Home runs lift Wildcat baseball to second win of season

Head Couch Pete Hughes watching his players against Oklahoma State on April 1, 2022 at Tointon Family Stadium. (Archive photo by Madison Riebel | Collegian Media Group)

Following a 7-6 nail-biter against Stephen F. Austin in the season opener, Kansas State stays undefeated after winning 8-4. Wildcat pitchers managed traffic on the basepaths while the Wildcats out-slugged the Lumberjacks with four home runs by four different players.

Outfielder Cole Johnson broke a 3-3 tie with a three-run shot to left field in the sixth inning to score Dom Hughes and Kaelen Culpepper. The longball marked K-State’s second of the game, later followed with solo-homers from all-first team Big 12 shortstop Nick Goodwin and outfielder Cash Rugely.

After SFA regained a one-run lead in the bottom of the first inning, second baseman Roberto Pena ignited the first of K-State’s home runs — all of which were smashed to left field despite a 5 mph wind gust to the south.

The early offensive production helped starting pitcher German Fajardo settle into the game, allowing one run for the remainder of his outing. In four innings pitched, Fajardo surrendered three runs (two earned) on seven hits, two walks and struck out three Lumberjacks.

Although Fajardo never accomplished a three-up-three-down inning, he did enough damage control to allow relief pitcher Tyson Neighbors to enter the game with a 4-3 lead. Then, Neighbors blew away Lumberjack batters with five strikeouts in two innings, earning him his first win of the season. As a result, SFA pitcher Cade Stapleton got tagged with a loss, despite a seven strikeout performance.

Neighbors’ outing paved the way for former Texas Tech Red Raider Shay Hartis, who pitched a scoreless three innings to give K-State head coach Pete Hughes his 100th win as a Wildcat. The win also marked the first time the program won its first two games since 2015.

Lead-off hitter Brendan Jones’ three singles and Johnson’s home run and single aided the team’s 10 hits. However, eight Wildcats crossed the plate once to lift K-State to its second consecutive win of the opening series.

K-State continues its four game series against the Lumberjacks at 1 p.m on Sunday, Feb. 19.