Wildcats come up short in Big 12 opener

Senior Tyler Wolfe locks eyes with sophomore Garrett Benge at Oklahoma State University while running toward third base after the Wildcats loaded the bases in the third inning during their game in Tointon Family Stadium on March 24, 2016. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

K-State’s pitching staff and defense did what anyone could have asked of them. On Thursday night at Tointon Family Stadium, the Wildcats hosted the explosive offense of No. 19 Oklahoma State, who entered the game averaging 5.9 runs per outing.

The Wildcat defense did its job and held the Cowboys almost four runs under their average. Unfortunately, the offense did not return the favor.

Despite the late Wildcat rally on a chilly, Big 12 season opener, K-State fell to the Oklahoma State, moving the Cowboys’ record to 15-7.

In this league, you’ve got to get it done,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said. “Great job pitching by them. They did a great job. We just continued to chase pitches out of the zone and got ourselves out in that situation.”

Senior pitcher Levi MaVorhis was on his game for the Wildcats. He retired nine of the first 10 Cowboys that came to the plate. MaVorhis didn’t allow a hit until Oklahoma State senior infielder, Donnie Walton, singled past the second baseman, with one out, in the top of the fourth inning.

MaVorhis took the loss for K-State, falling to 3-1 on the season. He pitched six innings, giving up two runs and five hits, but struck out seven Cowboys on the night before being relieved in the top of the seventh inning.

“We didn’t win, so I didn’t do my job,” MaVorhis said. “It’s my job to give the team a chance to win. I made a few mistakes tonight and it cost us. When it comes right down to it, you want to throw up zeros. And I threw up not enough zeros today.”

On top of getting their first hit of the game in that fourth inning, the Cowboys also got the first run of the game when sophomore infielder Garrett Benge singled into right field and brought home Walton from second base, giving Oklahoma State a 1-0 lead after the top of the fourth inning.

“Two runs, that’s a good ballgame by our guys,” Hill said. “I thought Levi was sharp, made one mistake on Benge unfortunately, but daggum, two runs, we’re going to take our chances giving up two runs.”

K-State would get close to responding in the bottom of the inning when it got three runners to load the bases up with two outs on the board.

But junior outfielder Quintin Crandall grounded out to the shortstop and the Wildcats failed to answer the Cowboys’ score.

Oklahoma State wasted no time creating more separation in the fifth inning when senior outfielder Corey Hassel came to the plate with two outs and men on first and second.

Hassel singled up the middle and brought home sophomore outfielder Jon Littell for the score and increased the lead to 2-0 in favor of the foes from Stillwater.

Oklahoma State’s pitching was just a bit better than K-State’s. Sophomore Thomas Hatch got the win for the Cowboys, improving to 2-0. Hatch started the game for the Cowboys and was relieved after six innings, giving up just three hits and no runs.

When it seemed like K-State was down for the count, hope came to the Wildcat dugout in the form of the freshman catcher from Shawnee, Oklahoma, Josh Rolette.

Rolette hit a full-count pitch over the right field wall and cut the Cowboys’ lead to just 2-1 going into the ninth inning.

“(The feeling) was good,” Hill said. “It’s uplifting because you’re trying to find a way to score a run. Just scoring a run was uplifting. But the blown opportunities early in the game are just things that have to be executed.”

Thursday’s loss marked the fifth straight loss for K-State. A losing streak that the Wildcats, 11-11, will hope to stop when they square off against the Cowboys again tonight.

“It’s baseball,” MaVorhis said. “This happens. There’s ebbs and flows to the season — some ebbs last a little longer, some flows last a little longer. Just staying with the approach and having the mindset, it will happen.”

K-State will look to stop the current ebb when they take on Oklahoma State again tonight at 6:35 p.m.