Wildcat baseball puts up staggering numbers in series victory

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

Kansas State baseball defeated Morehead State in game two of a three-game series to capture its seventh straight victory and the 10th of its past 12. K-State’s four home runs and stellar pitching helped the Wildcats triumph in a 15-2 blowout.

“We get another really good start by Connor McCullough,” K-State head coach Pete Hughes said. “Thought we played good defense again, and offense was the storyline of the day even excluding that big inning, but it speaks to the depth of our program when you have those guys that we got sitting on the bench and haven’t gotten a lot of playing time lately, and they’re ready to go and have productive at-bats for our program.”

K-State scored in every inning but the second, jumping out to an early 1-0 lead in the first. The Wildcats poured six runs on in the eighth inning to suck out any remaining life in the Eagles lineup.

Connor McCullough set the tone by striking out the side on just 15 pitches in the first inning. The first two strikeouts were swinging, then he froze the third batter with off-speed.

Dominic Johnson then replicated his lead-off double in Friday night’s win to start Saturday’s game, later scoring on Brady Day’s towering ground-rule double.

K-State did not score in the second inning but scored a run in the third on a scorched double from Dylan Phillips to right field. It was Dominic Johnson’s second run scored in the contest, finishing with four.

The Wildcats scored two runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth as well. One of which came on one swing when Orlando Salinas Jr. nuked a two-run blast 425 feet over the scoreboard in right field and onto the Brandeberry Indoor Complex.

“Before my at-bat, me and coach [Austin] Wates were kind of talking about it: it was kind of just zone-zone, pick a zone and stay there,” Salinas Jr. said. “That particular pitch was kind of there and I kind of barreled it. He told me don’t miss it, so I didn’t miss it.”

Dominic Johnson carried Salinas’ momentum into the fifth inning by doubling in his third consecutive at-bat. The 3-for-3 double performance tied a K-State record, and was the first time since 2009, according to K-State Baseball’s Twitter account.

Connor McCullough exited the game with a 9-1 advantage after seven innings of work. The sophomore from Arkansas tallied eight strikeouts and only allowed one run on two hits.

“I would say this is one of my better starts this season,” McCullough said. “It’s also huge looking forward to next weekend going into Big 12 play. It’s a big confidence booster.”

Tyson Neighbors took over in the eighth inning, where he struck out two batters on his 94-mph heater and nasty changeup. Then, Wesley Moore closed the game to solidify a 15-2 victory, but not before three bench players clapped thunder in the eighth.

Dom Hughes, coach Hughes’ son, launched his second-career home run in his seventh at-bat this season over the tall right-field wall to start the six-run slot.

“He works just as hard as anybody, and he’s got more to deal with than the normal player with his dad being the coach,” head coach Pete Hughes said about his son. “It’s always a great thing to see your kids get rewarded for hard work.”

Then in back-to-back fashion, pinch hitter Jeff Heinrich hit a dinger to left field, making it K-State’s first pinch-hit homer since 2013.

The damage was enough to put Morehead State away, but Cameron Uselton capped off the offensive artillery with a smoked 3-run homer to left to make it 15-1.

K-State attempts the sweep against Morehead State at 1 p.m. in Sunday’s game at Tointon Family Stadium. Viewing is available on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, and tickets can be bought at K-State Sports.