LINCOLN, Neb. — The Kansas State trailed baseball team trailed by six runs entering the eighth inning and cut the deficit in half with three runs in the inning, but a pair of four-run frames by Nebraska were too much to overcome, as the Huskers earned a 9-6 win Tuesday afternoon at Hawks Field.
K-State, which fell to 5-6 with the loss, had plenty of opportunities in the game, but left 12 runners on base, half of which were stranded in scoring position.
Nebraska moved to 7-4 on the season 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 RBIs and was a big contributor to each four-run inning. The shortstop hit a two-run single to cap the third, while his RBI single in the fifth inning preceded a two-run double by Josh Scheffert.
Trailing by three in the eighth, K-State battled back when Matt Giller scored on a RBI groundout by Ross Kivett before Jon Davis scored from third on a two-out error off the bat of Jake Brown.
Nebraska then went to the bullpen to bring in Brandon Pierce, and Tanner Witt greeted him with single to right before Wade Hinkle walked to load the bases.
Blair DeBord was next and hit a slow roller to second base, which wasn’t fielded in time and resulted in an infield RBI single to make the score 9-6 and keep the bases loaded.
Mike Kindel was next and 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 inning before 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 battle back,” K-State 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 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 Hinkle to score two more 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-run 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 5 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 2/3 innings, allowing a run on four hits with two walks.
Hinkle led K-State at the plate 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 of the year in the fifth inning.
The Wildcats return home on Friday to begin a four-game series against Hartford, beginning Friday at 3 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium.
The series continues on Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at noon, while Sunday’s series finale is now slated for 11 a.m.