Wednesday’s game against Niagara gave the Kansas State baseball team a chance to work some freshman pitchers in the mix.
And it offered a chance for some guys who have played sparingly to get into the action.
Blake McFadden won his first start of the season and catcher Joe Goodwin went 3 for 4 with two runs, a double and a triple in the Wildcats’ 10-1 win over Niagara to complete a two-game sweep.
McFadden pitched five innings in his first career start for K-State, allowing one earned run on three hits while striking out three of the 19 batters he faced.
K-State coach Brad Hill said it was an important performance for a player they have high hopes for.
“Blake was good,” Hill said. “He’s a guy that we had a lot of expectations for coming in and had a lot of confidence in him, he just lost some of his confidence through the end of the fall to the beginning part of January.
“That was really good to see because he can be a guy that could really be a big boost for us. He’s got a lot of talent and a lot of potential.”
K-State (8-3) used five pitchers in the contest, with the final four each pitching an inning. The game allowed Hill to work in other freshman pitchers like Levi MaVorhis and Landon Busch.
Goodwin, a junior from Hutchinson Community College, made just his third start of the season. Goodwin’s three hits were more than he had all season, entering the game 2 for 10 with one extra base hit in four games.
Goodwin thought it was an all-around well-played game by the Wildcats.
“I thought the team did really well,” he said. “We came out slow at first but then we finally started to put it to them. Pitching did well, I thought, defense — it was nice to support the team in the win.”
K-State opened the game with a two-run first inning, scoring both on an error by Niagara first baseman Ryan McCauley, who couldn’t track down a fly ball with two outs. K-State base runners Jared King and Ross Kivett were running on contact, and came around to score.
The Wildcats tacked on another two runs in the second inning, starting with an RBI triple by Austin Fisher to score Goodwin. Tanner Witt drove in Fisher with a sacrifice fly.
Niagara scored its only run of the game in the top of the third, and Logan Linder came home on a wild pitch from McFadden.
K-State answered in the bottom of the fourth with a leadoff double from Goodwin, who then came around to score on an error by Niagara shortstop Thomas Rodrigues, who soared a Shane Conlon grounder over the first basemen’s head.
Kivett drove a single off of Niagara pitcher Kody Kasper in the sixth inning to score Witt, and then the Wildcats added four more runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Conlon doubled in Witt to start the scoring, and then came home on a balk.
Sophomore Mitch Meyer hit a pinch-hit triple to drive in Kivett, and then scored on a wild pitch to put K-State ahead 10-1.
The Wildcats collected 12 hits and had five RBIs, but Hill said there was still some room for improvement.
“We didn’t do a good job with two-strike hitting,” he said. “The top of the order did a nice job, but I thought the bottom of the order really struggled.”
Niagara pitcher Joel Klock made his first start and appearance of the season, and allowed five runs, two earned, over four innings. Hill said it was important for the team to jump on him, and the Niagara defensive mistakes, early on to take control of the game.
Hill said playing like they did during the mid-week sweep of Niagara is exactly what his team needs during its 19-game home stretch in March to get set for the rest of the season.
“It’s all about putting wins on your record and trying to build up a resume,” he said. “You’re also trying to build continuity for what you’re trying to do, try to get guys confident, trying to get game experience. All those things are important this time of the year.”