K-State Advances to Regional Final

HOUSTON, Texas – K-State’s A.J. Morris struck out Michael Fuda with the winning run at second base as the 14th-ranked Wildcats withstood a ninth-inning rally from sixth-ranked Rice for a 7-6 win Saturday night at Reckling Park.


With the win, Kansas State (43-16-1) advanced to the Houston Regional final at 6 p.m., Sunday, to face the winner of the Rice-Xavier elimination contest at 2 p.m. K-State needs just one more win to claim the Houston Regional title and advance to the Super Regional, while the Rice-Xavier winner will need to knock off the Wildcats twice to move on.


Morris (14-1) tossed his fifth complete game of the season against the Owls in one of the gutsiest performances in his All-American campaign. The Humble, Texas, native scattered 13 hits and surrendered six runs, of which only four were earned, with two walks. His only two strikeouts were pivotal as both came in the bottom of the ninth inning. Morris’ 14 wins this season move him into a tie for third place in Big 12 history for a single season.

K-State took its first lead of the game in the eighth inning at 4-3 on Justin Bloxom's solo homer, then plated three insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning. Freshman Nick Martini delivered a two-out, bases-loaded double down the left field line on a 3-2 pitch to give the Wildcats a 7-3 cushion.


But the sixth-ranked Owls (40-16) did not go quietly as two hits and an error by second baseman Carter Jurica led to a run. After Rick Hague fanned – Morris’ first strikeout of the game – a walk and a another base hit allowed Rice to close the gap to 7-5. With the bases loaded, Morris induced Chad Mozingo to ground out to first base for the second out, scoring a run and moving the tying and winning runs into scoring position. But on his 141st pitch of the game, Morris struck out Fuda swinging to end the game.


Martini paced the Wildcats with his 3-for-5 night and drove in four runs. Bloxom went 1-for-3 with two RBI, improving to 6-for-8 with three homers and seven RBI in the regional.


Rice starting pitcher Ryan Berry (7-1) suffered his first loss of the season, allowing four runs on 11 hits in eight innings. The right-hander struck out six and didn't issue a walk, but gave up Bloxom's opposite-field homer in the eighth.


Rice jumped out in front with two runs in the first as it began the inning with three straight hits off Morris, including a run-scoring double from Diego Seastrunk. With runners on second and third with no outs, Anthony Rendon hit a ground ball to Jason King at third, who threw home to record the first out. K-State had a chance to get out of the inning with no more damage when Mozingo grounded to second base, but the Cats were unable to turn a double play and Seastruck scored to make it 2-0.


Kansas State got a run back in the second when Drew Biery sliced a two-out double down the right-field line for the Cats’ first hit of the game. The hot-hitting Jordan Cruz followed and, on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, hit a line drive into right field to score Biery and cut the lead to 2-1.


The Owls immediately responded in their half of the second when Steven Sultzbaugh hit a bloop single that landed just inside the right-field line, went to third on a pair of ground outs to short and scored when Morris uncorked a wild pitch to put Rice ahead 3-1.


K-State battled back again in the third to score another two-out run as Adam Muenster singled with one out and stole second. After Carter Jurica struck out, Martini fought to a 3-2 count before lacing a single into center field to bring home Muenster and cut the deficit to 3-2.


The Wildcats tied the game in the sixth, thanks in part to a throwing error by Berry. Jurica led off the inning with a single to center field and moved to second on a ground out. With Bloxom at the plate, Berry threw the ball into center field when no one covered the bag on an attempted pickoff of Jurica, allowing Jurica to advance to third. Bloxom then blasted a ball that was caught on the warning track in left field as Jurica scored on the sacrifice fly to knot the contest at 3-3.


The Wildcats had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the seventh inning when Biery and Cruz opened the frame with base hits. But Berry fielded Rob Vaughn's attempted sacrifice bunt to throw out Biery at third base. Dane Yelovich struck out swinging for the second out and Muenster flied to center to end the threat.


With the victory, Kansas State advances to the championship game of the 2009 Houston Regional. The Wildcats will face the winner of Rice-Xavier game in a 6 p.m., contest Sunday at Reckling Park.