Facing a tough, but scuffling Wichita State team on Monday evening, the Kansas State baseball team jumped all over Shocker pitching early and often, winning 12-1 in the first of two match-ups between these two teams this season.
The victory for K-State was its first win at Eck Stadium since 2018, a place that has been a house of horrors for the Wildcats since Pete Hughes arrived in Manhattan back in 2019.
“[Wichita State] is such a tough place to play,” head coach Pete Hughes said to K-State Athletics. “We hadn’t played well there for the past three years, and I loved the way our guys approached this game, especially after the emotional weekend [against Texas].”
The Wildcats scored all their runs in the first four innings, including four runs in the second inning and five runs in the third. Every Shocker pitcher allowed at least one hit and issued at least one walk.
Wichita State starter Robert Cranz walked three and didn’t make it out of the second inning. The Wildcats jumped on reliever Ryan Stuempfig, one of the Shockers’ most reliable arms, for five runs and put the game to bed. In total, the Shockers’ pitching staff issued nine walks on the evening.
Entering the bottom of the third inning, Wichita State pitchers had thrown a total of 112 pitches. In comparison, Wildcat starter German Fajardo had only thrown 19 pitches to that point.
Because of the one-game suspensions of Kaelen Culpepper and Nick Goodwin after their ejection from Saturday’s game against Texas, the Wildcats were forced to rely on reserves in Brady Day, Jeff Heinrich and Dom Hughes.
Those guys delivered. Day had his best game of the season, going 3-4 with a triple, a walk, an RBI, a stolen base and two runs scored.
Heinrich chipped in two RBI doubles and Hughes had two hits and three runs scored in the contest.
Regulars like Dom Johnson and Josh Nicoloff also provided some offensive punch. Nicoloff drove in three runs for the third time this season, and Johnson pitched in two RBIs and two scores.
“It makes things a whole lot easier when you take the lead early and keep adding on,” coach Hughes said.
The big lead was all Fajardo needed as he pitched a two-hit shutout over five innings, dropping his season ERA to 2.37. The right-hander struck out four, only walked one batter and escaped some big jams in the third and fourth innings.
Sophomore transfer Ben Weber looked sharp in relief, pitching three scoreless innings. While he did walk four batters, he only surrendered one hit and struck out four along the way. Landry Jurecka allowed a run in the ninth but got the final three outs to secure the win as the Wildcats pitchers combined to throw a five-hitter.
K-State returns home to face Omaha for the second time this season at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Stay tuned to the Collegian for coverage of the baseball team all season long.