March 6, 2012
LINCOLN, Neb. – A pair of four-run frames by Nebraska were too much to overcome for Kansas State despite a late-inning comeback attempt as the Huskers earned a 9-6 win over the Wildcats Tuesday afternoon at Hawks Field.
Kansas State, which fell to 5-6 with the loss, had plenty of opportunities but left 12 runners on base, half of which were stranded in scoring position. Nebraska moved to 7-4 and won the first of three games this year against K-State. The Wildcats will travel to Lincoln again on March 27, while the Huskers visit Manhattan on April 3.
The Huskers were paced by Chad Christensen, who went 2-for-4 with three RBI and was a big contributor to each of NU's four-run outbursts. The shortstop hit a two-RBI single to cap the third, while his RBI single in the fifth inning preceded a two-run double by Josh Scheffert.
Trailing 9-3 in the eighth, K-State battled back when Matt Giller scored on a RBI ground out by Ross Kivett before Jon Davis scored from third on a two-out error off the bat of Jake Brown. Tanner Witt greeted Nebraska reliever Brandon Pierce with single to right before Wade Hinkle walked to load the bases.
Blair DeBord was next and hit a slow roller to second base for an infield RBI single to make the score 9-6 and keep the bases loaded. Mike Kindel battled Pierce to a full count before fouling off a pair of pitches. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, the right-fielder roped a line drive right to Christensen to end the threat. Travis Hubert picked up his third save of the season by sitting down the Wildcats in order in the ninth.
“The big thing that was positive today is the fact that we battled back,” head coach Brad Hill said. “That’s the first time we’ve really come back. We competed in the eighth inning and got the go-ahead run to the plate. We had a shot. Mike gives us a great at-bat, and he hits a line drive right at the shortstop. If that ball gets through, then we put a lot of pressure on them.
“It’s about improving right now and I felt like we got better. We just have to stop those big innings and make some better pitches.”
K-State starter Shane Conlon (1-1) took the loss after surrendering all four runs in the third. Conlon was perfect through two frames and held a 2-0 lead, but he surrendered a two-run homer by Kale Kiser before a hit-by-pitch and walk put two more runners on with no outs.
Jared Moore entered the game and recorded two quick outs, but Christensen blooped a single over the head of Hinkle to score two and put the Huskers on top, 4-2.
After working around a one-out double in the fourth, Moore ran into trouble in the fifth. With one out and a runner on second base, Moore seemed to have picked off Michael Pritchard, but he threw to third base as Pritchard scrambled back to second. Christensen then hit a RBI single before Scheffert and Kurt Farmer came through with a two-RBI double and a RBI single, respectively, to put Nebraska up 8-3.
“I thought Jared came in and minimized it at two in the third, but it was just one of those baseball things,” Hill said. “A guy gets one off the end of the bat and it goes over our first baseman’s head by five feet. Instead of two runs, they get to four. When you go to the other four-run inning, we have a guy picked off at second and we throw to the wrong base. That changes the game right there because it would have been two outs with no one on, but instead they get four runs.”
Tyler Niederklein (2-1) earned the win in relief of Nebraska starter Jon Keller. Niederklein threw 1.2 innings, allowing a run on four hits with two walks.
Hinkle led K-State by reaching base in all four at-bats. The senior hit a RBI single to get K-State on the board in the first inning before being hit by a pitch and walking three times. He extended his hitting streak to six games – one shy of his career high – while he has reached base in all 11 games to open up the 2012 campaign.
Sophomore Jared King also extended his hitting streak to a career-long eight games by going 2-for-4, including his Big 12-leading seventh double in the fifth inning.
The Wildcats return home for a four-game series against Hartford, beginning at 3 p.m., Friday at Tointon Family Stadium. The series continues on Saturday with a double-header beginning at 12 p.m., while Sunday’s series finale has been moved up to 11 a.m., from the scheduled 1 p.m., start to accommodate Hartford's travel plans.
General admission bench tickets to Friday’s game are available for $3. Sunday marks the second Sunday Family Day as fans can purchase a Wildcat 4-Pack for $30, which includes four general admission bench tickets, four hot dogs, four drinks and four bags of chips, and all kids in attendance can run the bases after the game.
The entire series can be seen on K-StateHD.TV and can be heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN and online at www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.