Big sixth inning lifts baseball over New Mexico

Sophomore Jordan Wicks pitches during the Wildcats 7-1 victory over New Mexico on March 19, 2021. (Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State baseball team tagged the New Mexico pitching staff with four runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 7-1 win over the Lobos in game one of a three-game weekend series in Manhattan on Friday night.

The Wildcats are now 1-1 against New Mexico this season after dropping one to the Lobos in the Sanderson Ford College Classic to start the year.

Sophomore pitcher Jordan Wicks started for K-State. The hard-throwing lefty threw six innings and struck out 10 Lobos while earning the win to move to 4-0 on the year. He was tagged with the lone New Mexico run in the top of the sixth.

“That’s a pretty good offensive team, they’ve been good the entire year,” manager Pete Hughes said. “He was able to keep those guys to a solo home run, and solo home runs usually don’t beat you … It was a really good outing and I was happy to get him out after the sixth inning.”

In the fourth, Wicks found himself in trouble with runners on first and second and no outs. He proceeded to get a strikeout, a groundout to first and another strikeout to strand the New Mexico runners.

“I have a lot of confidence in our hitters,” Wicks said. “I knew if I could get out of that situation that it would give them a lot of confidence and be able to get them going to get a run and that’s exactly what they did.”

The offense would get him a little bit of a cushion in their half of the inning when senior designated hitter Chris Ceballos, who was just 2-of-30 on the year coming into the game, roped a single into left-center for an RBI.

“It felt awesome,” Ceballos said. “The past week-and-a-half, I’ve had pretty good at-bats, they just haven’t been falling. It was just a matter of sticking with my approach and knowing that those balls were going to fall in eventually.”

In the top of the sixth, Wicks would make his lone mistake of the game when he gave up a deep home run to left field to momentarily tie the game.

Even after giving up the home run, Wicks was able to keep his head held high thanks to the support of his teammates in the dugout.

“It was awesome. That’s what gives you a lot of confidence as a pitcher,” Wicks said. “I came back in the dugout and [Kamron Willman] came up to me and said ‘Hey, don’t worry about it, we got you. You know we’re about to come in and put up some runs so don’t even worry about it.’ That’s always nice to hear as a pitcher, cause you know these guys have your back.”

Sure enough, the Wildcats did put up some runs to give Wicks a little breathing room. Ceballos knocked a groundball off of second base to score a pair of Wildcats with one out to record his second and third RBIs of the game.

Junior right fielder Zach Kokoska would score Ceballos on the next at-bat with a two-run home run into the K-State bullpen.

After the offensive outburst, Hughes turned the ball over to his bullpen. Junior pitcher Jaxon Passino recorded a scoreless seventh, while junior pitcher Tyler Eckberg put the Lobos down in order in the eighth and ninth.

“If we can’t win a game with our bullpen in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning, then we’re not going to be the team we think we’re going to be this year,” Hughes said. “If Jordan gives up a quality start through six on a Friday night, our bullpen should be able to handle seven, eight, nine.”

New Mexico gave K-State a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on an error on the third baseman and a balk.

The victory moves K-State to 12-5 on the season as the Wildcats have won six out of their last seven games. K-State will be back in action again for game two of the series against New Mexico on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium. The game can be seen on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, an alumnus from Olathe, Kansas. I graduated in spring 2022 with a Masters in Mass Communication, and I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. I covered K-State sports for the Collegian for four years.