The Kansas State baseball team has been lacking clutch plays recently, but that trend was bucked Wednesday afternoon at Tointon Family Stadium.
The Wildcats outlasted Minnesota 4-3, a day after the Golden Gophers took the series opener 8-3.
Junior catcher Blair DeBord led the day for K-State (13-8) with a 3-for 4-day, including a double, an RBI and two runs scored.
K-State was playing catch-up early after the Gophers (13-9) took a 3-0 lead, scoring single runs in the second, third and fifth innings.
“It was a great job by our guys to battle back,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said. “We didn’t panic too much even though we stranded a lot of base runners. Some guys had some big hits in the end.”
Most importantly, though, the Wildcats’ offense produced when it mattered most.
In the bottom of the seventh, with K-State trailing 3-2, sophomore first baseman Shane Conlon homered to tie the game. Junior second baseman Ross Kivett drove in the winning score the next inning.
The youthful Wildcats’ bullpen was also persistent on the mound.
Freshman starter Blake McFadden tossed the first four innings and gave up three runs — two earned — on four hits. He walked two and struck out four. Freshman Levi MaVorhis pitched the next three innings and allowed just one hit and struck out three batters. Freshman Jake Mattys pitched the eighth to pick up the win, while senior Tanner Witt closed out the game with a strikeout after giving up a double to start the inning.
Witt tallied his fourth save of the season.
“I thought the bullpen was outstanding,” Hill said. “Tanner showed great composure after the leadoff double.
“It was a good start by Blake McFadden. I thought he showed good composure. He continues to get better and better. We’re going to need him for the midweek games. MaVorhis was really good and Matthys was outstanding again.”
While K-State was able to produce the clutch hits it had been missing in other games this season, the Wildcats still left 11 men on base, and failed to take advantage of bases-loaded situations.
Witt acknowledged there is still more work to be done.
“We feel a little bit (better),” Witt said. “We need to string a little bit more together. In the previous couple games we needed that big hit, and today we got a couple of those, but we did leave a lot of men on base. We need to work on that and find a way to get a little bit more run-support.”
Witt said he normally doesn’t like to put himself in such a tough spot when closing games on the mound, but said his defense backed him up.
“You never want to start out the top of the ninth with a double,” he said. “But, Jared (King) made a good catch in the outfield and Blair was calling a great game. It’s everybody working together.”
K-State will continue home play this weekend with a three-game series against Bethune-Cookman. Friday’s opener is set for 6:30 p.m.