After losing the first two games of their series against Texas, the Wildcats needed a win on Sunday afternoon to avoid a sweep.
The Longhorns, 14-18 and 5-4 in the Big 12, got themselves on the board in the second inning when sophomore outfielder Patrick Mathis hit a sacrifice fly to center field. The ball was deep enough that junior infielder Kacy Clemens at third base had enough time to run home and give his team an early 1-0 lead.
K-State, 14-19 and 1-8 in the Big 12, could have laid down and quit. Already having lost two games in the series, the Wildcats could have given up and prepared to turn their attention to the next series.
But that was not the case.
The Wildcats rallied back and scored three runs late to avoid the sweep and earn their first win in Big 12 play with a 3-2 win over Texas.
“We’re gritty,” said senior pitcher Lucas Benenati, who got the win and improved to 1-1 on the season. “We’re definitely a gritty bunch of guys. We’ve been through a lot in the fall. With all the hard work we’ve put in, why lay down? I’m just proud of all the guys on this team, and I’m just glad we got the win.”
After the early run from the Longhorns, the game remained scoreless from the bottom of the second inning through the top of the seventh inning.
With a 3-2 count, freshman outfielder Michael Smith doubled to right center and advanced junior outfielder Quintin Crandall to third base. With runners in scoring position and only one out, K-State was in a strong position to score.
Senior outfielder Clayton Dalrymple stepped to the plate and hit a deep fly ball to center field that was caught for an out. But the ball was deep enough to allow Crandall to score. The game was tied.
K-State took the lead in the eighth inning when freshman outfielder Cade Bunnell came in to pinch hit. The Stoughton, Wisconsin, native singled to second base and, thanks to some skillful base-running from senior catcher Tyler Moore, helped bring in a run for the lead.
“I keep throwing (Bunnell) in there, and he’s swung a pretty good bat the last couple of weeks in that situation, and he’s got like three or four hits in that situation,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said. “He did a nice job. Like what we talk about, don’t try to do too much, try to hit the ball back through the middle, and he did exactly what we talked about, and he executed it.”
The Wildcats added one more run to the board before exiting the inning with a 3-1 lead.
Texas was not done, however. On a 2-1 count, junior outfielder Zane Gurwitz took Benenati’s pitch over the right field fence for a home run, cutting the lead to 3-2.
The Wildcats’ defense proved strong, and K-State rebounded off of the home run to record outs on the next two batters and escape with its first Big 12 win of the year.
“It’s a great comeback win, great win overall, and it feels good to just finally put one in that win column. It’s a big relief,” Dalrymple said.
Texas runs away with game two
The second game appeared to be over and out of reach early, as Texas scored four runs to K-State’s zero in the first four innings. The Longhorns wwnt on to add another run in the sixth.
But the Wildcats did not quit and give up. A fielder’s choice in the bottom of the sixth allowed Dalrymple to score. The very next pitch, Moore hit a two-run home run to left field and cut the score to 5-3.
K-State was not in the game for long, as the Longhorns responded with a five-run seventh inning on their way to winning the game 12-5.
“We pushed them a little bit with the three-spot (in the sixth), and then we come right back and give them five,” Hill said to K-State Sports after Saturday’s game. “That just crushed us.”
Late rally not enough for the Wildcats
A win was never really out of reach for K-State in the opening game of the series on Friday night. The Longhorns jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and eventually led 4-1 after four innings.
Thanks to three errors on the field from Texas, the Wildcats were never too far out of the game to be considered dead until the seventh inning.
With a man on third base already, Clemens stepped to the plate for the Longhorns and took a 0-1 pitch to right field for a two-run home run, giving his team a 6-1 lead.
Junior first baseman Jake Scudder hit a two-run home run for the Wildcats in the eighth. But the deficit was too large and the rally came too late, and Texas took the first game 6-3.
“In those last three innings, you saw us come out of it, but we needed those kinds of swings earlier in the game,” Hill said to K-State Sports. “We have to be in that mode earlier.”