Baseball sweeps Morehead State for eighth straight victory

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

Kansas State baseball increases its winning streak to eight with a 9-6 comeback victory against Morehead State. The hard-fought win marks the second sweep of the season for the Wildcats and improves their home record to 7-0.

“I always talk to our club about what good teams are capable of doing … good teams know how to play when they have a lead, and good teams know how to play when they’re behind,” K-State head coach Pete Hughes said. “A team that knows how to play and fight from behind, and that’s a mark of a good team, so those are always good to see — comeback wins.”

K-State trailed early despite Dominic Johnson’s fourth straight game with a double — the third game in a row with a lead-off double to left field. It solidified a 13-game hitting streak, and he later enhanced his multi-hit streak to nine games.

In starting pitcher Christian Ruebeck’s three-innings pitched, he struck out five batters but also walked three and surrendered three runs, two unearned.

The Wildcats clawed back in the third inning but only managed to score one run after loading the bases with zero outs. Then, in the fourth inning, the Eagles doubled down with a 2-RBI double smoked to left field off the tip of Dom Johnson’s glove.

It was the only two runs Ty Ruhl surrendered in his three-inning outing, and he swiftly bounced back to keep K-State in the game. He recorded four strikeouts and got defensive help from catcher Justin Mitchell when he gunned down an Eagle runner trying to steal second and recorded a 3-6 double play in the sixth.

Griffin Hassall relieved Ruhl to start the seventh inning and recorded four strikeouts as well.

“We had some key guys,” Hughes said. “I thought Ty Ruhl did a good job — he came in and settled some things down, threw enough strikes and Griffin’s been so dependable, so that helped us get back in it offensively.”

The Wildcat offense showed signs of a potential comeback in the sixth inning when Raphael Pelletier hit his first career home run for two RBIs. Pelletier golfed the ball from below his knees to crank it to right field.

“It feels good,” Pelletier said. “It’s a great feeling to do that in front of your fans.”

Following the home run, Griffin Hassall danced around a lead-off walk and ground-rule double by recording back-to-back strikeouts and a ground ball that ended the inning. All the momentum was in K-State’s favor.

Dylan Phillips lined a long single off the outfield wall to lead off the seventh. Two pitches later, Nick Goodwin was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs.

That’s when Ivy League-transfer Josh Nicoloff added to his 12-game hit streak with a go-ahead three-run blast to left-center field. The dinger gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 7-5.

“It’s always a tough time when you leave guys on, but we knew how good we are offensively,” Nicoloff said. “We knew we were gonna keep getting into those situations, and it just felt awesome to be able to help us win — help drive in some runs and take the lead.”

Shortly after, Dylan Phillips notched his 35th career home run on a moonshot over the batter’s-eye in center field. The home run proved necessary, as Morehead State threatened to tie with two runners on, down three runs. The long-ball was the second-longest in Tointon Family Stadium history, according to a tweet from KSU Baseball Analytics.

“I was worried that a two-run lead wouldn’t stand with the wind blowing out and with Griffin’s style of pitching, so for Phillips to get the two-run homer to make it a four-run game, that was everything to me,” Hughes said.

K-State is set to play another game at Tointon Family Stadium at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. It’s the first of two match-ups against Air Force before heading into Big 12 play against TCU next weekend.

Viewing is available on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, and tickets are available at K-State Sports.