Not long ago, the K-State baseball team was not doing the little things right to win games, according to K-State head coach Brad Hill. The Wildcats were 16-22 and had just lost three straight games after a loss to Baylor.
But something has changed recently in the play of the Wildcats, boosting them to a current 22-23 record, and a 9-5 win over the Wichita State Shockers, 16-28, on Tuesday night at Tointon Family Stadium.
“We’re just doing the little things better than we were doing earlier,” Hill said. “Earlier we were doing little things to get beat, and now we’re doing little things to win games. I think it all starts on the mound, we’ve pitched it a lot better. The bats are coming alive. All phases of our game have improved a little bit over the last few weeks.”
K-State’s win did not look promising from the start, however. The Shockers took advantage of Wildcat freshman Brogan Heinen, who started his first-ever game tonight, and got started scoring early in the game as they had the bases loaded in the top of the first inning.
Freshman infielder Alec Bohm was hit by a pitch, allowing freshman outfielder Dayton Dugas to score. The very next at-bat, sophomore catcher Gunnar Troutwine grounded into a double play, but the play allowed the Shockers to score another run and lead 2-0 after the top of the first.
Heinen went five innings, giving up four hits, three runs and striking out three before advancing to a 2-0 record on the year.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Hill said of Heinen’s outing. “He was very nervous in the first inning, this being his first college start. Didn’t really have command. Then we scored four and that really settled him down a little bit.”
The Wildcats were not defeated by the quick strike, and responded with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Junior first baseman Jake Scudder doubled, and senior catcher Tyler Moore singled, scoring one run each.
Then on a wild play due to errors from the Shockers, freshman outfielder Cade Bunnell drove in Moore and scored himself, giving K-State a 4-2 lead after one inning.
Moore was the star for the Wildcats on Tuesday. He went 2-4 at the plate, scoring two runs and driving in three.
“The whole team has been swinging the bat well,” Moore said. “Hitting is contagious and this whole month all the hitters have been doing well. I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well these last couple of weeks, and I just try to keep it going.”
Wichita State cut the deficit to just one run in the fifth inning, thanks to a one-run shot from sophomore infielder Trey Vickers.
K-State quickly dismissed the Shockers’ rally, though, and exploded for four more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. A double from Moore and a single from senior infielder Tyler Wolfe both drove in single runs.
After that, sacrifice flies from junior outfielder Quintin Crandall and freshman outfielder Brooks Zimmerman allowed the last runs of the inning to come home, providing a five-run lead after six innings.
The Wildcats continued to add on to their lead in the seventh when freshman catcher Josh Rolette scored on a fielder’s choice.
The Shockers scored single runs in the eighth and ninth innings, but it was not enough to avoid their third-straight loss.
The two teams will go at it again tomorrow in Wichita, making up a previously cancelled game, before K-State travels to Norman, Oklahoma, this weekend to take on the Oklahoma Sooners.
The upcoming games are ones that could be critical for the Wildcats as they look to make a charge toward the Big 12 Tournament and possibly the NCAA Tournament.
“This is monumental for us,” Moore said. “We’re going to try to get back to .500, that’s the first step. We can’t overlook Wichita State tomorrow. But this Big 12 series is going to be big for us. We need to go win two or three down there in Norman.”