The Kansas State baseball team kept their season alive Thursday morning in a 9-4 elimination game win against Baylor in the Big 12 tournament. The win makes up for a 2-1 series loss against the Bears earlier in May, which featured a 3-23 loss in the deciding game.
Starting pitcher Connor McCullough threw three strong innings, giving up one run off three hits. Former starter-turned-reliever Carson Seymour dominated the Bears over the last six innings with a five-hit, three-earned-run performance.
“What Carson [Seymour] did today was really cool,” interim coach Austin Wates said. “For a guy that has battled a bit all season to come up in a big spot … All we asked was to keep it close, and he did more than that — he gave us a chance to win.”
Leaving Seymour in the game let the Wildcats rest bullpen stars Eric Torres and Tyler Eckberg for later in the tournament.
“It’s huge,” Wates said about not having to go to the bullpen. “Arms is what you need. We have a pretty deep pitching staff … ultimately that’s really going to become a factor for us tomorrow.”
The win brings interim coach Austin Wates’ official record to 2-2, who started serving in place of head coach Pete Hughes after a suspension kept the third-year coach sidelined for four games. Hughes will join the Wildcats for their Friday game — his first since getting thrown out of the May 20 game against TCU.
“All we talked about [during] pregame is ‘we want to get coach Hughes back in that third base coach’s box,'” Wates said, “and those guys were fighting like crazy in every single at-bat.”
K-State struggled offensively against Baylor starting pitcher Hayden Kettler until the sixth inning when Zach Kokoska and Nick Goodwin scored back-to-back home runs.
“When Kokoska hit that home run, it really sparked a little bit of life into the dugout,” Wates said. “[It] got some energy and momentum back in there, and all of a sudden we come alive.”
K-State carried that momentum to the seventh inning, scoring seven runs, capped by a Caleb Littlejim three-run home run to deep left field.
“What a special, special spot for that kid — Caleb Littlejim — to come through for us right there,” Wates said. “It takes the pressure off of Carson [Seymour]. He can just go in there and throw strikes and let our defense work.”
K-State faces another elimination game on Friday at 12:30 p.m. in Oklahoma City against the loser of the TCU and Texas Tech game. The winner of that game will play the TCU vs. Texas Tech winner for a spot in the Big 12 championship game.
Coverage will be on Big 12 Now, ESPN+ and on the K-State Sports Network.