Baseball rebounds to take final game of Sunflower Showdown

First baseman Dylan Phillips homers to right center and the Wildcat bench celebrates on April 18, 2021 at Tointon Family Stadium. Kansas State baseball capped off the weekend by defeating Oklahoma, 8-3. (Archive Photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

After falling twice the day before – and being no-hit in the second game of the Friday doubleheader – the Kansas State baseball team (29-20, 8-13) took down Kansas on Saturday to take the final game of the Sunflower Showdown against in-state rival Kansas.

The Wildcats found an offensive rhythm for the first time in a while as sophomore Dylan Phillips homered twice to back freshman Connor McCullough’s start on the mound. K-State won the game, 6-2.

“That was a gutty performance because he wasn’t feeling great,” Head coach Pete Hughes said of the freshman’s performance in a release to K-State Athletics. “He was a last-minute medical clearance for us, but for him, he had every way out of that start, but he knew it was a must-win for our program. I believed him when he told me he felt good and could do it. He stifled their offense long enough for us to get settled in, and we finally did.”

McCullough (5-3) limited the damage Kansas capitalized on the day before by holding the Jayhawks without a hit (0-5) with runners on base. After a leadoff home run in the first inning, the freshman allowed just three hits in the next five innings combined.

He finished his day on the mound with four strikeouts and no walks allowed.

Phillips’ first home run of the day was a three-run shot that concluded a three-run third inning. Riding a two-out rally, freshman Dom Hughes tripled and was later scored by senior Chris Ceballos’ double. Phillips’ 12th home run of the year scored Ceballos.

“With two outs, Dom hits the triple off the wall then Ceballos knocks him in and we get the home run by Whammer [Phillips],” Hughes said. “It’s infectious with two outs and everybody starts swinging comfortably again. It was nice to play good baseball. Defense played well, bullpen was great and we got the quality start.”

The bullpen duo of junior Tyler Eckberg and sophomore Eric Torres kept the Jayhawks at bay with no runs over the final three innings. Torres now has a scoreless streak at 15.1 innings dating back to his last eight appearances.

The pitching staff’s eight strikeouts on Saturday put the team over the program record-mark. K-State as a staff has 463 strikeouts this season and counting.

Junior outfielder Zach Kokoska added insurance in the eighth inning with his team-leading 14th home run of the season.

K-State will return home for the final series of the regular season, hosting TCU in a three-game weekend series starting on Thursday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium. All three games will be broadcasted on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with radio coverage through KMAN.