Feb. 18, 2012
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Sophomore Ross Kivett delivered a two-out, two-run triple in the 11th inning and left-hander Shane Conlon was perfect in 1.2 innings of relief as Kansas State defeated CSU Bakersfield, 7-5, in extra innings in the season-opener for both teams Saturday at Hardt Field.
K-State has won four-straight season-openers and six of its last seven. It’s the first time the Wildcats have won four-straight lid-lifters since 2000-2003 seasons, and it marks the most success K-State has had in season-opening games in a seven-year stretch since 1986-92.
The win did not come easy. The Wildcats held a 5-1 lead following a two-run homer by Wade Hinkle in the top of the eighth. However, the Roadrunners came back with three runs in their half of the inning, two coming on a double by Cael Brockmeyer, and they tied the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out error by Kivett.
Junior-college transfer RJ Santigate, who pinch-hit for third baseman Matt Giller earlier in the game, led off the Wildcat 11th with a single up the middle against CSUB reliever Chuck Buchanan (0-1). After a sacrifice bunt, a strikeout and a Tanner Witt walk, Kivett roped the first pitch he saw into right field that scooted past diving right-fielder Jordie Hein easily scoring Santigate and allowing Witt to come around from first.
Conlon (1-0) retired the Roadrunners in order in the bottom half, including a game-ending strikeout of backup catcher Frank Martinez to clinch the victory.
“You talk about it with your guys all the time, and it comes to fruition today with Ross,” head coach Brad Hill said. “He was really having a rough day with an error and some bad swings, but late in the game it’s gone. He didn’t remember what he did earlier in the game. He got locked in the moment and got a big hit. It started with RJ Santigate getting a two-strike hit through the middle and Tanner having great composure before the walk.”
Conlon, a product of Naperville, Ill., entered the game with a runner on first and one out in the 10th, and he proceeded to record two strikeouts to end the threat. It was Conlon’s first relief win since March 26 last season at Baylor as he started the final six games of his freshman campaign.
“You wish that guys could just really watch Shane,” Hill said. “He has confidence in what he does, and he has great composure – I think lightning could have struck him and he wouldn’t know it.”
Kivett, Hinkle and Jared King led the Wildcats at the plate with two hits apiece. Senior outfielder Mike Kindel got K-State on the board in the seventh with a three-run homer down the right-field line, while Hinkle’s two-run homer in the eighth hit the right-field foul pole.
The two home runs by the Wildcats marked the team’s first multi-homer game since K-State hit a season-high four against CSU Bakersfield on May 4 last year.
The Roadrunners were paced offensively by Oscar Sanay, who went 3-for-5 with a RBI, while Kevin Younger added two hits. Third baseman DC Legg broke open a scoreless game with a fifth-inning solo homer.
K-State starter Matt Applegate was brilliant in the first start of his senior campaign, pitching 7.1 innings while allowing four runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts. He left the game with K-State leading, 5-2. The right-hander threw 103 pitches, the fifth time in his career he hit the 100-pitch plateau.
“Applegate really had a great start,” added Hill. “You would have liked for him to get the win. It didn’t happen, but I know he’s happy the team won.”
K-State and CSU Bakersfield continue their three-game series at 4 p.m., (CT) Sunday at Hardt Field. The game can be heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN or online at www.k-statesports.com.