Kansas State ended its 10-game losing streak in Big 12 play with a 2-0 victory over Kansas on Friday night. But the Jayhawks’ Wes Benjamin didn’t let the Wildcats sustain the momentum built from the series opener.
Benjamin, a freshman left-hander, shut K-State’s offense down with a complete-game shutout. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder struck out eight Wildcats, walked just one and surrendered just six hits. Benjamin didn’t allow a hit after the fifth inning.
“I thought he did a really good job of commanding his fastball down in the zone,” KU head coach Ritch Price said. “That’s the key. They’re a really good fastball-hitting team. You’ve got to get the ball down, locate, and use both sides of the plate. I thought he did that and I also thought he spun the ball well away from their left-handed hitters.”
K-State had numerous opportunities early but failed to capitalize. Ross Kivett led the game off with a single, but was doubled off the bases on a hit and run when Jon Davis’ line drive to right was caught. The Wildcats had runners reach base in each of the first six innings but never could get the big hit.
“Someone has got to step up and drive a run in,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “The first inning you get the line drive right to the right fielder when we’re running, if that ball gets to the right or the left then we’re first and third. Jared (King) then hit a double and if the double play doesn’t happen, things are a lot different. But that’s kind of the way the balls bounced and that’s baseball.
“We had a couple opportunities early in the game and just couldn’t get the big hit and that’s kind of the story of the season. We had opportunities to put him on the ropes and we couldn’t step up and get the big hit. Then the kid comes back and throws a tremendous game.”
KU, on the other hand, had little trouble getting the big hit. With two outs and runners on second and third in the third inning, the Jayhawks’ Kevin Kuntz hit a seeing-eye ground ball into center to give KU a 2-0 lead.
“You make the pitch before and you’re trying to throw the same pitch and you don’t get that one down enough,” Hill said. “That one doesn’t bounce and the one before does. It’s kind of reverse order. You’d like to throw your best pitch for the finish and we don’t throw the best pitch to finish, that’s the problem we run into. We throw the best pitch before the finish pitch.”
K-State starting pitcher Joe Flattery recovered from the two-out damage, holding KU scoreless over the next three innings. But the Jayhawks added a run in the seventh to chase Flattery from the game, and then tacked on three more runs in the final two innings against K-State’s bullpen.
All six of KU’s runs came with two outs, which was the missing piece for the Jayhawks in Friday night’s loss, Price said.
“One of the things that was key today was (the) RBIs with two outs,” he said. “That’s the biggest stat in the game is when you’ve got guys in scoring position with two outs and somebody has to get a clutch hit. Yesterday we had opportunities and didn’t produce. Today Kuntz got the key hit (early) and I thought that was the key to the ballgame.”
Kivett and King each went 2-for-4 at the plate for K-State, but the rest of the Wildcats’ lineup went a combined 2-for-22.
The loss dropped K-State to 23-28 overall, but more importantly, kept the Wildcats behind KU in last place in the conference standings. Which makes today’s game — scheduled for 6:30 p.m. —crucial for K-State. The Wildcats are currently 1 1/2 games behind KU in league play. If K-State loses today, it would fall 2 1/2 games back with just three league games remaining, significantly damaging any hope of making the Big 12 tournament played in Oklahoma City.
“We totally have to have it,” Hill said. “If not, we’re going to be sitting at home.”
Friday night K-STATE 2, KU 0
The Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks 2-0 Friday night in a contest that had to deal with a pause in the middle of the game when heavy rains and lightening delayed the game in the top of the sixth inning. Still, K-State kept its focus after the hour and a half break and the pitching staff continued to keep Kansas at bay the rest of the way.
The win finally got KSU out of its Big 12 drought. Before Friday night, the last time the Wildcats were victorious in conference play was March 31, a win against Oklahoma in Norman. The last time K-State had recorded a conference home victory came a week before defeating OU, when the Wildcats took the opening game of the Texas series 5-2.
“It was big,” Hill said. “It feels good to (get that conference) win.”
K-State got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning when shortstop Jake Brown hit a RBI single to left. Following the rain delay, the Wildcats added another run in the bottom of the sixth when pinch-hitter Mike Kindel singled up the middle to score Wade Hinkle.
K-State starting pitcher Kayvon Bahramzadeh got the win and pitched 5 2/3 innings. In that span he gave up no runs, just one hit, walked two and struck out eight.
Fellow senior Matt Applegate relieved Bahramzadeh and went 1 1/3 innings and sophomore Gerardo Esquivel threw the final two innings.
“That was a great start by him,” Hill said of Bahramzadeh. “We needed that and had to have that. He gave it to us, which gave us a chance.”