Baseball comeback falls short against ranked opponent

Kansas State baseball fell to No. 15 Arizona at the 2022 State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas, on Feb. 18, 2022. (Chase Hagemann | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State baseball rallied late in a battle against No. 15 Arizona at the 2022 State Farm College Baseball Showdown on Friday, Feb. 18, but came up short in a thrilling 8-6 loss.

After scoring five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, an opportunity came with two runners on.

Preseason All-American Dylan Phillips had everyone standing when he blasted a ball towards the right-center field for a potential go-ahead three-run home run, but Arizona’s Mac Bingham caught the ball with his back against the wall. A homer would’ve given K-State a 9-8 advantage over Arizona.

“We can’t put ourselves in those situations,” K-State head baseball coach Pete Hughes said. “We need to play better baseball up until the eighth inning and be a little more opportunistic.”

There were many opportunities for K-State, but one of the most crucial came in the sixth inning while trailing 4-1. Pinch-hitting for captain Terrence Spurlin, Oklahoma State-transfer Orlando Salinas Jr. struck out swinging with the bases loaded.

“You never know when your opportunity to score runs is, and you need a big hit,” Hughes said. “If you look at the storyline going up until the eighth inning — bases loaded: we didn’t get the big hit, and they did.”

K-State trailed Arizona for the entire game but showed offensive potential. Lead-off hitters Dominic Johnson, Nick Goodwin and Kaelen Culpepper reached base in the first three innings but only scored one run. K-State put lead-off hitters on base five times, continuing efforts in the sixth and eighth innings.

“If you look at the first two or three innings, we should’ve been up five-nothing,” Hughes said. “We had their starter on the ropes.”

Although K-State surrendered eight runs on nine hits, Arkansas-transfer Blake Adams pitched six innings in his start, allowing two earned runs on two solo home runs. The score was 4-1 when he exited the game, with two home runs and two defensive errors making the difference.

“I think he would love to have a couple of those pitches back, especially the ones where it was 0-2, 1-2 in the count: true advantage counts and he wasn’t able to execute, but I was pleased with his outing,” Hughes said. “He was tough, he competed, he bounced back after home runs and he damage-controlled some innings that could’ve spiraled out of control, and we didn’t give him any run support, so he was pitching with pressure the whole night.”

Hughes said the team isn’t pleased with the loss but takes away positives moving forward in Arlington, Texas, and the remaining season.

“I always judge my teams on how they react when they’re up or down five-six runs: a lotta fight in our team right now,” Hughes said. “If that’s who we are — and that is who we are — we’re gonna win a lot of games this year. We’ve put ourself in a position to win a game when you’re down seven runs late going into the eighth. That was an awesome effort.”

The K-State Wildcats hope to play more efficiently at 11 a.m. in Saturday’s match-up against Big 10 opponent Michigan. The Wolverines have finished in the top three of the Big 10 conference for the past four seasons. Viewing is available at FloSports.