Baseball sweeps Western Michigan in home-opening weekend

Sophomore pitcher Jordan Wicks pitches the ball during the team's season opener against Western Michigan on Feb. 26 at Tointon Family Stadium. (Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State baseball (5-2) took its opening three-game series in sweeping fashion over Western Michigan over the weekend. All three starters performed productively for the Wildcats and were able to warm up at the plate.

Head coach Pete Hughes thought it was a good weekend to build off of heading into future games.

“Some areas we have to clean up to get Big 12 ready, but there’s nothing like learning lessons through winning,” Hughes said.

The weekend got off to a dramatic start as the Wildcats rallied with a five-run eighth inning to win 9-8 in the home opener. Despite allowing five runs, one earned, in six innings, sophomore pitcher Jordan Wicks struck out ten for the second start in a row.

Freshman second baseman Nick Goodwin went 2-5 at the plate on Friday with a three-run home run in the eighth — his first of his K-State career.

“The message this week was that we need to own the seventh, eighth and ninth and finish off games,” Hughes said. “An indicator of a good team is a team that can play when they’re down and a team that can play when they’re up. We were down today and fought back.”

The K-State bullpen was able to limit the Broncos offensively in the later innings, allowing only three runs off four hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Credited with the win was junior pitcher Jaxon Passino, and junior pitcher Tyler Eckberg earned the save.

The K-State offense took over in game two with an 11-3 win led by a three-RBI day by senior third baseman Cameron Thompson. Redshirt sophomore Carson Seymour threw five innings, allowing one run on three hits with three strikeouts.

Nick Goodwin hit an RBI double to get the scoring started in the first inning, and sophomore outfielder Dylan Phillips hit a single, which scored Goodwin. In the third inning, Goodwin hit a solo home run, his second of the series. K-State scored two more in the fifth.

The Broncos got on the board in the sixth with an RBI single by senior third baseman Logan Hudson. Western Michigan would tack on two more in the eighth.

K-State sealed the game with a four-run seventh inning highlighted by a three-run home run by Thompson. K-State added two more in the eighth to wrap up an 11 run, 14 hit afternoon.

On Sunday, the Wildcats wrapped up the sweep with a 2-1 win over the Broncos — led by sophomore Daniel Carinci, who broke out of an early-season slump. Carinci entered the game hitting .125 and went 2-2 at the plate with a walk. He also added two stolen bases.

“It was great,” Carcini said. “The team has been rolling a little bit, and I wanted to do my part today. It was good to get on base a couple of times and help the team get the offense going.”

Sophomore pitcher Connor McCullough earned his first win of the season, going for 5.1 innings, allowing one run on one hit with six strikeouts. He issued just one walk.

K-State scored two in the fourth, which started after a leadoff walk by junior outfielder Zach Kokoska. Sophomore outfielder Dylan Phillips batted in the runner on a sacrifice fly after Kokoska swiped second and was moved to third a batter later. Carinci doubled and advanced to third on an error and was knocked in on an RBI single by Terrence Spurlin.

Junior designated hitter Connor Chapping laced a leadoff double to start the sixth inning and stole third. Hudson batted in the run on a single. The K-State bullpen shut the Western Michigan offensive threat by throwing 4.2 scoreless innings. Caleb Littlejim recorded his first save of the season in two innings of work.

K-State will continue its eight-game homestand next weekend with a three-game series against Eastern Illinois. The first pitch on Friday is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium.