K-State Hangs on for Series Sweep

WICHITA, Kan. Wichita State had the tying run at second base with one out in the ninth inning, but sophomore reliever Thomas Rooke forced Mitch Caster to foul out before the left-hander struck out Taylor Gilmore as No. 21 Kansas State defeated Wichita State, 4-3, Wednesday night at Eck Stadium.


With the win, Kansas State improved to 28-9 and swept the season series from Wichita State for the first time since 2005. The victory also gave the Cats their eighth series win of the season, the most since winning 10 series in 1997. The Shockers fell to 20-15 with the loss.


“This is just a tough place to play,” Coach Brad Hill said. “You’re up by four runs and you feel like you’re in control of the game. But then they put up a three-spot and now you’re only up one on the road and that makes you really nervous. We just showed great composure and our freshman pitchers really buckled down down the stretch.”


K-State starter Ryan Daniel picked up his second win of the season, but his first since March 6, in perhaps his best outing of the season. The junior-college transfer allowed three runs only two of which were earned on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts in five innings of work.


Daniel was followed out of the bullpen by Evan Marshall, James Allen and Rooke, who combined to throw four shutout innings, allowing just two hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Rooke came in to record the final two outs of the game to earn his second career save, both coming within his last three appearances.


Kansas State was able to take advantage of a Shocker error, seven walks and a pair of hit-by-pitches, including one by Carter Jurica with the bases loaded in the sixth, which would end up being the winning run.


Nick Martini, Justin Bloxom and Jordan Cruz also recorded RBI for K-State. The Wildcats, who came into the game ranked third in the nation in steals, collected four stolen bases in the contest, including two from Dane Yelovich who leads the team with 18.


The Wildcats scored the game’s first run in the second inning when Jason King walked and moved to third on a single by Rob Vaughn. Cruz grounded to the second baseman forcing out Vaughn at second, but the throw to first to retire Cruz was high, allowing King to score and give the Cats a 1-0 lead.


K-State added to its lead in the third when Martini grounded out to score Yelovich, who reached on an infield single then stole second and third bases.  For Martini, the RBI was his 29th of the season.


The Cats extended their lead to 3-0 in the fifth as Jurica singled with two outs before Martini reached on an error by WSU first baseman Clinton McKeever. Bloxom made the Shockers pay for the error when he drilled a ball into left field to score Jurica.


Wichita State reliever Justin Kemp allowed the Wildcats' fourth run in the sixth when he hit Jurica with a pitch with the bases loaded. That play proved meaningful as the Shockers scored three in the bottom half of the sixth. Tyler Grimes led off with a single, moved to third on a botched double-play attempt and then scored when McKeever hit a single to right field, which would be the end for Daniel.


Marshall came out of the bullpen for the second-straight night with runners in scoring position, but did not fare as well as he did in Tuesday's victory over the Shockers. The right-hander induced a groundout for the first out of the inning, then uncorked a wild pitch to allow the second run of the frame to score, while McKeever moved to third. Bret Bascue followed with a RBI single to right field to bring home McKeever and pull WSU within 4-3.


Allen came into the game in the seventh and set the tone for the Cats the rest of the way. The freshman shut down the Shockers in order in the seventh and eighth innings, but ran into trouble in the ninth when he allowed a leadoff single to Bascue.


Andrew Letourneau pinch ran for Bascue, but Vaughn gunned down the freshman as he tried to steal second. Allen hit Caster on the very next pitch, and Rooke was brought in to pitch. 


McKeever led WSU with a 3-for-4 evening, while Bascue went 2-for-3.


K-State returns home for a three-game conference series against Missouri, beginning Friday, April 17, at 6:30 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium.