Feb. 18, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Despite holding a lead since the first inning, the K-State baseball team suffered the loss on Tuesday as San Francisco scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to walk off with a 7-6 win at Benedetti Diamond.
The Wildcats (0-4) held a 6-4 advantage entering the ninth, but K-State reliever Jake Matthys allowed five hits to the six batters he faced in his only inning of work to help San Francisco (2-2) score the game-deciding runs. Prior to the ninth inning, USF did not have any of its 14 total hits in the previous two innings.
The defeat was the first walk-off loss for K-State since March 29, 2013 at Baylor.
After Tuesday’s loss, K-State has started a season 0-4 for the first time since 1973.
The Wildcats, who struggled in the opening weekend to generate offense, responded on Tuesday by tallying the six runs on nine hits, both season-highs. In the first three games of the year, K-State had a combined three runs and 11 hits. However, with runners in scoring position, K-State was 2-for-9 on Tuesday, while San Francisco was 5-for-10.
“It was a change of approach,” said head coach Brad Hill about the difference in hitting for the Wildcats. “You saw more balls through the middle, more balls hit flat today. I really liked our offensive approach, but I would have liked to finish off a couple more innings.”
K-State had an opportunity to add more insurance runs in the eighth after loading the bases with no outs. With leadoff singles by Max Brown and RJ Santigate, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Ross Kivett that allowed all runners to be safe on a fielder’s choice, Carter Yagi hit a deep fly ball to left-center field. San Francisco’s Bradley Zimmer laid out for a diving catch that limited K-State to one run on the sacrifice fly. Back-to-back groundouts by Shane Conlon and Austin Fisher on new pitcher Sheldon Lee ended the Wildcat threat.
“Bases loaded with no outs and only get one run [in the eighth inning] is not what you want, but [Zimmer] made a great catch in left-center field. It was an unbelievable catch. We’ve got to find a way to finish off that inning, though.”
The Wildcats left 10 runners on base in the game after reaching base safely with two hit by pitches and four walks in addition to the nine hits. Conlon, Fisher and Santigate each reached base safely three times.
Lee earned the win for USF after throwing 1 2/3 perfect innings of relief.
Mitch Meyer got the Wildcats on the board in the first inning with a two-out, two-run double. It was the first time K-State had a lead since the 10th inning of game one of the Corvallis Super Regional last season.
Kivett, meanwhile, made it 4-1 in the fourth with a two-run home run to left field off San Francisco starting pitcher Grant Goodman. The homer was the first by a Wildcat this season.
The Dons pulled within one in the fifth after an RBI double by Zimmer and a run-scoring single by Derek Atkinson.
The Wildcats answered in the sixth when Kivett drew a one-out walk, and Yagi advanced him to second with a sacrifice bunt down the third base line. Conlon cashed Kivett in with an RBI single into center field that made it 5-3 Wildcats.
The Dons returned it to a one-run advantage again in the bottom half of the sixth on an RBI single by Harrison Bruce.
Lost in the defeat was a pair of impressive performances by K-State pitchers. Starter Landon Busch held the Dons to one unearned run on four hits in 4.0 innings pitched, and Nate Griep struck out four, including the side in the seventh inning, in his 2 2/3 perfect innings of relief.
The Wildcats will have an off day on Wednesday before starting play in the Gael Invitational in Moraga, Calif. on Thursday. K-State faces Portland at 10 am PT/12 pm CT on Feb. 20 to start the four-day tournament.