Morris Leads Cats to Conference-Opening Win

MANHATTAN, Kan. Junior pitcher A.J. Morris recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts and the Kansas State offense broke open a scoreless game with a five-run sixth inning as the 26th-ranked Wildcats defeated No. 13 Oklahoma, 9-1, Friday evening at Tointon Family Stadium.

 

With the victory, Kansas State improved to 18-3 to keep pace with the 2006 squad for the best start in school history en route to its first conference win of the season. K-State also won its 12th home game in as many tries, the best home start since the 2006 team went 13-0 at home to start the season.

 

Morris (6-0) was solid in a record-setting evening. The right-hander’s 12 strikeouts were the most by a Wildcat since Jim Ripley struck out 13 Baylor batters on May 2, 2004, while Morris became the first K-State starting pitcher to win his first six decisions since Lon Ostrum started the 1976 season 6-0.

 

In a game that was to showcase the two best offensive teams in the Big 12 entering the weekend, the first five and a half innings were dominated by each team’s ace. Oklahoma’s Andrew Doyle (2-2) faced just one over the minimum through five as he produced 10 ground balls to record the Sooners’ first 15 outs. However, the wheels came off for Doyle in the sixth inning and he finished the night allowing five runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work.

 

Morris surrendered three hits in the first five innings, but also tallied eight of his 12 strikeouts during that span and retied the side in order in five of his eight innings pitched. Morris, a native of Humble, Texas, finished the night spraying just four hits and walking two in an eight-inning, 117-pitch outing.

 

Morris was able to work around an early-inning threat when the Sooners had a chance to put the game’s first runs on the board in the second. OU began the frame with two singles and a walk to load the bases with no outs. However, Morris was able to regroup to strike out Garrett Buechele and force Kaleb Herren to ground into a 6-4-3 double-play to keep the game scoreless.

 

Kansas State eventually broke open the scoreless game with its five-run sixth, which began with four-straight hits. Rob Vaughn started the big inning with a single and moved to third on a double off the right-field wall by Adam Muenster. Dane Yelovich and Carter Jurica followed with back-to-back singles to bring in the game’s first two runs.

 

Following a groundout and a walk to load the bases, Jason King hit a towering sacrifice fly into deep right-center field to score another run. Drew Biery was next and worked a walk, which would be the end for Doyle.

 

C.J. Blue came out of the bullpen for the Sooners, but didn’t fair any better as he surrendered a Jordan Cruz two-run single on his second pitch to cap the inning.

 

Muenster led the Wildcats at the plate as he tallied a season high three hits in three at-bats and was a triple away from the cycle. The junior finished the game with two RBI. King also tallied a multi-hit, multi-RBI contest, going 2-for-3 with two runs driven in.

 

The Cats scored another run in the seventh and three more in the eighth. In the seventh, Muenster hit another towering shot, this one over the left-field wall for a one-out, solo-home run. It was his first round-tripper in 206 at-bats, the last coming on May 23, 2007, in the Big 12 Tournament against Texas.

 

K-State started the eighth inning much like it did the sixth as the first six batters reached base. Justin Bloxom led the inning off with a double and scored when King followed with a single. Oklahoma then brought in two new pitchers in the next two at-bats, each one producing a walk, which loaded the bases.

 

Following another pitching change, which saw Trey Sperring enter the game, the right-hander hit Vaughn and walked Muenster to plate the eighth and ninth Wildcat runs of the night.

 

The Sooners scored their lone run of the evening in the ninth when J.T. Wise hit a RBI single into right field to score Bryant Hernandez.

 

The Wildcats continue their conference-opening weekend with a 2:05 p.m. first pitch on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Kansas City with Brent Stover and Mike Clark calling the action.