Hughes snags 700th career win, K-State takes weekend series against New Mexico

Kansas State senior pitcher Kasey Ford pitches the ball during the Wildcats' game against New Mexico on Saturday at Tointon Family Stadium. The Wildcats won two of three games against the Lobos, taking the weekend series. (Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State (13-6) took a three-game series over New Mexico (6-10) this weekend — the final weekend of non-conference play.

The Wildcat bats were hot throughout the series, which is crucial heading into Big 12 Conference play.

“It’s awesome,” junior outfielder Zach Kokoska said. “It’s exactly what we want. We’re Big 12 ready. We’ve been working to get to this level until this point. Going into Big 12 play, we’re going to be firing on all cylinders, pitching staff-wise and hitting-wise. We’re ready, and we’re ready to get into it.”

Kokoska, sophomore outfielder Dylan Phillips and senior third baseman Cameron Thompson dominated New Mexico pitching with a combined 12 RBIs and five home runs. Kokoska led the bunch with nine RBIs on the weekend.

“Up and down the lineup, pretty good,” head coach Pete Hughes said. “Everyone had some input offensively. A really mature approach. You’ve gotta be able to play when you’re down and keep building and not looking at the scoreboard. I was happy with our team’s offense.”

The Wildcats took game one of the series 7-1, backed by another 10 strikeout afternoon by redshirt sophomore Jordan Wicks. Designated hitter Chris Ceballos and Kokoska led the Wildcats with five combined RBIs.

The Lobos dominated the middle innings to take a 6-4 win in game two on Saturday. Kokoska highlighted the day at the plate for the Wildcats going 2-5 with three RBIs in the loss.

Sophomore pitcher Carson Seymour (1-2) struck out seven through five innings, allowing five runs on eight hits with one walk. Senior pitcher Kasey Ford struck out six in four innings of relief and kept the Lobos at bay with only one run and a walk on five hits.

The Wildcats took an early lead with an RBI single by Kokoska in the top of the first. It was the lone lead for K-State in the second game.

Kokoska got the Wildcats within reach with a two-run single in the eighth. Sophomore center fielder Cole Johnson added one with a solo home run in the ninth, but New Mexico survived the late rally to take game two.

K-State belted five home runs to take the series with a 17-8 win over the Lobos on Sunday afternoon.

“Good team win,” Hughes said. “You gotta learn how to win that rubber match if you wanna do a good job in the Big 12. To be able to bounce back after yesterday and come out and answer an early lead that was against us. A lot of good things today. Most importantly, we get a series win.”

The Lobos struck first in the top of the first with back-to-back hits followed by a sacrifice fly by senior left fielder Kyler Castillio.

The Wildcats responded with a five-run inning that saw ten batters come to the plate. A 3-run double sparked the Wildcat scoring by Phillips. Sophomore infielder Daniel Carinci hit in Phillips with a single. Junior catcher Dylan Caplinger capped off the scoring with an RBI single.

Sophomore shortstop Mack Chambers continued the scoring with a two-run home run for the Lobos in the top of the second. New Mexico tied the game a five apiece with a fielder’s choice that allowed a run to score from third.

Redshirt freshman Connor McCullough was tacked with six runs off ten hits through three innings with two strikeouts and a walk. Eric Torres and Tyler Eckberg combined for five innings and three strikeouts. Torres (2-0) earned the win despite allowing two runs on four hits.

Thompson belted a leadoff home run to left field to give the Wildcats the lead. Phillips stayed hot with a 458 foot two-run home run over the center-field batter’s eye to give K-State an 8-5 lead.

The Lobos got one run back in the top of the third inning with an RBI single by senior second baseman Lance Russell.

The Wildcats extended the lead to 12-6 with one swing of the bat in the third inning with a grand slam by Kokoska.

Thompson hit his second home run of the day in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Wildcats a 13-6 lead. It was his first career multi-homer game.

New Mexico added two runs in the top of the sixth, but the Wildcats extended the lead with a two-run double by junior shortstop Kamron Willman in the bottom half of the inning to keep K-State at a comfortable 15-8 lead.

Then, senior outfielder Caleb Littlejim hit a two-run home run to give the Wildcats a 17-8 lead over the Lobos. Littlejim shut the door on the series the following inning with a scoreless top of the ninth.

The win on Saturday was the 700th career-win for Hughes.

The Wildcats take on Wichita State on Tuesday in the final non-conference game before opening Big 12 play over the weekend. The first pitch from Eck Stadium in Wichita is scheduled for 6 p.m. with coverage available through KMAN radio.