Mistakes get the best of Wildcat baseball in loss against Michigan

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The K-State Wildcats fell 2-10 against the Michigan Wolverines at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas, on Feb. 19, 2022. (Chase Hagemann | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State baseball starts the season start 0-2 after a 2-10 loss to Michigan in the State Farm College Baseball Showdown.

The Wildcats had a 1-0 lead against the Wolverines heading into the sixth inning. Then sophomore Connor McCullough exited the game.

Following the pitching change, the Wildcats surrendered three unearned runs by way of hits, errors and wild pitches: everything K-State feared went wrong.

“You give them free base runners, a good team is gonna get a big hit if you keep giving them more opportunities, and that’s what we did,” K-State head baseball coach Pete Hughes said.

It started when right-handed reliever Griffin Hassall allowed a single to left field, then threw back-to-back wild pitches past graduate-transfer catcher Justin Mitchell.

A dribbler then rolled between Hassall and first baseman Orlando Salinas Jr., where Hassall elected to cover first, tasking Salinas Jr. with a daunting throw — backward and across his body for an error. The throw allowed the tying run on third base to score, knotting it up at one.

Michigan’s Jimmy Obertop stole second and scored on an RBI double to left-center field for another run. Following that, he scored on a missed chopper that snuck under K-State shortstop Nick Goodwin’s glove and leaked into the outfield.

The Wildcats scored once more in the top of the seventh through a Cole Johnson two-out RBI blooper to center field, but the team could not continue the momentum with runners on first and third.

The Wolverines kept their foot on the gas and drowned K-State’s hopes of coming back in a lengthy seventh inning. Wildcat reliever Tyson Neighbors allowed seven runs virtue a bases-loaded balk, a two-RBI single, an RBI double, a fielder’s choice and a two-run homer that traveled five rows up in the right-field bleachers by Michigan’s Clark Elliot.

A day that began with a promise of efficiency, resilience and talent ended in a stunning blowout.

“Again, it comes down to pitching, throwing strikes, playing defense, and when you get to the critical parts of the game, that’s when you have to execute those areas, and we didn’t,” Hughes said.

Much like Friday’s game against Arizona, K-State had another good outing from starting pitching, this time from Connor McCullough. However, K-State only produced one support run, when Orlando Salinas Jr. sliced a double to left-center field to score designated hitter Cash Rugely.

McCullough pitched five innings, allowing five hits, two walks and no runs, striking out five Wolverine batters.

“Connor McCullough’s outing: awesome,” Hughes said. “Starting pitching — absolutely good enough for us to win at this level and in our league this year, but we gotta be able to get better in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth inning.”

The Wildcats search for their first win of the season against the Auburn Tigers at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Viewing is available on FloSports.

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