Kansas State catcher Blair DeBord said Saturday night that championships are won on Sundays.
The Manhattan High product said that following the Wildcats’ Game 2 loss to rival Kansas.
If DeBord is right, there would be no championship for the Wildcats on this Sunday, as K-State lost to the Jayhawks, 2-1, in the series finale at Tointon Family Stadium.
It’s the first time the Wildcats have lost a Big 12 series at home since April of 2012.
K-State looked to redshirt-freshman pitcher Nate Griep to give the Wildcats the series win.
The right-hander entered the game on a hot streak and was pretty good on Sunday too. It just wasn’t enough on a day when the Wildcats’ bats went silent.
Griep (3-1) scattered 10 hits with just two earned runs in eight innings of work.
Kansas starter Frank Duncan (3-1) went the distance for a 128-pitch victory in the pitcher’s duel.
“Losing any series hurts, there’s no question about that,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said. “Probably more than anything else it hurts losing at home. That’s when it hurts, it doesn’t matter to who it is.”
The win moved the Jayhawks (21-11, 5-4 Big 12) into a three-way tie for second place in the conference, while the Wildcats (18-13, 2-4) dropped into the Big 12 cellar.
Duncan was more than solid in the complete-game effort, but had nothing but praise for the Wildcats’ lineup.
“K-State’s such a good hitting team,” he said. “They’re loaded with lefties and lefties have killed me all season. I just tried to keep them off balance, spin stuff in the zone and throw strikes. I was able to get a head and get some ground balls.”
Duncan and Griep — who entered the game among the Big 12 leaders in ERA at 1.69 and 1.67, respectively — dealt to the point that any chance for offense was magnified.
“You have to give credit where credit is due,” Hill said. “Frank Duncan’s battled through some arm things, and he bounced back this year.
“Today, he proved that he is one of the best pitchers in the league. It was a great outing by him. We just could not capitalize on the couple of opportunities that we had.”
Kansas head coach Rich Price was just happy his guy came out on top.
“(Duncan) definitely won the game for us,” he said. “Give a lot of credit to their young man too. They both pitched really well.”
Griep made his first mistake of the day when he left a fastball over the plate to open the top of the second. KU’s Tucker Tharp made him pay, sending his fourth home run of the season into the trees in left-center field to put the Jayhawks up 1-0.
Griep found himself in trouble again in the third when he allowed singles by Justin Protacio and Michael Suiter and then walked Ryan Pidhaichuk to load the bases with one out.
The defense picked Griep up, however, as Colby Wright grounded into an inning-ending 5-2-3 double play.
Kansas tacked on another run in the fifth when Protacio and Joven Afenir led things off with back-to-back singles — giving the Jayhawks runners on first and second with nobody out. Suiter advanced both runners on a bunt before Pidhaichuk drove in Protacio with a sac fly.
Afenir slid past third base trying to advance on the play and was tagged out by R.J. Santigate to get the Wildcats out of the inning with the score 2-0.
K-State finally started to get good barrels on the ball in the bottom of the fifth, but some sterling defense by Afenir in right kept the Wildcats from fully capitalizing.
DeBord placed a leadoff single in right center. Yagi followed with a double down the right-field line, but Afenir played it perfectly, racing over and cutting it off before Debord could make the turn for home.
Duncan got a popup from Dalrymple before Kivett hit K-State’s second double to right to score DeBord and make it 2-1.
Afenir again cut the ball off and his strong throw caught Yagi in a pickle between third and home. He was tagged out and a Conlon groundout left K-State heading back to the field after just one run.
“They had a really good pitcher on the bump — we know that,” Kivett said. “He doesn’t have that ERA for no reason. But you gotta tip your cap to him. We just didn’t make the adjustments necessary.”
Kansas loaded the bases on Griep in the top of the ninth before K-State turned to the bullpen and Ethan Landon. He worked his way out of the inherited jam to give K-State a shot in the bottom of the ninth.
Duncan retired Tanner DeVinny — who’d gone 3 for 3 in his first three plate appearances with two doubles — and Mitch Meyer on groundouts to begin the inning. He finished things off by getting DeBord out on a full-count check-swinging strike three.
K-State will host Wichita State on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. before heading to Nebraska on Wednesday.
“We need to get this thing turned around in a hurry,” Hill said. “Probably more than anything else is the mental approach, just believing that we’re still a good team.”