Six-Run Ninth Inning Hurts K-State in 7-4 Loss

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - After tying the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, the K-State baseball team allowed six runs in the top of the ninth to contribute to its 7-4 loss to Saint Louis on Sunday at North Charlotte Regional Park.

K-State (2-2) relied upon a strong pitching performance by starter Corey Fischer to keep it in the contest, but in the ninth, the Billikens (1-3) rattled off back-to-back base hits to open the inning and chase reliever Jordan Floyd from the game. Floyd (1-1) had entered the contest in the eighth and worked out of a one-out, two-on jam.

The Wildcats went to Brandon Erickson in the ninth, who inherited a bases-loaded jam on Saturday against Pitt but escaped unscathed. However, the first batter Erickson faced, Michael Bozarth, dropped down a bunt between the pitcher's mound and the third base line in a sacrifice attempt. Erickson quickly fielded the ball, but his throw to first sailed down the right field line, allowing the go-ahead runs to score and Bozarth to reach third base.

"It was a well-placed bunt, and once (Erickson) bobbled it, there was no play," said K-State head coach Brad Hill. "That's a typical thing of trying to create something that wasn't there. Good runner, good speed."

The ninth got away from the Wildcats as Saint Louis added four more runs with the help of four hits. Mitch Plassmeyer, making his K-State debut, had to spell Erickson after the final hit of the frame and induced a pop-out to stop the threat.

"That's why you play these early games," added Hill. "You hope it happens now and not in about four or five weeks. You just have to learn from that. A lot of new guys, and it just happened."

The K-State offense, which left a season-high 11 runners on base, opened up for three runs in the ninth and managed to load the bases for the third time on the afternoon. Dom Thornton, Tyler Wolfe and Shane Conlon all contributed RBI base hits in the final at-bats, but Tyler Moore, representing the game-winning run, popped out to second base to end the game.

In addition to the ninth, the Wildcats had the bases loaded in the first and fourth innings while also putting a runner on first and third in the seventh. K-State went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position through the first eight innings.

"We missed opportunities today," said Hill. "The first inning could have changed the whole complexion of the game with a big hit or just even a run on the board after yesterday having nine zeros up there (on the scoreboard against George Mason). We didn't score in the first inning with the bases loaded and one out, and we kind of just hit the panic and pressure button after that."

Conlon was the lone Wildcat with multiple hits as he went 2-for-5. Six different K-State players reached base more than once, with each of the first five hitters in the lineup being among the group.

Max Brown, who went 1-for-3 with a walk, scored the game-tying run in the eighth when he reached base with a two-out walk. He subsequently stole second while also grabbing third base on an errant throw by Saint Louis catcher Jake Henson during his steal attempt. A few pitches later, Brown crossed home as a wild pitch by Robert Plohr resulted in a tie game.

In his K-State debut, Fischer struck out six and surrendered just one unearned run in 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander's lone run allowed occurred in the sixth when Trent Leimkuehler, who reached with a two-out double, scored on a ground ball hit by Mike Vigliarolo was mishandled by Wolfe, the K-State shortstop. After Leimkuehler's double, Fischer was relieved by Lucas Benenati, who surrendered the Vigliarolo ground ball.

"(Fischer) is a good competitor," said Hill. "He likes being out there, and the guys seem to really like playing behind him. He had a really good slider going today. Another solid start - for the most part, we got good pitching down here (in Florida)."

Benenati finished his day scattering three hits over 1 2/3 innings while striking out one.

Saint Louis starting pitcher Connor Lehmann did not factor into the decision despite throwing six shutout innings and allowing three hits in his first collegiate start.

Plohr (1-0) picked up the winning decision after one strikeout in his 1/3 of an inning pitched.

The Wildcats return to action with another four-game road trip, this time to Arizona when they participate in the Big 12/Pac-12 Showdown in Surprise and Mesa. The slate of games get underway on Thursday, February 19 against Utah.

Brown and Dalrymple extended their respective on-base streaks carried over from the 2014 season. Brown has now reached base safely in 10 straight games while Dalrymple is at 11 games.

Steve Serratore, who started his first K-State game at first base, went 1-for-4 with a walk. The redshirt sophomore transfer has reached base safely seven times in his last 12 plate appearances (.583 OBP).

Sunday's meeting between K-State and Saint Louis was the first between the two programs since 1989. The Wildcats lead the series, 2-1.