It might have taken longer than expected, but the K-State baseball season is officially off and running.
The Wildcats, who were picked fifth in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll, had to wait an extra day to start their 2011 campaign due to inclement weather, but that didn’t stop K-State from starting the year with a doubleheader sweep of Pacific on Saturday in Stockton, Calif.
K-STATE 5, PACIFIC 3
Solid pitching was the theme of the season opener, as K-State used a strong effort from its bullpen in a 5-3 win over the Tigers. The Wildcats got 4.1 innings of two-run ball from starting pitcher Kyle Hunter, who left with a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Pacific knotted things up a 3-3 when the team scored a run off reliever Tyler Sturgis in the sixth, but the tie was short-lived, as the K-State plated a pair of runs in the top of the seventh to ultimately go on top for good. All five runs came at the hands of Tiger starter Marcus Pointer, who went 6.1 innings in the losing effort. Wildcat reliever Evan Marshall threw 3.2 scoreless innings for his first win of the season.
The Wildcats were paced offensively by the top of their lineup, as shortstop Tanner Witt and center fielder Jared King – K-State’s first and second hitters – each recorded two hits and a run batted in.
K-STATE 7, PACIFIC 4
In game two of the doubleheader, K-State’s Matt Applegate notched his first career win as a starter by allowing just three runners to cross the plate in 6.2 innings of work. Applegate was particularly strong early in the contest, when he retired 18 of the first 22 Tiger hitters he faced.
K-State wasted no time getting going offensively in the second game, as they racked up four runs before the end of the top frame. Three of those runs came via a bases-clearing double by right fielder Kent Urban. It was Urban’s only hit of the game, but he also drew two walks in the contest.
It proved to be a short outing for Pacific starter John Prato-Matthews, who lasted just two innings in his first start of the season. Reliever Paul Moeller gave up another run in three innings, but six Pacific errors translated into three more runs for the Wildcats before the game was over.
K-STATE 7, PACIFIC 6
Things did not look good for K-State in the early stages of the series finale, but strong relief pitching and some late offensive production allowed the Wildcats to cap off the sweep with a 7-6 victory on Sunday.
The Wildcats fell into an early hole when starter Levi Schlick was roughed up for three runs in the first inning. Schlick settled down in the second, but allowed two more Tigers to cross the plate before being pulled after the third inning.
K-State finally got on the scoreboard with two runs in the fifth inning, but Pacific extended its lead back to four with another run in the sixth off reliever Kayvon Bahramzadeh. That set the stage for a seventh-inning offensive explosion that gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game.
With runners on second and third, Urban roped a single through the left side of the infield, allowing Wade Hinkle to score. Right fielder Chase Graskewicz followed that up with a sac fly, scoring Mike Kindel from third. K-State continued to torch Tiger pitching in the inning, finishing the frame with five runs on five hits and, more importantly, a one-run lead.
Bahramzadeh, who earned the win in the finale, combined with fellow relievers Jake Doller and James Allen to shut down Pacific in the final three innings. Allen allowed a runner to reach third base, but kept the Tigers off the scoreboard to earn his first save of the year.
The Wildcats will return to action on Thursday when they travel to South Carolina for the Caravelle Resort’s Baseball at the Beach tournament. The Wildcats will face four teams in four days, including Coastal Carolina, Western Kentucky, Pacific and California.