CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Kansas State baseball team gave up six George Mason runs over the first four innings, but Wildcat relievers Hayden Nixon, Jake Matthys and Tanner Witt shut down the Patriots over the final five frames.
It was enough for the the Wildcats, who scored three in the seventh to pick up a 7-6 come-from-behind victory Sunday morning in The Citadel Memorial Challenge at Riley Park.
With the victory, K-State moved to 2-1, while George Mason fell to 0-3.
The Wildcats struggled early for the second straight day. After George Mason scored one run in both the first and third innings, the Patriots put four on the board in the fourth off right-hander Matt Wivinis to take a 6-3 lead.
Wivinis, who gave up the six runs despite a career-high tying seven strikeouts, exited the game following the fourth as he made way for Nixon. The freshman left-hander escaped trouble in the fifth and got two quick outs in the sixth before allowing a pair of base runners.
Matthys (1-0) came into a pressure situation for his first-career appearance and got out of the sixth inning with a groundout before retiring six of the next eight batters.
That stretch included successfully working out of a first-and-third situation in the eighth inning after the Cats had just taken the lead. Witt came in from left field to strike out the side in the ninth for his first-career save.
“It was all about the bullpen today,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “If what happened yesterday happens today with those one-run innings, I’m not sure we catch up. Those five zeros were really big. I thought Nixon was good, Matthys was great and Tanner was phenomenal.”
The work by Nixon and Matthys allowed the Wildcats’ offense to go to work. Trailing by three, K-State scored a run in the fifth inning on a full-count, two-out single to left field by Blair DeBord that scored Jon Davis from second.
Following a scoreless sixth, the Wildcats came up with three runs in the seventh inning off George Mason reliever Neight Hoffa (0-1). The frame began with a walk by Ross Kivett before Davis, batting from the left side, drove an outside fastball down the left-field line that went over the wall just inside the pole to tie the game at six.
Hoffa came back with consecutive flyball outs looking to get out of the inning, but he hit Debord to extend the frame. Following a steal, Austin Fisher laced a full-count, two-out single into center for the eventual game-winning run.
Matthys earned the win in his first collegiate outing by working 2 1/3 scoreless innings with no walks and three strikeouts. Nixon and Witt also recorded three strikeouts apiece, giving the Wildcat hurlers 15 punch outs, the most since 2011.
Davis led the Wildcats at the plate with three hits and three runs scored to go along with two RBIs on his second-career homer. Shane Conlon recorded his third straight two-hit game to open the 2013 campaign.
George Mason had five players record two-hit games in Nick Allen, Blaise Fernandez, Duncan Satherline, Ray Toto and Nick Foley. Fernandez drove home a run in the first, while Allen and Foley each tripled in the four-run fourth.
K-State will return to South Carolina this weekend to take part in the Caravelle Resort Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Wildcats face Coastal Carolina at 3 p.m. Friday before playing Elon and Kentucky to finish out the weekend.
The Wildcats open their 31-game home schedule, March 1-3, with a three-game series against Oakland.