Martini Leads Cats to Series Win Over KU

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Nick Martini's two-run single in the sixth inning completed a Kansas State comeback as the 24th-ranked Wildcats rallied past Kansas, 8-5, to take the Big 12 Conference series Sunday afternoon at Tointon Family Stadium.

Kansas State improved to 34-16 overall and 13-10 in Big 12 play. The Wildcats have won 11 of the last 14 games against Kansas, which fell to 30-21-1 on the year and 11-12-1 in conference action.

Coupled with Texas Tech's loss to Baylor on Sunday, the Wildcats moved back into second place in the Big 12 standings entering the final weekend of the regular season. By taking two of the three games from KU, the Wildcats recorded their first conference series win since sweeping Baylor at home four weeks ago.

Martini, the Big 12's leading hitter, went 2-for-3 and drove in three runs to finish the series 6-for-12 with three doubles and four RBI. The sophomore outfielder pushed his season average to .429, tied for the best mark in school history.

Evan Marshall (5-3) was phenomenal out of the bullpen for K-State to earn the victory. The right-hander threw 3.2 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit with a strikeout. He retired nine of the 10 batters he faced in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames as the only Jayhawk to reach base came on an infield single in the seventh.

KU used the long ball to jump to a 3-0 lead after two innings with Brian Herre hitting a two-run homer in the first and Casey Lytle a solo shot in the second. But the Wildcats fought back to tie the game with three runs in the fourth inning, stringing together four straight base hits with two outs.

Jake Brown's single through the right side brought home Matt Giller for the first run, then Adam Muenster followed with an infield single off the glove of pitcher Tanner Poppe to score Chase Graskewicz. Poppe, trying to throw out Muenster on the play, fell to the ground and launched the ball into the grandstands for an error allowing Brown to score the tying run. 

"Jake came through with a big RBI right there," head coach Brad Hill said. "After taking a called third strike in his previous at bat, he came up big for us. Their mistake really helped us. After scoring that first run that inning, you could feel the pressure come off of us."

Kansas promptly regained the lead in the fifth with help from the Cats. Zach Elgie singled before back-to-back walks from Thomas Rooke loaded the bases.  On came Marshall who induced a potential inning-ending double play grounder from KU slugger Tony Thompson, but first baseman Kent Urban dropped the relay throw allowing Elgie to score and put the Jayhawks up 4-3.

With Marshall holding KU at bay, the Wildcats rallied in the sixth.  Against KU reliever Travis Blankenship (1-4) Giller was hit by a pitch and pinch hitter Tanner Witt walked with one out. Muenster laced the first pitch he saw past Thompson at third base to plate Giller with the tying run. Carter Jurica then walked and Martini followed by ripping a single to right field to give K-State its first lead of the game at 6-4.

The Cats added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Jurica and a double from Martini to build the lead to 8-4. KU scored a run in the ninth on back-to-back doubles off reliever James Allen before he settled down to retire the Jayhawks and capture the series.

Muenster was 3-for-5 with two RBI to record his 27th multi-hit game.

The bottom third of the K-State lineup saw its best production of the weekend as Giller, Graskewicz and Brown combined to go 3-for-6 with two walks and scored three runs. Witt, who pinch hit for Brown, was 1-for-1 with a walk and scored another two runs.

Kansas State concludes the regular-season with a three-game set at Texas A&M next weekend. The series begins Friday with a 6:35 p.m., first pitch at Olsen Field in College Station, Texas.