Kansas State baseball started their quest for a Big 12 tournament championship against the two seed and No. 8 Texas Tech Red Raiders and lost 3-5. Then, K-State sparked interest by defeating West Virginia 8-5 and eliminating Texas Tech 6-5 in extra innings but lost 3-4 to No. 22 Oklahoma.
The two Big 12 tournament losses concluded the Wildcat’s season, but — much like this past season — they went out with a bang, upsetting teams they were swept by in the regular season.
The most entertaining conference clash was Friday night through Saturday morning’s extra-innings battle against the Red Raiders. The 11-inning fair outlasted the clock past midnight, but all eyes were on the underdogs that call themselves Wildcats.
K-State jumped on Big 12 pitcher of the year, Brandon Birdsell, early in the game with a Nick Goodwin home run on the first pitch of the second inning. Following the solo-jack was a double from Cole Johnson, an infield single from Kaelen Culpepper, and a two-RBI single from OU-transfer and veteran catcher Justin Mitchell.
The three-run advantage lasted until the sixth inning, when the Red Raiders retaliated against relief pitcher Blake Corsentino, adding three runs to their one-run fourth inning. The go-ahead fourth run fell on Corsentino’s shoulders with a failed pickoff to first base, launching the ball down the right-field line.
The costly error felt like a repeating nightmare for Wildcat fans, as three errors contributed to Texas Tech’s opening win against K-State on Wednesday evening. K-State kept the first matchup at arm’s length, but two unearned runs made the difference in that game as the Wildcats fell 5-3, despite a three-run seventh inning effort.
This outcome was different, but not before drama arrived in the ninth inning with Texas Tech leading 5-4. K-State outfielder Dom Johnson accidentally collided with Red Raider first baseman Hudson White, knocking White to the ground. Johnson then turned towards second only to be tagged out by White returning to first base, where White stared Johnson down as they exchanged words.
The drama resulted in Dom Johnson being ejected for making “obscene gestures” from the dugout, as the broadcast commentators noted. However, it only added fuel to the fire, as Brady Day would later race home to force extra innings.
Over the course of the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth innings, freshman pitcher Ty Ruhl dominated, silencing Texas Tech with four strikeouts. The effort gave way for K-State’s Josh Nicoloff to bunt Cole Johnson home on a go-ahead suicide squeeze play to put the Wildcats up 6-5.
All-American Dylan Phillips relieved Ruhl in the bottom half of the inning and shut the door on Tech, striking out White.
Starting efforts from German Fajardo against Texas Tech (game three) and Blake Adams against West Virginia (game two) ignited K-State’s chances in their wins. Fajardo threw five innings and allowed two runs, striking out six batters in K-State’s shocking upset.
Adams sat nine Mountaineer batter’s down in 6.2 innings pitched. The Arkansas transfer surrendered four runs, but the Wildcat’s offense offered enough run support to secure his sixth victory of the season, notching his season at 6-6.
On Thursday, Phillips and Dom Johnson led the offensive charge against West Virginia, scoring three runs (one Phillips, two Johnson) and scorching three RBIs. One of Johnson’s two RBIs resulted in K-State’s first solo-bomb of the Big 12 tournament.
Cash Rugely also tallied two RBIs in K-State’s win over West Virginia — something K-State needed more of against No. 22 Oklahoma.
The back-and-forth game against the Sooners devastated the Wildcats in the sixth inning when OU took the first multi-run lead. OU took an early 1-0 but K-State took advantage of an error in the second to tie it up.
The Wildcats took a 2-1 lead on a Cash Rugely single in the fifth inning, but the one-run lead wasn’t sustainable. K-State’s Griffin Hassall pitched five innings, striking out five batters, but eventually ran out of gas and allowed three Sooner runs.
The Wildcats did scratch a third run across on an RBI single from Mitchell, but it wasn’t enough to match OU’s four. The Sooners held on and eliminated K-State.
K-State finished the season 29-29, winning 21 games at home and just six on the road, with two additional neutral site wins. The squad’s more notable wins came against the Texas Longhorns, winning two out of three. However, an 8-16 regular-season conference record won’t qualify for the NCAA tournament.