Baseball wins in late surge against Central Connecticut State

Brendan Jones pitches during the game against Nebraska on March 9, 2022, at Tointon Family Stadium. (Archive photo by Julia Smith | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State baseball (5-7) kicked off its home-opening series against Central Connecticut State (3-2) Saturday afternoon in a fast-paced offensive affair.

The Wildcats controlled the match-up until the seventh inning when the Blue Devils knotted the score at three apiece. The Wildcats ultimately won 6-3.

Starting pitcher Blake Adams went two scoreless innings before allowing his first hits and first run of the game in the third inning. Adams tallied a whopping seven strikeouts — slightly under his average of nine — and didn’t get in trouble until the sixth when he surrendered one more run.

“Another great start by Blake Adams,” K-State head coach Pete Hughes said. “That’s a veteran team he pitched against — a post-season, battled-tested team that puts the ball in play. He made big pitches: he was awesome. Everything was predicated off his start.”

Like the game against Nebraska, K-State allowed its opponent to secure an early lead, but the Wildcats clawed back instantly.

South Carolina-transfer Jeff Heinrich squared up a two-run homer to left-center field in the bottom half of the third inning, giving K-State a 2-1 lead. It was just his third at-bat of the season because of a hamstring injury.

“We’ve been waiting for him to get healthy, it’s an explosive bat,” Hughes said. “He would’ve had at-bats earlier if he was healthy.”

An injury often holds players back from repetitions and confidence, but it wasn’t an issue for the starting designated hitter.

“He was ready to go,” Hughes said. “He kept his head in the right place, so when he got his number called, he gave us a quality outing.”

Heinrich added two more hits following the two-run blast and scored a run of his own later in the game. The senior now hopes to add some power to the batting order.

“I see myself being a spark plug — get the boys fired up along with Dom Johnson,” Heinrich said. “All the way through the lineup, one through nine, we got a lot of guys with some energy: a lot of juice in the bat, just looking to add to that.”

K-State scored its third run of the game with another drifting home run to centerfield in the fourth inning by Josh Nicoloff. It gave the Cats a 3-1 advantage but wasn’t enough to put the Blue Devils away just yet.

After Ty Ruhl’s two-strikeout appearance in the seventh after relieving Blake Adams, he found himself in an eighth-inning jam. With bases loaded because of two singles and a failed fielder’s choice, Ruhl only surrendered one run, but it was the third and tying run.

That’s when a red-hot Dominic Johnson stepped up to the plate to take control. On the first pitch of his AB, he drilled the Wildcat’s third home run of the game to give K-State the lead back at 4-3.

Then, catcher Justin Mitchell lined an RBI single to left field to make it 5-3. Cole Johnson added an exclamation mark with a two-out RBI double to left-center field. The three-run eighth inning killed all hopes of a Blue Devils comeback.

“I was proud of our team playing in the eighth inning when the score was tied, and we answered back to take (the lead) and win a game from the eighth inning on,” Hughes said.

Ty Ruhl earned the win for his three-innings pitched, one earned run and two strikeout effort to shut the door on Central Connecticut State.

K-State continues its series against the Blue Devils at 1 p.m. in a Sunday doubleheader. Game two takes place about 45 minutes following game one.

Both games are available for viewing on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with radio coverage on KMAN. Tickets for both games can be bought at K-State Sports.