K-State Earns Big 12 Championship Bid with 5-4 Win

MANHATTAN, Kan. For the second-consecutive season, Kansas State will head to the Big 12 Championship as the Wildcats clinched their spot in Oklahoma City with a 5-4 win over Kansas Saturday evening at Tointon Family Stadium.


With the victory, Kansas State improved to 26-27 overall and 10-16 in Big 12 Conference play. The Wildcats are guaranteed the No. 7 seed in next week’s tournament regardless of any outcome on Sunday due to their win and Oklahoma’s loss to Oklahoma State. It also marked the first time in school history that Kansas State has made the postseason in two-straight years. Kansas dropped to 30-26 overall and 9-17 in league action after the defeat.


On Senior Night, fifth-year senior Derek Bunker, who made just one start on the year prior to Saturday, went 3-for-4 with two RBI, including the game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Wildcats received two-hit contests from Nate Tenbrink, Jason King and Drew Biery, while Bloxom, Rob Vaughn and Dane Yelovich each drove in one run.


Senior Daniel Edwards (4-3) picked up the win after 2.2 innings of scoreless relief with two strikeouts. Kansas reliever Paul Smyth (5-5) was saddled with the loss as he pitched the final 2.0 innings, but gave up the run in the eighth.


Yelovich led off the Wildcat eighth inning with a single to center field on an 0-2 pitch and then stole second base during Bunker’s at bat. After fouling off three pitches, Bunker roped a 2-2 pitch up the middle to bring in the postseason clincher. Edwards sat down the Jayhawks in order in the final inning, including a diving catch in foul territory by Drew Biery for the second out. Edwards then forced John Allman to ground out to senior Brett Scott to end the contest.


Kansas first baseman Preston Land led the Jayhawk offense with a 2-for-4 night while recording one RBI. Buck Afenir, Ryne Price and Joe Southers also drove in one run for KU.


Just as they did in Friday-night’s game, the Wildcats jumped out in front early with a pair of runs in the second inning. King led things off with a double off the right-field wall and was followed by a Biery walk. After a fly out, Vaughn was hit by the first pitch he saw, which loaded the bases. Yelovich was next and lifted a 1-2 to right field for the second out of the inning, but it was deep enough to score King and move Biery to third. With two outs, Bunker laid down a perfectly executed safety squeeze to plate Biery and give K-State the 2-0 lead.


K-State starter Chase Bayuk worked out of a jam in the third inning, but wasn’t as fortunate in the fourth as the Jayhawks tied the game up a two. Afenir led off with a walk and, following a strikeout, Erik Morrison singled through the left side of the infield. Land was next and hit another ball through the left side, plating Afenir for the first KU run. Bayuk then forced a fly ball for the second out of the inning, but Southers lined a single into left center to score Morrison.


Kansas came back with another run in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead when Afenir hit a 0-1 pitch over the right center field wall for a two-out, solo home run.


K-State quickly answered the Kansas run with two runs in the fifth. Tenbrink singled to lead off the inning and then stole second base. Justin Bloxom brought in Tenbrink on a single to center field to tie the game at three and chase Kansas starter Andres Esquibel from the contest. Shaeffer Hall came in and struck out Byron Wiley for the second out of the inning, but Vaughn dunked the first pitch he saw over the right side of the infield to bring in Bloxom and give K-State the 4-3 lead.


Kansas, again, would come back to tie the game in the top of the seventh inning when Faunce walked and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Tyler Ruch, who came on in relief in the inning, proceeded to walk Allman and hit Afenir to load the bases, and was quickly replaced by Edwards. The right hander gave up a sacrifice fly to Price on his first pitch to tie the game, but held KU hitless in the eighth to set things up for his offense.


Kansas State’s regular season and home finale against Kansas is set for a 2 p.m. first pitch Sunday at Tointon Family Stadium.