BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Sophomore Ross Kivett hit a two-out, two-run triple in the 11th, while sophomore left-hander Shane Conlon was perfect in 1 2/3 innings of relief as the Kansas State baseball team defeated CSU Bakersfield, 7-5, in 11 innings Saturday afternoon at Hardt Field in the season opener.
With the win, K-State has now won four-straight season openers and six of its last seven. It’s the first time the Wildcats have won four straight openers since 2000-03 seasons, while it’s the most success K-State has had in season openers in a seven-year stretch since 1986-92.
K-State held a 5-1 lead following a two-run homer by Wade Hinkle in the top of the eighth. However, the Roadrunners came back with three runs in the bottom half, two of which came on a Cael Brockmeyer double, and tied the game at five apiece in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out error by Kivett.
Following a scoreless 10th, junior-college transfer RJ Santigate, who pinch hit for third baseman Matt Giller earlier in the game, led off the Wildcat 11th with a single up the middle against CSUB reliever Chuck Buchanan (0-1).
After a sacrifice bunt, a strikeout and a Tanner Witt walk, Kivett roped the first pitch he saw into right field. The ball was down for a base hit and was good enough to score Santigate from second, but CSUB right-fielder Jordie Hein dove for the ball, which rolled past him and allowed Witt to also score from first.
Conlon (1-0) shut down the Roadrunners in order in the bottom half, including a game-ending strikeout of backup catcher Frank Martinez to clinch the victory.
“You talk about it with your guys all the time, and it comes to fruition today with Ross,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “He was really having a rough day with an error and some bad swings, but late in the game it’s gone.
“He didn’t remember what he did earlier in the game.”
Conlon, a product of Naperville, Ill., entered the game with a runner on first and one out in the 10th, and he proceeded to record two straight strikeouts to get out of the frame before his perfect 11th.
Kivett, Hinkle and Jared King led the Wildcats at the plate with two hits apiece. Senior outfielder Mike Kindel got K-State on the board in the seventh with a three-run homer down the right-field line, while Hinkle’s two-run homer in the eighth hit the right-field foul pole.
The two home runs by the Wildcats on Saturday marked the team’s first multi-homer game since K-State hit a season-high four against CSU Bakersfield on May 4 last year.
The Roadrunners were paced offensively by Oscar Sanay, who went 3-for-5 with an RBI, while Kevin Younger added two hits. Third baseman DC Legg broke open a scoreless game with a fifth-inning solo homer.
K-State starter Matt Applegate was solid in the first start of his senior campaign as he lasted 7 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts. He left the game with K-State leading, 5-2, but was charged with two more runs after he exited the contest.
“Applegate really had a great start,” Hill said. “You would have liked for him to get the win. It didn’t happen, but I know he’s happy the team won.”
K-State and CSU Bakersfield continue their three-game series today at 4 p.m. from Hardt Field.