In several ways, the team that came to Tointon Family Stadium Wednesday night looked much different than the one that visited last weekend.
Kansas State dropped a three-game series with explosive UC Riverside over the weekend, but hosting the 1-14 Omaha club that stopped by Wednesday seemed an opportunity for K-State to grab a win and right the ship after the two grueling losses to Riverside.
The Wildcats will have to wait until this weekend for that chance after letting Omaha lead the whole way and claim a 5-2 win.
The Wildcats (12-5) had their chances in the later innings, but the Mavericks (2-14) snared the lead from the outset. They plated two runs in the first inning via an RBI and error, later adding to the lead with two more runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.
Eric Moreno (1-0) secured the win for Omaha, while Colton Kalmus (0-1) took the loss for K-State. Maverick reliever James Smith earned the save.
“Not real good focus tonight,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “I did a poor job of having our guys ready to play tonight.
I’ll take the blame for it. We’ve got to be better than that.”
The Omaha run in the fifth inning amounted to a 5-2 lead, but from there, K-State had opportunities.
After his team scored two in the fourth, designated hitter Steve Serratore had second baseman Jake Wodtke on third with two outs in the fifth. Serratore flew out to center field.
An inning later, right fielder Hanz Harker had shortstop Quintin Crandall on second base — after Crandall stole the bag — with two outs. Harker struck out swinging.
The trend continued in the seventh. Left fielder Will Brennan led off the seventh with a base hit, but the next three K-State at-bats resulted in two flyouts and strikeout, the latter from Wodtke.
“Our plate discipline tonight wasn’t very good,” Hill said. “Our swings got broke down.”
Even then, K-State continued to come up short with the bats. Serratore led off the eighth with a walk, but first baseman Jake Scudder’s shot to center was gloved on a dive by Adam Caniglia. Next up was catcher Josh Rolette, who lined out to right field.
Crandall struck out to end the threat.
K-State’s comeback bid in the bottom of the ninth ended much the same way. Pinch hitter Kyle Barfield led it off with a single, but flyouts from left fielder Will Brennan and
center fielder Cameron Thompson, sandwiched around a strikeout from pinch hitter Trent McMaster, doomed the Wildcats’ chances.
“Our best at-bats came at about the seventh and eighth innings,” Hill said. “Well, that’s too late.”
K-State’s pitching showing was mired in ineffectiveness as well. Sidearmer Nick Jones hurled a 1-23 eighth inning, but starter Colton Kalmus kicked off what later turned into a forgettable pitching outing. Kalmus lasted 3-plus innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits, while fanning eight.
Such were the only two efforts with which Hill
felt content. The others — outings from Jared Marolf, Mitch Zubradt, Caleb Littlejim and Luke Hauswirth — weren’t bad, but ineffective enough to afford the Mavericks a lead K-State’s offense couldn’t scale.
“Kind of inconsistent,” Hill said of Kalmus’ outing. “He’d show flashes of being really good, then flashes of not being so good. Just inconsistency.”
Fruitless as the Wildcat offense was from the fourth inning on, its bright spot rendered the deficit manageable. Wodkte’s single led off the fourth, and after Serratore flew out and Scudder walked, Rolette drove in Wodkte
with an RBI double. Harker later reached base via fielder’s choice and scored Scudder in the process.
“You come off of losing two out of three at home,” Hill said, “and you’ve got an opportunity to come out tonight and get the thing going back in the right direction before Iowa comes to town. “We did not do that.”
K-State now turns its attention to the first of three home games with Iowa at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.