Six innings from Hassall help Wildcats pick up series win over UC Irvine

K-State junior Griffin Hassall throws against Texas on Thursday, April 14, 2022. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State baseball closed out a series win against UC Irvine on Sunday, finishing the first low-scoring contest of the three games with a 5-3 win.

The Wildcats welcomed dogs to Tointon Family Stadium for “Bark at the Park” on Sunday’s rubber match against the Anteaters. K-State defense and pitching must’ve taken a liking to the furry friends after a “ruff” 16-7 loss on Saturday.

Griffin Hassall started on the mound for the Wildcats, getting through six complete innings pitched after having left mid-way through the sixth in his previous four starts.

Hassall allowed a run in the second and third innings, suggesting he might be in for another early pull, but pulled things together to complete his box score with four hits, two runs (one earned), three walks and two strikeouts.

“It begins and ends with really good pitching. Griffin Hassall did his thing, and he’s ever-dependable and allowed us to build a lead and … get some big hits,” head coach Pete Hughes said to K-State Athletics. “And we did it with two outs, another sign of a good baseball team. So today was a really good day for our program.”

The first two games of the series featured 44 combined runs as heavy winds carried home run after home run out of the ballpark. Sunday’s weather featured a wind coming back at the batters, keeping more balls in the park.

Freshman Wildcat Brady Day knocked his first career home run over the right-field wall, tying the game at one apiece in the second inning. In the top of the third, the Anteaters’ Ben Fitzgerald sent a no-doubter out of the stadium on the second pitch of the inning, giving UC Irvine its one-run lead back.

With the score at 2-1 Anteaters in the fifth, sophomore Nick Goodwin stepped up to the plate with a runner on second. UC Irvine starting pitcher Cameron Wheeler left a change-up hanging, and Goodwin pimped a home run over the left-field bullpen for a go-ahead 3-2 lead.

Next inning, junior Cole Johnson went opposite field for another two-run blast. The two-out blast to right field put the Wildcats up 5-2.

The K-State bullpen turned to sophomore Blake Corsentino to close out the final three innings. Corsentino allowed a run on a single in the eighth, but, with runners on first and third, he struck out Fitzgerald to stop a comeback.

In the ninth, with a two-run lead, Corsentino used just nine pitches — fly out, strikeout, ground out — to retire the middle of the Anteaters’ lineup. After back-to-back three-hour-plus ball games, K-State finished a two-hour, 24-minute game on top, 5-3.

“Really good win for our program for a lot of reasons,” Hughes said to K-State Athletics. “You love to see resiliency: your team bounce back after getting it put to us pretty good yesterday. To have a quick turnaround with the morning game and to play with energy and urgency and efficiency. I loved seeing that. I loved seeing us play good in a series-deciding game. I loved seeing us have conference energy against a really good opponent.”

K-State travels to Nebraska on Tuesday, April 26, for the second game of a home-away series with the Cornhuskers. The Wildcats won the first matchup on March 9, 6-4. Starting at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday’s game will have viewing available on the Big Ten Network.