Gayman.

"He threw three to four (different) pitches in the zone, and he's just a competitor. That's the biggest thing," Fornelli said. "He competes and keeps your guys off balance and did a great job."

The Lions (22-4, 10-1 MIAA) struck for five runs in the top of the fourth inning, and Gayman took that lead and kept the opposition at bay for most of the game.

"Two good teams and sometimes you have to try and have a big inning," Darnell said. "We took some singles, hit some line drives. Obviously, a pitcher's day today with the wind. ... With the way Cole was pitching, you thought five was going to be enough."

The only blemish came on a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the eighth by Jake Grauberger to make it 5-1. Gayman recorded one more out before surrendering a single to Joe Hamilton that ended his performance.

Kyle Moore came in to get the next four batters and seal the win.

Both teams entered play on a seven-game win streak. MSSU extended that to eight games, while PSU (17-6, 8-3 MIAA) will try to get back on track in Game 2 at 2 p.m. Saturday.

"Tomorrow and Sunday will be hard games. They're a good team. We respect them and don't take anything for granted," Darnell said of PSU.

"It's baseball. You get up every day, and it's a new day. The sun will come up tomorrow," Fornelli said. "We have to go play hard and not back down from any challenges. ... We've been beat before. We just have to get up the next day and go play."

Friday's game saw three quick innings with just 64 pitches thrown between the two starters, Gayman and PSU's Tanner Leslie. Both had three strikeouts through three innings of work, and neither pitcher had allowed a hit. Leslie walked one batter.

"I've been struggling with walks so far, so all day I was just trying to pound the zone and let my defense work today," Gayman said. "That's all I was trying to do."

Gayman caught plenty of batters looking on his breaking pitches on the outer half of the zone. It seemed the left-handed batters especially fell victim to those outside pitches. The junior righty didn't walk a single batter and caught six batters looking on a called third strike.

With one out in the top of the fourth, Will Doherty, the Lions' third batter in the lineup, lined a ball into the left-center field gap that got down and got to the wall for a double. Doherty got out in front of a pitch and pulled it into the alley for a left-handed batter.

"I just wanted to get something going. Get the fellas hot, get a base hit and get everybody started," Doherty said.

Wyatt Morgan followed Doherty with a line shot into center field to put runners on first and third with just one out. Ethan Clark hit a slow grounder right over the mound and the second base bag. A diving Chase Clemons stopped the ball but had no play as Doherty crossed the plate, Morgan was safe at second and Clark reached first base without any throw.

Leading 1-0, Treghan Parker moved both runners up with a soft ground ball to second base that forced PSU's Daegan Brady to come up on the ball and field it in front of the baseline. His only play was to first.

But the Lions started a two-out rally with three consecutive singles that each drove in a run to make it 4-0. Those hits came from Nate Mieszkowski, Drew Davis and Chayton Beck. Mieszkowski's was a grounder under Clemons' glove, Davis lined a ball over Clemons' head and Beck lined one into center field.

"It was great. That's what Missouri Southern is about. Just barrel after barrel after barrel," Doherty said about the consistent offense in the fourth inning.

The fifth and final run of the inning came on a grounder to first base by Drew Townsend. The ball was bobbled and allowed Townsend to reach safety giving the Lions another run as Davis crossed the plate.

"We thought three would win it today, and they happened to have a five-run inning and changed the game," Fornelli said. "We hung around but weren't offensive enough to do much."

The wind was blowing in all day, and anything hit high in the air didn't have much of a chance outside of the lone fly ball that Grauberger sent off the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth.

Gayman came out in the eighth inning at 102 pitches already.

"My arm was feeling good. I knew how many pitches I was at, but I wanted to try and go as long as I could today," he said. "I think adrenaline was just keeping me going today. It's fun playing these guys."

Gayman finished with 116 pitches in the game and improved his record on the year to 6-0 in seven starts. Friday's 7 2/3 innings is the deepest the former Webb City Cardinal has pitched in a game this year. This is the first time this season he didn't walk any batters in an outing. Ten strikeouts is a new season-high for him as well as the 116 pitches.