On a day people would call “a great day at the ballpark,” Kansas State baseball (13-13, 0-5) fans packed Tointon Family Stadium with purple waves against No. 6 Oklahoma State (20-7, 5-0). Fans were excited to see a top-10 match-up against the Pokes, but were there for something bigger than a Saturday night game: history.
In the bottom half of the first inning, a resounding chorus of “Uh-oh, you’re in trouble…” rang through the stadium as Dylan Phillips walked to the plate for his opening at-bat of the evening. The first pitch was a ball, and then it happened.
Oklahoma State pitcher Victor Mederos left a fastball up, and “Whammer” smoked his 38th career homer to become K-State’s all-time home run record holder.
“It’s more than a number, it’s a kid that works his butt off,” head coach Pete Hughes said. “It’s a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into that number, and loyalty. He’s helped us turn this culture around, that’s for sure, on and off the field with his work ethic, so a lot goes into that number. I’m really happy for that kid and his family.”
The crowd erupted, but the celebration at Tointon was just beginning. Following the third out of the inning, PA announcer Mitch Fortner informed the stadium that Dylan Phillips made history with the homer to right-center field, and the crowd gave Phillips a standing ovation.
— K-State Baseball (@KStateBSB) April 2, 2022
“It was just a lot of happiness, and to do it on such a great day with all the fans out here, knowing that they’re supporting us through this little rough patch we’re having,” Phillips said. “I just couldn’t be more thankful for them.”
Normally, the team immediately takes the field following its third out on offense, but the special occasion called for accommodations. The All-American out of Omaha, Nebraska, stepped out of the dugout and embraced head coach Pete Hughes on his way out to first base.
“I just said congratulations to him, he deserves it,” Hughes said. “He deserves everything good that comes his way. He’s as good of a kid as it gets from a parental perspective and from a coach perspective.”
Fans continued clapping to the K-State fight song while Phillips took the field alone. Then he tipped his cap, something every aspiring player dreams of.
K-State lost a tough 8-4 game, but Phillips was responsible for the Wildcats’ first three runs of the game. The second and third runs off one swing, where he hit a rocket to right field and extended his K-State record to 39.
“It always boosts your confidence a little bit knowing you’re seeing the ball pretty well that day, luckily it didn’t speed me up or try to hit more home runs,” Phillips said, referring to uplifting confidence after his record-breaking home run. “It kind of slowed things down for me, I think, in a sense because in all for at-bats, I seemed to be seeing it pretty well.”
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, OSU’s Victor Mederos’ pitching performance was too good to come back from while the Cowboy lineup raked in the sixth inning. The 5.2 innings of work, three earned runs and four strikeouts accompanied seven runs in the middle-three innings (3-6) by the Cowboy offense.
Griffin Hassall started for K-State instead of the 78th-ranked starting pitcher Connor McCullough and only allowed three runs through five innings. However, the decision to leave the Canada-native in for the sixth inning backfired as the Cowboys hung three more on Hassall and one on relief pitcher German Fajardo.
K-State had a resilient effort toward the end of the game, scoring two in the sixth and three in eighth, but came up short once again, similar to Friday’s 12-9 result.
“We gotta play a complete nine-inning game, and we didn’t,” Hughes said. “I thought we got dominated by Mederos early on and just couldn’t get anything going against that guy, and they had opportunistic hits on offense.”
Coach Hughes continued to share his frustration from recent close losses. The Wildcats almost came from behind against No. 12 TCU on March 25th (5-7) and were tied heading into innings 7-9 on March 26-27.
That’s in addition to the 12-2 deficit turned 12-9 loss against No. 6 Oklahoma State Friday evening.
“Again, we can’t stay away from that one inning and damage control it,” Hughes said. “I love the fight this team has, but I’d like to see them get paid off through wins because that’s what we’re here for.”
The loss was a tough one for Wildcat nation, but it was a day nobody at Tointon Family Stadium will ever forget.
“It was a good day for [Dylan Phillips],” Hughes said. “Too bad we couldn’t get a win. I know he would’ve traded that record for a win in a second.”
The Wildcats continue their search for Big 12-win number one this season in the third game of a three-game series at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Tointon Family Stadium. Tickets are available at K-State Sports, with viewing on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.