Kansas State Upsets No. 3 Arizona State, 7-6

MANHATTAN, Kan. Justin Bloxom pounded two home runs and drove in five runs, while Daniel Edwards closed the door on Arizona State in the ninth inning as Kansas Stated defeated the third-ranked Sun Devils, 7-6, Tuesday evening at Tointon Family Stadium. With the win, K-State improved to 23-25 on the season, while ASU fell to 37-9.


The victory against the Sun Devils was the highest-ranked team Kansas State defeated since downing No. 3 Nebraska, 11-5, on March 21, 2006, in Manhattan. It also marked the eighth time this season the Wildcats knocked off a ranked team, including five in their last 10 games and two-straight.


Bloxom had arguably his best game in a Wildcat uniform going against his home-state team as the Phoenix, Ariz., native went 3-for-4 with two home runs, one triple, five runs driven in and two runs scored. He became the second Wildcat this season to blast two home runs in a game as Nate Tenbrink did so on March 30 against Oklahoma State. Furthermore, Bloxom’s 11 total bases marked the first time a Wildcat collected 10 or more total bases in a game since Drew Biery had 10 at South Dakota State on March 17, 2006.


Tenbrink was also 3-for-4 for the Wildcats with one RBI and three runs scored, while Biery finished the night 2-for-4.


The Wildcats received a great pitching performance from its starter, Justin Murray, who went 4.2 strong innings, allowing one earned run on six hits and three strike outs, but took a no decision.


Tyler Ruch (1-0) picked up the win in relief after closing the door on ASU in the fifth inning with runners on first and third with two outs. The sophomore gave up a hit to the first batter he faced, but stuck out the next to end the inning with two left runners on. Edwards, who struck out two of the three batters he faced, recorded his ninth save of the season and bettered his school career record to 23.


Kansas State plated the first two runs of the game in the first inning with a pair of two-out hits. Following a ground out and a strike out, Tenbrink singled through the right side and Bloxom followed with a home run to left field on a 2-1 pitch, giving the Cats an early 2-0 lead. The pair of runs marked the fourth-consecutive game K-State scored in the first inning.


Following three scoreless innings, the Sun Devils got within one run in the fifth with a leadoff solo-home run by Mike Leake to left field. The damage could have been worse, however, as Murray walked Jason Kipnus with two outs, and Brett Wallace followed with a single, which moved Kipnus to third and knocked Murray out of the game. Ben Hornbeck came in and struck out Petey Paramore on three pitches to keep K-State’s lead at 2-1.


Arizona State took the lead with two runs in the sixth inning as Rocky Laguna hit a one-out single to center field and was followed by a single to left by Leake. Raoul Torrez then came in to pinch hit and Hornbeck walked him on four-straight pitches, which would be the end for the left hander. Ruch, another lefty, came out of the pen and worked a 1-2 count to Ryan Sontag, but the left fielder took an outside pitch through the left side to plate two runs and give ASU a 3-2 lead. Ruch did come back to strike out Kipnus to end the frame.


The Wildcats answered ASU’s two-run sixth inning with four of their own in the bottom half of the frame. Brett Scott led off with a single and then stole second base. Tenbrink was next and ripped a single into center field, scoring Scott to tie the game at three apiece. Bloxom followed and pounded his second two-run home run of the night to left field, giving K-State a 5-3 lead, a lead the Wildcats would never relinquish.


However, the Cats weren’t done there as Jason King and Biery recorded back-to-back singles, the latter moving King to third. Adam Muenster was next and hit into a double play, but King came home on the play to push the Cat margin to three at 6-3.


Trevor Hurley came out of the bullpen to begin the seventh and worked out of jam as the Sun Devils had runners on first and third with just one out, but Marcel Champagnie lined into a double play to end the inning.


Kansas State wasn’t as fortunate in the eighth as Arizona State pushed across three runs to get within one. Leake and Torrez recorded back-to-back one-out singles to give the Devils runners at first and third. Leake then came home on a sacrifice fly by Sontag to record the second out of the inning and the Wildcats looked to avoid any further damage. However, Kipnus and Wallace laced back-to-back doubles to bring in two more runs and narrow the margin to 7-6.


Following a scoreless bottom of the eighth for Kansas State, Edwards came in to close out the game, but gave up a leadoff single to Matt Newman, a pinch hitter, to begin the frame. Arizona State, looking to move the runner to second base, brought Mike Murphy to the plate to bunt Newman over, but the pinch hitter was unable to put the bunt down as Newman took off for second and Rob Vaughn threw gunned him down for the first out. That’s all the momentum Edwards needed as he struck out the next two batters on called third strikes to seal the game for Kansas State.


The Wildcats travel to Norman, Okla., for a key three-game conference series at Oklahoma beginning 6:35 p.m. Friday night at L. Dale Mitchell Park.