MORAGA, Calif. — The Kansas State baseball team ended its season-opening eight-game road trip on Sunday with another loss — this time a 7-3 setback against Saint Mary’s at Louis Guisto Field.
K-State, the Big 12 preseason favorite and ranked in every major poll just two weeks ago, is now 1-7 on the season.
The Wildcats’ lone victory game against Saint Mary’s on Friday.
For the second day in a row, K-State’s opponent used big late inning explosion of runs to silence the Cats. The Gaels (4-4) scored five runs on three hits and three errors in the seventh to ultimately decide the game.
Wildcat reliever Jordan Floyd loaded the bases with no outs after allowing two hits and a walk before he was removed for Ethan Landon.
The K-State right-hander surrendered a sacrifice fly to the first batter he faced, Nikko Saenz, which tied the game at three. Landon came back and struck out the second batter he faced, Trevor Abrams, to make it two outs with runners on second and third.
The next batter, Darian Ramage, drilled a crushing single, however, to drive in two runs and give Saint Mary’s a 5-3 lead. An error by second baseman Ross Kivett eventually allowed Ramage to score, while Austin Fisher’s fielding and throwing error on a grounder hit by Connor Hornsby allowed DonAndre Clark to score from second to make it 7-3.
K-State committed a season-high six errors in the game, including four by Fisher.
Floyd took the loss for K-State — his first career defeat — after allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings pitched.
“I really don’t have any complaints about the pitching today,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said. “I thought (Landon) Busch gave us a really good start and competed through a couple innings.
“Floyd was outstanding — maybe got a little tired at the end and missed a couple pitches that Saint Mary’s took advantage of.”
Landon was tagged with two unearned runs and surrendered a hit and walk in his one inning of work.
“Landon let the adrenaline get too much and elevated a pitch that was right down the middle,” Hill said Ramage’s game-deciding single. “Too much adrenaline can happen — it’s a young guy. He needed to compose himself, but (Landon) still threw well.”
The Wildcats got off to a quick start offensively on Sunday — sparked by the top of the lineup in leadoff hitter Kivett and No. 2 batter Carter Yagi, reached on plays to left field.
Kivett opened the game with a line drive that bounced off a leaping Saenz’s glove and allowed him to reach with a double. Yagi followed with a fly, also to the left fielder, but Saenz dropped the ball and put runners at second and third base with the error.
Shane Conlon drove in Kivett with a sac fly, while Fisher plated Yagi with an RBI single to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
K-State could not stage much of an attack through the remainder of the game, though, as Saint Mary’s pitching staff, led by starter Jacob Valdez and winning pitcher Kurt Jahnke, locked in against the Wildcats.
After Valdez surrendered two of his three hits in the first inning, the right-hander set down 10 of the 11 batters he faced following Fisher’s run-scoring base hit. Jahnke tossed 3 2/3 shutout innings, allowing one hit and no walks.
The Wildcats had back-to-back bases-loaded situations in the fifth and sixth innings, but K-State came away with just one run from the frames via a sac fly by Max Brown in the sixth.
Fisher grounded out to end the fifth on a hard hit ball up the middle that was gloved by Saint Mary’s shortstop, Ramage, who was shifted behind second against the left-handed Fisher.
“Fisher gets the ball up the middle, and things aren’t going well,” Hill said. “A lot of times that ball gets on through when things are going well, but (Ramage) made a play.
“A lot of times, that play scores two runs. Fish did exactly what we wanted him to do, but when it’s going like this, the guy catches the ball and throws you out.”
K-State went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base.
Yagi and Alex Bee were the only two Wildcats to reach base safely more than once, as the left fielder and catcher each drew two walks. Both Bee and Yagi also had a stolen base.
Busch scattered seven hits in his second start of the season. The left-hander allowed two runs and one walk, while striking out one in 3 2/3 innings of a no-decision.
The Wildcats will now return to Manhattan following the long road trip and prepare for their home opener this weekend at Tointon Family Stadium.
K-State will host Milwaukee on Friday at 3 p.m. — the start a three-game series that concludes Sunday afternoon.