K-State baseball loses in walk-off

By The Mercury

SAN FRANCISCO — The losses just keep coming.

The Kansas State baseball team, which boasted its best preseason rankings in school history just a week ago, has now lost four straight games to open the season.

San Francisco scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to walk off with a 7-6 victory over the Wildcats on Tuesday at Benedetti Diamond.

The Wildcats (0-4), who have dropped out of all the major polls, had led since the first inning before reliever Jake Matthys allowed five hits to the six batters he faced in the ninth inning.

K-State is 0-4 to start a season for the first time since 1973.

The Wildcats, who struggled in the opening weekend to generate offense, responded on Tuesday by tallying the six runs on nine hits, both season-highs.

In the first three games of the season, K-State had a combined three runs and 11 hits. However, with runners in scoring position, K-State was 2 for 9 on Tuesday, while San Francisco (2-2) was 5 for 10.

“It was a change of approach,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said about the difference in hitting for the Wildcats. “You saw more balls through the middle, more balls hit flat today. I really liked our offensive approach, but I would have liked to finish off a couple more innings.”

K-State had an opportunity to add more insurance runs in the eighth inning after loading the bases with no outs.

With leadoff singles by Max Brown and RJ Santigate, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Ross Kivett that allowed all runners to be safe on a fielder’s choice, Carter Yagi hit a deep fly to left-center field.

San Francisco’s Bradley Zimmer laid out for a diving catch that held K-State to just one run on the sacrifice fly. Back-to-back groundouts by Shane Conlon and Austin Fisher on new pitcher Sheldon Lee ended the Wildcats’ threat.

“Bases loaded with no outs and only get one run is not what you want, but (Zimmer) made a great catch in left-center field,” Hill said. “It was an unbelievable catch. We’ve got to find a way to finish off that inning, though.”

The Wildcats left 10 runners on base. Conlon, Fisher and Santigate each reached base safely three times.

Lee earned the win for San Francisco after throwing 1 2/3 perfect innings of relief.

Mitch Meyer got the Wildcats on the board in the first inning with a two-out, two-run double. It was the first time K-State had a lead since the 10th inning of Game 1 of the Corvallis Super Regional last season.

Kivett, meanwhile, made it 4-1 in the fourth with a two-run home run to left field off San Francisco’s starting pitcher Grant Goodman. The homer was the first by a Wildcat this season.

The Dons pulled within one in the fifth after an RBI double by Zimmer and a run-scoring single by Derek Atkinson.

The Wildcats answered in the sixth when Kivett drew a one-out walk, and Yagi advanced him to second with a sacrifice bunt down the third-base line. Conlon drove Kivett in with an RBI single into center that gave the Wildcats a 5-3 lead.

The Dons got within one again in the bottom half of the sixth on an RBI single by Harrison Bruce.

Lost in the defeat were a pair of impressive performances by K-State pitchers. Starter Landon Busch held the Dons to one unearned run on four hits in four innings, and Nate Griep struck out four — including the side in the seventh inning — in his 2 2/3 perfect innings of relief.

The Wildcats are off today before starting play in the Gael Invitational on Thursday in Moraga, Calif. K-State will begin play in the four-day tournament at noon on Thursday against Portland.

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