Carinci, Kokoska combine for nine RBIs in 15-4 win over South Dakota State

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Junior Dylan Phillips leaps to catch the ball in hopes of getting a runner out during the second game against Eastern Illinois on March 6, 2021 at Tointon Family Stadium. (Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Mother Nature provided perfect conditions for hitting on Tuesday night with strong winds out to left field. The ball was carrying, and the Kansas State baseball team (7-4) capitalized on it.

In game one of a two-game series against South Dakota State, the Wildcats hit six total home runs in a 15-4 win. K-State had 13 hits, eight of which went for extra bases.

“I really like our offense,” head coach Pete Hughes said. “Especially when the wind is so conducive to hitting.

Hughes said he was also pleased with how his team came back from an early four-run deficit in the second inning.

“We got the bats going,” Hughes said. “You go down four runs in the second inning, and no one panicked and we just stayed to our gameplan. I thought it was a mature team win.”

Sophomore second baseman Daniel Carinci went 2-5 at the plate with two home runs. Junior right fielder Zack Kokoska went 3-5 at the plate with four RBIs and a pair of home runs.

“We are firing on all cylinders right now,” Kokoska said. “Everybody is hitting one through nine, and it makes us a really dangerous team. I think we are finally putting everything together.”

The heart of the order was dominant for the Wildcats, with batters three through six each hitting at least one home run.

Junior pitcher Zak Herbers (1-0) pitched four innings, allowing seven hits with four runs — only one was earned — with three strikeouts. Junior pitcher Jaxson Passino tossed three scoreless innings and struck out a career-high seven batters with no runs and no walks. The K-State pitching staff struck out 15 total Jackrabbits, led by Passino.

The Jackrabbits took an early lead after bringing nine batters to the plate in the second inning en route to a four-run inning to spark the scoring.

Freshman designated hitter Nick Goodwin got the Wildcats on the board with a leadoff home run to left field. After a single by Dylan Phillips, Carinci launched a two-run home run. Jordan Maxon tied the game with an RBI at four apiece.

Carinci hit his second home run of the night in the following inning with a three-run blast to give to Wildcats a 7-4 lead. Cameron Thompson capped off the inning with an RBI groundout.

Kokoska hit his first home run of the game in the fourth inning with a blast to left field to extend the K-State lead to 9-4. The Wildcats had back-to-back three-run innings in the sixth and seventh that were highlighted by home runs by Phillips and Kokoska.

The Wildcats committed one lone error in the second inning against South Dakota State.

Senior pitcher Caleb Littlejim (0-0, 9.00 ERA) will take the mound for the Wildcats in game two on Wednesday. Freshman pitcher Owen Bishop (0-0, 8.53 ERA) is the probable starter for the Jackrabbits.

First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium and will be available on ESPN+ and KMAN radio.

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