The piles of snow were still quite visible Saturday afternoon outside Tointon Family Stadium, but inside the ballpark, the Kansas State baseball team was in spring mode against Oakland for the Wildcats’ home opener.
K-State defeated the Grizzlies 4-2 in the first of a three-game series at the ballpark.
Wildcats’ starting pitcher Nate Williams got the win and improved to 2-1 on the young season. The sophomore went 7 2/3 innings for the Wildcats, allowing two runs — one earned — on two hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
Senior Tanner Witt, who earned his second save of the season, provided K-State’s offensive fireworks, going 3 for 4 with a double.
Oakland’s Jason Hagar took the loss, as the Grizzlies fell to 0-5 on the year.
“I thought we pitched it really well,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said. “One error did come back to bite us a little bit, but we’ve been playing pretty good defensively and we made some nice plays today.”
The Wildcats (4-3) belted 10 hits, but struggled to take advantage of them, especially in the clutch, as the Wildcats left 11 runners on base.
“Offensively, we just can’t put people away,” Hill said. “We leave double-digit men on base again and we just can’t do that.
“It’s 10 hits, and 10 hits to me is seven or eight runs. That’s being productive offensively, and we’re not being productive offensively by stringing together hits and getting the big hits. It’s early, but at some point in time, the guys need to take that and go with it.”
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard early in the bottom of the first when when Witt led off with a single up the middle. He then stole second and scored on a single down the right-field line by first baseman Shane Conlon.
In the bottom of the second, K-State loaded the bases, but a foul out by Conlon ended the inning.
The defenses held true in the third, but K-State got things going again in the bottom of the fourth when third baseman RJ Santigate doubled to left.
Later sophomore shortstop Austin Fisher singled to right to score Santigate and Witt followed with a double to right.
A groundout by Conlon scored Fisher, but the inning was concluded with a pop-up from center fielder Jared King, who went 1 for 5 on the day.
An RBI from Oakland senior Mike Carson put the Grizzlies on the board in the top of the sixth, but another run from K-State in the bottom of the seventh added a bit more cushion and comfort for the Wildcats.
Oakland would score again in the eighth when it opened the order with an error, but no more came of it.
Junior lefty Jared Moore pitched one-third of an inning in relief of Williams before Witt took over in the ninth and struck two out to end the game.
“It was going good through five (innings),” Williams said. “I was working with good stuff, hitting spots and was down in the zone. Through the sixth and seventh I was a little bit elevated, but I was still making pitches, getting swings on the bat and getting ground balls.
“I had a great defense behind me today.”
K-State will conclude its series with Oakland today with a doubleheader beginning noon.