If Tuesday night’s blowout win against Northern Colorado was Dr. Jekyll, then Wednesday afternoon’s loss to the Bears was Mr. Hyde for the Kansas State baseball team.
Northern Colorado blanked the Wildcats 3-0 at Tointon Family Stadium — a day after K-State whipped the Bears 11-0.
“It was a frustrating day,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said. “Everybody’s frustrated.
“But first of all you have to tip your cap. (Northern Colorado pitcher Josh Tinnon) did exactly what he had to do, and we didn’t make adjustments. And that’s frustrating, because we think we have a really good offensive ball club, but our maturity level was not very good today.”
The Wildcats — who tallied 11 hits against the Bears Tuesday — managed just five Wednesday. For a while, it looked like the Bears’ 6-foot-5 starter Tinnon was going to toss a no-hitter.
Luckily for K-State, senior Ross Kivett singled in the bottom of the sixth to finally put a hit on the scoreboard.
Overall, Tinnon pitched 7 2/3 innings, with no runs on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts.
Bears’ senior Kevin Willman closed the game after Kivett followed a double by Wildcats designated hitter Mitch Meyer with a single in the bottom of the eighth with two outs. Both runners were left stranded after a flyout.
For the day, K-State (10-6) left six runners on base. Kivett led the Wildcats at the plate with a 2-for-3 afternoon.
Third baseman Joe Love led the way for Northern Colorado (4-7), going 3 for 4 with two runs scored. Nick Miller and Dylan Banach posted two hits and an RBI apiece.
The Wildcats, who open Big 12 play Friday, turned to freshmen on the mound Tuesday.
Freshman starter Blake McFadden pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Another freshman, Hayden Nixon, relieved McFadden for 1 2/3 innings in which he allowed a walk.
K-State junior Gerardo Esquivel pitched the next two innings, giving up one hit with a pair of strikeouts. It was freshman Levi MaVorhis in the ninth for the Wildcats, as he surrendered one run on two hits with one strikeout.
“I’ll give up three runs mid-week,” Hill said about his pitching. “It wasn’t the pitching staff.”
While the youthful bullpen was effective, Hill was not as enthusiastic about his offense.
“There’s not a lot of youth on the offensive side of it,” he said. “That’s where we got hurt today. That’s a lot of experienced guys.”
Kivett said the Wildcats need to find a new approach now that conference play is beginning Friday at home against West Virginia.
“We have to flush this,” he said about the loss to the Bears. “Big 12 play is when it starts. This is where you make your money. We have to see how we are going to bounce back.”
It will be the first-ever meeting between the Wildcats and Mountaineers on the baseball field, and because of that Hill admitted the contest is difficult to assess.
“We just need to go play and do what we do,” Hill said. “We need to take care of our business. We’ll pick up what we can based off their stats, but we need just take care of what we do.”
Before Wednesday’s loss K-State had won seven of the last nine and was competitive with 21st-ranked Cal Poly last weekend, winning the final game of that three-game series. The Wildcats scored at least 10 runs in six of those seven wins.
As of this week, the Wildcats lead the Big 12 in hitting, something Hill wants to continue against WVU.
“You would sure like to have momentum going in,” Hill said. “But I’m hopeful. We just haven’t been able to be consistent. We played well against Cal Poly and you get a nice one (Tuesday) and then you fall flat on your face today.
“That’s not the makings of a good ball club, and you hope that at some point in time you find your stride and (play) at a more consistent level.”
First pitch Friday against West Virginia will be at 6:30 p.m. Game 2 will be at 2 p.m. Saturday and the series finale is set for 11 a.m. on Sunday.