Baseball’s comeback not enough against historic program

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Cameron Uselton jogs back to the dugout against Oklahoma on April 17, 2021. (Archive photo by Natalie Leonard l Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State baseball hoped to complete a two-game win streak following an 8-2 beatdown against CSU Bakersfield but came up short. The Wildcats made a valiant effort to take a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning but blew it in the eighth, losing to Cal State Fullerton 7-5 on Tuesday.

Both teams were 1-5 heading into the contest, with Cal State Fullerton losing two against No. 6 Stanford and being swept by a tough Gonzaga team. The Titans seemed to be cruising to their first home win of the 2022 season, but K-State fought back.

The Wildcats dug themselves an early 1-0 hole in the first inning when first baseman Orlando Salinas Jr. stepped in front of second baseman Josh Nicoloff to field a soft grounder. Salinas Jr. slipped and allowed an RBI with the bases loaded.

Fullerton added two more runs in the second against Arizona-transfer German Fajardo, who relieved starter Wesley Moore after just 1.2 innings. Both runs were charged to Moore.

Fajardo surrendered an additional run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly, but the Wildcats stitched their wounds and clawed back with a bang.

They finally started taking advantage of opportunities when Brady Day reached on an error by the Fullerton second baseman. Soon after, a red-hot Justin Mitchell singled up the middle, and All-American Dylan Phillips walked.

With bases loaded and zero outs, Josh Nicoloff cranked a fly ball to left field, hitting the orange paint at the top of the outfield wall.

There was confusion on whether the ball was a home run because balls that hit the top line along outfield walls are usually deemed home runs. However, rules differed in Fullerton, California, and it scored as an RBI single instead.

It didn’t matter, as shortstop Nick Goodwin made sure K-State cashed in those three runs with a base-clearing RBI double to left field.

The score was tied 4-4 now, but the Wildcats were still hungry. Orlando Salinas Jr. tacked on another run with an RBI infield single to give K-State a 5-4 lead.

RHP Griffin Hassall put the team on his back by recording scoreless sixth and seventh innings, but everything fell apart in the eighth.

Fullerton charged back by smashing two triples over Cameron Uselton’s head in right field to even the score. Then, a passed ball off Raphael Pelletier’s glove gave the Titans the go-ahead run (6-5).

Shortly after, a strange double down the left-field line took place when left fielder Dominic Johnson fielded a ball in traffic. Fullerton’s field doesn’t have bullpens, so pitchers rendered play along foul territory, and umpires didn’t call interference.

Johnson proceeded to juggle the ball, throw it off Brady Day’s mitt, causing the ball to bounce out-of-play into Titan territory for a free base and the lead. A double and two errors led to a non-official inside-the-park home run, officially scored as a triple.

The turn of events deflated any fight left in an exhausted K-State team, and Fullerton won the battle 7-5.

The Wildcats face Loyola Marymount in a three-game series March 4-6. Viewing is available on WCCN and audio on KMAN radio.

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