March 4, 2011
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State scored four times in the sixth inning and held off a late Western Illinois rally to defeat the Leathernecks, 6-4, in front of a record home-opening crowd of 3,192 Friday afternoon at Tointon Family Stadium.
The record crowd was boosted by over 2,100 military and family members that were on hand to see the unveiling of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment "Rangers" sign in right field, as well as several other events centered around K-State baseball's partnership with the "Rangers."
K-State (6-2) sent 10 men to the plate in the bottom of the sixth and received RBI hits from Nick Martini and Jason King, who smashed a double off the wall in right-center field A sacrifice fly by Chase Graskewicz and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch brought in two more and put K-State up 6-0.
Western Illinois (1-7) battled right back with three in the seventh inning, thanks to a trio of Wildcat errors. After two singles led off the frame and an error moved both runners into scoring position, Chris Giglio hit a sacrifice fly to bring in the Leathernecks' first run. A bunt single put runners on the corners with one out before errors in consecutive at-bats cut the Wildcat lead in half at 6-3.
The Leathernecks scored once in the eighth when K-State reliever Evan Marshall uncorked a wild pitch and brought WIU to within two. But the junior right-hander settled down to retire the side in the ninth and capture Kansas State's third straight home-opening win.
The Wildcats, which managed just two runs on three hits through the first five innings, were able to keep the lead thanks to the efforts of starting pitcher Kyle Hunter. Hunter (1-0) worked 6.1 strong innings to pick up his first victory of the season, allowing one earned run on seven hits with a walk and a career-high eight strikeouts.
After seven strikeouts last Thursday at No. 17 Coastal Carolina, Hunter now has 15 in his last two starts, the most over two outings since A.J. Morris had eight against Kansas and seven against Baylor toward the end of the 2009 season.
"That was a really good performance," head coach Brad Hill said of Hunter. "I thought he competed well and could have stayed in the ballgame longer if we kept playing defense behind him. The biggest thing he is doing is mixing his pitches. He's attacking the plate early and then he's able to expand. It's kind of basic baseball, but at the same time he has really good stuff, which makes it tough for hitters."
Marshall, who entered the game in the eighth inning with the potential tying run at the plate, picked up his first save of the year as he worked 1.2 scoreless frames with a pair of strikeouts.
Hunter, Marshall and Kayvon Bahramzadeh, who recorded two strikeouts in one inning of work, combined to tally 12 punch outs, the most by the Cats since they also had 12 against Texas on May 9 of last season.
Martini led the Wildcats offensively by going 2-for-5 with one RBI as the junior extended his streak of reaching base safely to 67 games. Graskewicz went 1-for-3 with two runs driven in.
Western Illinois' Dustin Hunter (0-2) was effective despite walking eight batters in 4.2 innings of work. The right-hander allowed two runs on three hits with a pair of strikeouts.
The Leathernecks received a two-hit game from Dan Dispensa, while Giglio and Matt Igara tallied one RBI apiece.
K-State began the game's scoring in the second inning when Matt Giller singled and scored from second base on a Graskewicz single.
Giller also singled with two outs in the fifth inning and came around to score on three-straight walks, the latter by Jake Brown, to put the Wildcats ahead by two.
Kansas State and Western Illinois will continue its four-game series with a doubleheader on Saturday. First pitch at Tointon Family Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Season and single-game tickets remain on sale for the 2011 season through the K-State Athletics Ticket office. Aside from purchasing tickets at the stadium box office, fans can also order online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets, by phone at (800) 221-CATS or at the office inside Bramlage Coliseum.