K-State Captures Series in Walk-Off Fashion

MANHATTAN, Kan. Trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the ninth, Kansas State received a pinch-hit RBI single from Mike Kindel and a game-winning sacrifice fly from Carter Jurica as the Wildcats came back to defeat No. 15 Texas A&M, 4-3, Saturday afternoon at Tointon Family Stadium.


With the victory, K-State improved to 26-9 overall and 7-5 in Big 12 action, while Texas A&M fell to 21-14 and 8-7 in conference play.


Kansas State won its second straight conference series and captured its first series victory over Texas A&M since 2005. The win was also the sixth for the Wildcats against a ranked opponent this season, including four against Big 12 foes.


Trailing by a run in their last at-bat, Jason King got the rally started with a single off Texas A&M closer Nick Fleece (3-1). Jordan Cruz was next and belted a ball into deep left-center field, which off the bat appeared it might leave the park for a walk-off homer, but Aggie left fielder Dylan Petrich tracked it down on the warning track.


Rob Vaughn followed with a single through the left side to move King to second with the tying run. Kindel, a freshman who was 2-for-5 with one RBI as a pinch-hitter entering the game, was inserted to bat in place of Dane Yelovich. The Springboro, Ohio, product watched the first three pitches, two of which were strikes, before pulling a single through the right side of the infield. King rounded third base as A&M right fielder Brooks Raley threw home, but the throw was high and King slid in to tie the game at 3-3.


With Kindel on first and Vaughn on third, the Aggies elected to intentionally walk Adam Muenster to load the bases for Jurica, who was 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the series coming into the at-bat. On a 1-2 pitch, Jurica pushed a fly ball to Raley in right field, who circled and caught the ball on a sprint. Vaughn tagged on the catch and Raley’s throw was on target, but Vaughn was able to slide safely between Texas A&M catcher Kevin Gonzalez’s legs as he received the throw, giving K-State the 4-3 victory.


“I think the biggest thing our kids are doing is they are playing all the way through and they keep believing in themselves and each other,” Coach Brad Hill said. “I just like the way our guys battle and compete. They played as hard as they can play and they’re very unselfish. They just want to win. The competitiveness and desire to win is really strong.”


Vaughn was 2-for-4 in the game with a solo home run in the fifth inning, his second of the year. King and Justin Bloxom were also 2-for-4, while King drove in one run.


Thomas Rooke (4-0) picked up the win in relief after shutting down the Aggies over the final 1.2 innings, allowing just one hit. James Allen, who took the loss in the first game of the series, was able to bounce back and give K-State one inning of one-hit ball before handing the game over to Rooke.


Fleece, who was 3-0 with four saves entering the game, recorded his first loss as he allowed both runs in the ninth on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts in 2.1 innings of work.


Texas A&M was not able to capitalize on a great pitching performance by starter Ross Hales, who no-hit the Wildcats in the first 4.2 innings, allowing just two base runners on a pair of walks. Vaughn’s home run over the left-center field wall in the fifth inning was the Wildcats' first hit.


Texas A&M scored first in the fourth inning as Brodie Greene led off the frame with a home run over the left-field wall. The Aggies had a chance to add more to the lead as Luke Anders followed with a hit and, after a pop out, Caleb Shofner was hit by a pitch by K-State starter Todd Vogel.  Reliever Evan Marshall entered at that point and promptly forced a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the jam.


A&M built its lead to 2-0 in the fifth when David Alleman led off the inning with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and advanced to third on a bunt-single by Kyle Colligan. With Raley at the plate in the middle of a 13-pitch at-bat, Colligan was caught stealing second base, but Alleman beat the return throw home by Drew Biery to score.


Matt Applegate came on in relief in the sixth and quickly shut down the Aggies in order. Muenster led off the bottom half with a walk, giving the Wildcats some life. However, Jurica grounded into a double play before a Nick Martini groundout ended the frame. The Aggies used that momentum swing in the top of the seventh when Petrich hit a one-out homer over the left-field wall to give A&M a 3-1 lead.


Kansas State cut the lead to 3-2 in its half of the seventh. Bloxom singled before a Biery double put runners on second and third with no outs. King then scorched a line-drive single off Shofner’s glove at third into left field to plate Bloxom and make the score 3-2. But the Cats couldn't capitalize on the situation to tie the game or take the lead.


Vaughn's squeeze-bunt attempt was hit to Fleece, who got Biery in a rundown for the second out. King moved to third on the play, while Vaughn went to second, but Yelovich struck out to leave the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.


The Wildcats again left the tying run in scoring position in the eighth when Fleece hit Martini with a two-out pitch followed by a Bloxom single off Fleece’s leg. However, Fleece struck out Biery to strand the tying run on second.


Next action for Kansas State is a two-game series against in-state rival Wichita State, beginning Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., at Tointon Family Stadium. The two teams will then square off on Wednesday night in Wichita, Kan., at Eck Stadium.