Baseball splits first season series on road against UTRGV

Then-freshman Dylan Phillips readies to swing at game against TCU on April 18, 2019. The Wildcats won 7-4 at home. (Dalton Wainscott I Collegian Media Group)

In the first series of the 2020 season, the Kansas State baseball team split a four-game set with University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros in Edinburg, Texas, winning the last two games to start this year at 2-2.

On Friday, the K-State lost the season opener 5-0.

Starting for the Vaqueros, Kevin Stevens threw five shutout innings followed in relief by John Henry Gonzalez, who pitched the last four innings. The only hit allowed by the pitching staff was a one out single by senior outfielder Caleb Littlejim in the ninth inning.

Redshirt sophomore right-hander Carson Seymour went 4.1 innings for the Wildcats, allowing four runs on six hits and three walks. Seymour struck out four Vaqueros in his start. Sophomore left-hander Eric Torres finished out the fifth inning, collecting the last two outs. Junior right-hander Jaxon Passino handled the last three innings allowing only one run on three hits and one walk.

Saturday the Wildcats had more offense, but it wasn’t enough — they were beaten 5-3.

K-State went ahead 2-0 in the first inning after a two-run homer by Littlejim driving in senior infielder Cameron Thompson. The third run of the day for the Wildcats came by way of an error by the UTRGV defense where sophomore infielder Daniel Carinci was able to reach base and drive in junior infielder Terrence Spurlin.

Redshirt freshman right-hander Connor McCullough went six innings and allowed one run on four hits. McCullough retired six batters. Torres faced four batters but failed to record an out. Senior right-hander Brett Lockwood closed out the game with two scoreless innings, having given up just three hits.

In the third game of the series, sophomore left-hander Jordan Wicks threw a shutout for K-State as the Wildcats drew six walks and drove in four runs in their first win of the season.

Wicks, the reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year, started Sunday’s matinee against UTRGV and pitched seven strong innings, striking out seven and allowing four batters to reach base. Sophomore left-hander Dylan Phillips retired two batters in the eighth inning while facing five batters. Redshirt junior righthander Tyler Eckberg came out of the bullpen with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth. Eckberg recorded 1.1 innings out of the throwing 24 pitches to seal the win with the four out save for the Wildcats.

In the fourth inning, Thompson walked after a 3-0 count, and stole second as Spurlin lined out to right field. Phillips homered to right and drove in Thompson.

In the fifth, sophomore outfielder Blake Burrows singled to center, stole second, advanced to third on a sac bunt and scored on a triple by junior outfielder Zach Kokoska to right center. Thompson then singled to right center and drove in Kokoska, who was already on third.

The final game of the opening series was a big day on offense for the Wildcats as they drove in nine runs and allowed only two to come across for UTRGV.

Senior right-hander Kasey Ford was dominant in his 5.1 innings to start the final game of the series for K-State on Monday night. At seven strikeouts, he provided the most since striking out 10 batters in 2018. Ford allowed one earned run in his outing but didn’t allow a base hit until the fourth inning.

The K-State offense jumped ahead quickly to a 5-0 lead after the first three innings. The Wildcats recorded nine runs on 10 hits, with Phillips leading the way with a three-hit and three RBI night. Against UTRGV starter Landon Starts, who only lasted through the first inning before being pulled for a reliever, K-State scored three times on four hits and a walk.

The last four runs scored by K-State came in the fifth and sixth innings against UTRGV’s bullpen. A single by Phillips drove in Kokoska in the fifth. After a single by Carinci, senior catcher Chris Ceballos advanced to third and tried to score but was thrown out at home with a throw from the infield.

The Vaqueros scored in the sixth and ninth innings with one run charged to Ford and junior right-hander Zak Herbers out of the bullpen.

K-State will look to extend their two game win streak as they travel to Corpus Christi, Texas to play against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Missouri and Utah Thursday through Sunday. The games can be heard on KMAN radio.

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