Bloxom's Walk-Off Lifts Cats Past No. 11 Irvine

MANHATTAN, Kan. Justin Bloxom pounded a full-count, two-out pitch over the left centerfield wall for a two-run walk-off home run as Kansas State defeated 11th-ranked UC Irvine, 9-7, Wednesday night at Tointon Family Stadium. With the victory, the Wildcats improved to 19-21 on the season, while the Anteaters dropped to 25-10.


The walk-off home run by Bloxom was Kansas State’s first since Brett Scott hit a three-run walk-off against North Dakota State on March 11, 2007. The round-tripper was Bloxom’s sixth of the season and he drove in his 31st and 32nd run of the year. The sophomore ended the evening 2-for-6 with a double, a home run, two runs scored and four RBI.


With the game tied at seven, Kansas State reliever Daniel Edwards worked out of a major jam in the top of the ninth. With one out, Francis Larson doubled to left field and was followed by a Jeff Cusick walk. After a strikeout, both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. However, Edwards regrouped and struck out pinch hitter Sean Madigan to end the inning.


Following a scoreless 10th, the Anteaters had an opportunity to take the lead in the 11th as Thomas Rooke (5-1) gave up a leadoff walk to Erick Deragisch. However, Deragisch was thrown out a second by Rooke on an attempted sacrifice bunt by Casey Stevenson. Stevenson was then caught stealing and Rooke forced an Aaron Lowenstein fly out to end the frame.


UC Irvine closer Eric Pettis (3-1), who came on in relief to begin the ninth inning, struck out the first two batters he faced in the bottom half of the inning. Nate Tenbrink was next and forced a full-pitch walk to keep the Wildcat inning alive. Bloxom followed and fought off three pitches on a full count before he blasted a ball to opposite field for the game-winner.


Jason King and Drew Biery recorded multi-hit games for K-State, as each went 2-for-5 with one RBI. Carter Jurica, Byron Wiley and Scott also collected RBI for the Cats.


Rooke picked up the win in relief as the freshman lefty shut down the Anteaters in the ninth and 10th innings, allowing one walk and forcing a pair of groundouts and fly outs.


Kansas State jumped out to an early five-run lead as the first six Wildcats reached base. Jordan Cruz was hit on the second pitch of the game and advanced to second on a balk by UC Irvine starter Daniel Bibona. Adam Muenster followed with an infield single, which moved Cruz to third. Muenster then stole second and Tenbrink was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Bloxom. After fouling off seven pitches, Bloxom pulled a 2-2 pitch down the left-field line and off the wall for a two-run double to put the Cats out in front, 2-0.


Jurica followed with a single to right field, scoring Tenbrink and moving Bloxom to third. Jurica then stole second base during King’s at bat, which resulted in a RBI single to right, scoring Bloxom and knocking Bibona out of the game. Kyle Necke came on in relief and got an out by way of a foul fly. Scott followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center field, which moved King to third and scored Jurica to make the game 5-0.


The Anteaters came out and scratched across one run in the second as K-State starter A.J. Morris hit Dillon Bell with out one. Bell then advanced to second on a groundball and scored on a Josh Tavelli down the right-field line to make the score 5-1.


Irvine got back within two with a pair of runs in the third inning. Lowenstein led off with a single and advanced to second on a fielding error by Cruz. Lowenstein then went to third on a groundout and scored on an Ollie Linton single up the middle to make the score 5-2. Following a pop up for the second out, Linton stole second and moved to third on a throwing error by Daniel Dellasega. A Jeff Cusick single scored Linton to make the score 5-3.


K-State got one of the runs back in the fourth inning when Scott walked and Cruz followed with a single to center, which Linton misplayed in the outfield to allow both Scott and Cruz to take an extra base. Wiley came on to pinch hit and ripped the ball back through the box off the pitcher, which allowed Scott to score and make the game 6-3.


UC Irvine would not go away as the Eaters scored single runs in the sixth and seventh. Larson led the sixth off with a single, moved to second on a groundout and scored when Bell singled to right center. In the seventh, Lowenstein forced a one-out walk, advanced to third on a Ben Orloff double, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Linton to narrow the lead to 6-5.


The Wildcats looked as if they picked up an insurance run in the seventh as King doubled down the left-field line and scored on a Drew Biery single to extend the lead to two at 7-5.


In the top of the eighth, Tony Asaro hit a full-count pitch to right centerfield for a one-out double and was then lifted for a pinch runner in Tyler Hoechlin. Tavelli was scheduled to bat next, but he was removed for Brock Bardeen. The move paid off for the Anteaters as the lefty pull a 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall to tie the game at seven.


Kansas State will jump back into conference play this weekend as the Wildcats host Texas for a three-game series beginning 6:30 p.m. Friday at Tointon Family Stadium.