Baseball wins sixth straight, first against Morehead State

Dominic Johnson slides into third base to avoid a tag against Crowder on October 22, 2021. (Archive photo by Madison Riebel | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State baseball defeated Morehead State in the first of a three-game series wearing its green Saint Patrick’s Day uniforms. Call it luck or skill, but the Wildcats defeated the Eagles 10-2 for their sixth straight win and ninth of the past 11 games.

From RHP Blake Adam’s seven strikeouts to Dominic Johnson’s seventh straight multi-hit game, K-State dominated from the first pitch.

“Everything begins and ends with good starting pitching, and we got that from Blake once again — he’s been the model of consistency,” K-State head coach Pete Hughes said. “One area that I haven’t been too pleased with our team is when we jump out to leads, we seem to get comfortable and stop building, so that was good to see that tonight that we jumped out on a lead and we kept building throughout the game.”

The Wildcats’ collective 15-hit performance was molded around a hot Dominic Johnson, who doubled in K-State’s leadoff at-bat. The hit didn’t manufacture any runs, but Johnson progressed his hitting streak to 11 games.

“Everybody was hitting the ball well today, and that’s all I really wanted to do — start the game off right, and we all took off from there,” Johnson said.

Johnson is hitting for a mind-blowing .449 batting average to parallel his hitting streaks but acknowledges room to grow. The inexperienced sophomore made base-running errors multiple times towards third base early in the season but avoided one tonight.

A common ground ball to the Eagle shortstop Colton Becker’s right might have resulted in Johnson running into an out at third base this past week. However, the Oklahoma State-transfer made the safe play by returning to second.

“The coaches are really harping on us a lot on doing the right thing and playing the game the right way,” Johnson said. “Sometimes I speed the game up, but the coaches just telling me to slow down and relax and just make the right read … which I did … The whole dugout thought it was hilarious.”

Johnson finished the game 4-4, with two RBIs in the second and sixth innings. He also scored a run in the Wildcats’ five-run second inning and another in the fourth.

Cole Johnson (3-4) jump-started the crooked inning with a double down the left-field line. The junior outfielder scored K-State’s first run moments later when Orlando Salinas Jr. tripled past a diving right fielder for an RBI.

Salinas Jr. also played efficiently on the glove side of things, where he played his original position at second base. The lack of reps at second base didn’t slow him down, as he assisted a smooth 6-4-3 double-play in the eighth inning.

“We’re always trying to get better, and my job is to put kids in positions where they’re going to have success, and Orlando was thinking too much at first base,” Hughes said. “He was born a middle-infielder, so let him go out and play baseball and not think about bunt defenses, or pickoffs, or rundowns or cutoffs, and just let him play in the middle of the field — which he’s accustomed to — and swing the bat. I think we took a lot of pressure off him when we did that, and we got a veteran guy, Josh Nicoloff, who knows baseball and every position, and I think it’s a little more comfortable with him over at first base.”

Other Wildcat batters in the middle of the five-run second inning included Kaelen Culpepper (1-4, run scored), catcher Raphael Pelletier (2-4, 2 runs scored), and Dylan Phillips (2-4, run scored).

K-State slowly duplicated its five-run lead in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings to create an insurmountable 10-1 deficit.

The Eagles’ two runs came in the sixth inning and ninth inning, one belonging to K-State’s Blake Adams. It was the only run Adams surrendered in his 6.1 innings pitched, only allowing five hits.

Blake Corsentino continued Adams’ quality outing with a scoreless 1.2 innings of work with two strikeouts. Then, Nico Rodriguez closed the door with a two-strikeout performance and one earned run to capture a 10-2 victory.

K-State battles Morehead State at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Tointon Family Stadium in the second match of a three-game series. Viewing is available on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, and tickets are available at K-State Sports.