K-State's Comeback Falls Short

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Trailing 6-0 after four innings, Kansas State rallied to within a run but left the bases loaded in the eighth inning to end its chances as Villanova topped the Wildcats, 8-5, Wednesday at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational at Chain of Lakes Park.

The Wildcats dropped to 6-2 on the season and finished play at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational with a 4-1 mark. Villanova improved to 7-1.

Kansas State, which scored four runs in the fifth inning and one in the sixth to cut the lead to 6-5, had a prime opportunity in the eighth inning. Kent Urban led off the frame with a walk and moved to second on a one-out single by Adam Muenster. After Muenster went to second, Carter Jurica drew an intentional walk to load the bases for Nick Martini. But Villanova reliever Mike Francisco struck out Martini to end the Wildcats' final threat of the afternoon.

Villanova starting pitcher Kevin Crimmel (2-0) limited the Wildcats to just two hits in the first four innings. After giving up four runs on three hits in the fifth, Crimmel was replaced, but his offensive mates kept Villanova in front to give the left-hander the victory.

Villanova was led offensively by Tyler Sciacca, who went 2-for-5 with three RBI. Justin Bencsko and Chris Johnson also recorded two hits, while David Koczirka and Dain Hall each drove in one run.

Jurica and Muenster led the K-State offense with two hits and two RBI. With his two hits, Jurica has now registered five multi-hit games and is currently riding an eight-game hitting streak to begin the season. Blair DeBord also had a hit, extending his hitting streak to seven games.

Villanova jumped on K-State starter Kayvon Bahramzadeh (0-1) with four runs in the first inning and a pair of unearned runs in the fourth. Bahramzadeh, making his first appearance, allowed four earned runs on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts in 3.1 innings of work.

Kansas State remained in the game behind the steady relief pitching of Thomas Rooke. The junior left-hander, who inherited and allowed the two unearned runs in the fourth, was strong in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. He retired nine of the 10 batters he faced during the three-inning period, including perfect sixth and seventh innings.

Villanova scored all four of its first-inning runs with two outs. After an infield single, a fielder's choice and a walk loaded the bases, Johnson tripled to right-center field to drive in three runs. Hall followed with a singled to make it 4-0. After retiring the side in the second inning, Bahramzadeh avoided disaster in the third when he forced a bases-loaded fly-out to the end the frame.

But Villanova scored another two runs in the fourth inning, knocking Bahramzadeh out of the game. With a runner at first and one out, Bahramzadeh walked Bencsko, which would be the end of the day for the sophomore right-hander.  Rooke retired the first batter he faced before forcing Johnson to hit a potential inning-ending ground ball to shortstop. But Jurica's throw to first was high, allowing two costly runs to score.

Kansas State, which had just two hits the previous four innings, came to life in its four-run fifth inning. Matt Giller was hit by a pitch and moved to second on Brad Clement's single to right field. Tanner Witt followed with a sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring position with one out.

Muenster was next and hit what looked to be a RBI groundout to score Giller, but Marlon Calbi threw the ball away. Jurica took advantage of the extra out when he pounded a two-RBI triple off the right-field wall to pull the Cats within three before a Martini made the score 6-4 on a sacrifice fly.

With momentum clearly on Kansas State's side due to the pitching of Rooke and the reappearance of the offense, K-State cut the deficit to one in the sixth. Urban collected a two-out, pinch-hit single through the right side before he stole second base. After a walk, Muenster drove home Urban on a single.

But Villanova pushed its lead back to two in the eighth inning on a Koczirka sacrifice fly before posting another unearned run in the ninth.

Following a travel day Thursday, the Wildcats will take part in the Bright House Invitational, hosted by Stetson, Friday through Sunday in DeLand, Fla. The Cats take on Steton at 6 p.m., (CT) Friday at Melching Field.