K-State beats Arkansas-Pine Bluff in eight innings

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Senior pitcher Casey Ford prepares to pitch during the game on March 20, 2021, against New Mexico at Tointon Family Stadium. ( Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State baseball team (16-11) carried its momentum from the weekend series win over then-No. 3 Texas Tech into a 12-2 drubbing of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-18) in game one of a two-game mid-week series in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Head coach Pete Hughes emphasized consistency after the win.

“We gotta play good baseball every night,” Hughes said. “It really doesn’t matter who our opponent is, or if it’s on a Friday night or a Tuesday night, good teams play the same way every single day they cross the line.”

The game ended with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning when K-State took a 10-run lead.

“Honestly I don’t like to ten-run rule anybody,” Hughes said. “Those kids work just as hard as our kids. There’s just something about it that a team’s gotta walk off the field before nine innings. I’m not in favor of it because I’ve got a ton of respect for their head coach.”

Senior Kasey Ford carded the win for K-State after recording three strikeouts in three innings of no-hit baseball. Were it not for a hit batsman in the third, Ford would have faced the minimum in those innings. It was a scheduled short start for Ford.

“We need him to be available for us on Friday night,” Hughes said. “We did not get him on the mound this past weekend so I knew I had to throw him Tuesday.”

The Wildcats got on the board early and often against the Golden Lions’ pitching staff. Junior second baseman Kamron Willman reached on a throwing error on shortstop Dante Leach, scoring senior third baseman Cam Thompson and junior first baseman Terrance Spurlin in the second.

“[The error] was a big play. The longer you let teams stay in it, the more confidence they get so that kind of threw momentum in our dugout,” Hughes said. “I like the way that we continued to expand that lead by swinging the bats.”

In the next inning, sophomore left fielder Dylan Phillips hit a solo home run and Thompson knocked in a run on a single. Senior designated hitter Caleb Littlejim brought in one more on a hard-hit sacrifice fly ball to center.

Littlejim struck out seven Golden Lions, giving up the two-run home run, in three innings in relief of Ford. Freshman Nico Rodriguez got into the game to finish it out for K-State.

The Wildcats plated another run in the fourth on a Phillips sac fly and a Thompson home run in the fifth brought the Wildcat lead to 5-2.

Phillips added two more RBIs in the sixth inning with another home run. He finished the game 4-4 with two home runs, a triple and a double, amounting to four RBIs and three runs scored.

“I was just trying to be patient and get a pitch over the middle of the plate — a fastball or a breaking ball,” Phillips said. “Just kind of trust that I can hit with any count and just try to wait and get a pitch that I really like to go after.”

Phillips’ triple to lead off the eighth and final inning started a run for the Wildcats where the team put away Pine Bluff for good. He scored on a Thompson single and then sophomore center fielder Blake Burrows scored on a Spurlin single.

“It’s infectious when you can start swinging the bats. It goes through your lineup,” Hughes said.

K-State scored 12 runs on 15 hits, including four hits from Phillips and four from Thompson.

The Wildcats get one more game against the Golden Lions at 3 p.m. Wednesday before traveling to Austin, Texas, to play the Texas Longhorns this weekend.

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Nathan Enserro
Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.