Brad Hill told his team prior to Sunday’s game that this was do-or-die time. And Kansas State played like it.
Facing a must-win game, the Wildcats defeated Kansas 9-3 to take the series two games to one. In doing so, K-State (24-28, 5-16) pulled within a half game of KU in the Big 12 standings to keep its Big 12 tournament hopes alive.
“We had to have it and we got it done,” Hill said.
K-State, which had lost 10 straight conference games prior to the series against the Jayhawks, not only snapped the skid but also won its first Big 12 series this season.
“I guess if you’re going to win your first series it’s always good to do it against the Jayhawks,” Hill said.
The Wildcats can thank their bullpen and offense for that. Robert Youngdahl, K-State’s starting pitcher, lasted just 1 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks. From then on, KU didn’t score again. Nate Williams, who earned his first win of the season, pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
Williams walked the first two KU hitters he faced to start the fifth inning, and was replaced by Jared Moore. The sophomore left-hander got Alex DeLeon to line out to shortstop for the first out, and then proceeded to strike out the next two KU hitters to get out of the inning.
“To have those two guys get on base I just told myself not to panic and trust myself,” Moore said. “I did that and things went my way.”
Moore was dominant, allowing just two hits in four innings while striking out seven.
“It’s been an up and down season and it just feels good to come out there and just throw strikes,” he said. “I had fairly good command of whatever pitch I threw out there.”
The Wildcats’ offense, which had scored just two runs combined in the first two games of the series, erupted for nine runs on 10 hits on Sunday. Jared King got things started with a two-run home run to left field in the first. Wade Hinkle, following King’s shot, hit a solo blast to right to give K-State a 3-0 lead after one inning.
“I think that really set the tone of the game,” said Hinkle, who went 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs.
KU came right back, tying the game in the second inning, but K-State retook the lead on a Jon Davis RBI single in the third. The Wildcats added another run in the fourth to take a 5-3 lead, and then tacked on four runs in the eighth to build a 9-3 advantage.
“That was good to see,” Hill said. “We got one (run) and one (run) and kind of just kept waiting to get one more and couldn’t do it. Then finally we get a four-spot to put it away.”
The Wildcats close out the season at Texas Tech (28-24, 6-15) this week, a series that begins Thursday and ends Saturday. K-State is currently in last place in the standings, but with Sunday’s win, the Wildcats have given themselves a chance heading into the final week of the season.
“Tonight was about the seniors, it really was,” Moore said. “We did not want to lose a series to Kansas. We never want to lose a series but especially Kansas. Last home series for these seniors, last time we’ll play them.
“And just being able to string a little confidence heading into next weekend against Texas Tech and the Big 12 tournament, that’s really important.”