The Kansas State baseball team was certainly on track to take a series from Texas for the first time at Tointon Family Stadium since 1998 on Saturday afternoon, but a late comeback from the Longhorns derailed that.
The Wildcats fell to No. 21 Texas 6-4 in a hard-fought — and bullpen-exhausting 11-inning battle.
K-State (13-9, 2-3) began the series with a 5-2 victory Friday night in Tointon Family Stadium, but couldn’t hold on during game two.
“That was a tough one,” Wildcats head coach Brad Hill said. “But, Texas, they are the best. And when you open up a door for them, they cash in.
“We opened up the door.”
K-State held a 3-0 lead after the fifth inning and a 4-2 lead after the sixth. But, a two-run eighth for the Longhorns — which included one run scored by a balk and a missed pop-up lost in the sun — tied the game. Both of UT’s runs in the inning were scored under the shadow of two outs.
“We don’t catch the pop-up, that should have been caught and we started off the inning with a hit-by-pitch,” Hill said. “So you give them a free one then you give them another free out by not catching the pop-up. (Texas) is going to cash in. They are the best at doing that and have been for a long time, and they really swung the bats good late.
“We had our opportunities, but at home we need to get that done.”
Wildcats starting pitcher Joe Flattery manned the mound for the first five innings with no runs on five hits, no walks and six strikeouts.
Texas starting pitcher Parker French threw 4 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on six hits, walked two and had no strikeouts.
After the starters retired, though, it was a battle of the bullpens.
K-State used six more pitchers after Flattery, while the Longhorns used four more.
Ultimately, Texas sophomore right-hander Corey Knebel picked up his second win in as many tries this season for his work in the final four innings. In that span he allowed no runs, no hits, walked two — one intentionally — and six Ks.
His intentional walk came in the bottom of the 10th, when K-State slugger Jared King, who currently ranks second in the Big 12 in batting average with a mark of .421, was in the batters’ box with Tanner Witt on second base.
After walking King, Knebel struck out the Big 12’s fourth-leading batter in Wade Hinkle with a fastball.
The Longhorns (12-9, 4-1) broke the tie in the top of the 11th with two more runs with singles by third baseman Erich Weiss and left fielder Jonathan Walsh.
K-State was retired in order in the bottom of the inning.
Wildcats’ catcher Dan Klein, whose home run — the first of the season — scored two in the bottom of the fourth and gritty defensive play in the top of the 10th took out a Texas runner at third, said he feels the effort is there for his team, despite bad breaks.
“I think we are competing hard, we’re just not getting the results,” he said. “I think our team has really came together. In the last couple weeks we’ve had a tough series at Texas A&M and this Texas series has been tough.
“If we can come out and get a win (today) that will really set us up. It was a tough game today — it was a real heart-breaker for us — but we’re going to come out ready to play, for sure. It will be a good game.”
King led the way for K-State with a 3-for-4 outing and a RBI. Klein totaled three RBIs for the day and also scored a run.
Jake Doller, Jared Moore, Robert Youngdahl, Johnny Fasola and Nate Williams — in that order — pitched in relief for Flattery, with Witt collecting the last out in the top of the 11th.
K-State will conclude the series — and attempt once again to take the series from Texas for the first time in 14 years in Manhattan — today beginning at 1 p.m
TEXAS 6, K-STATE 4
Texas 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 0 0 2 — 6 14 0
K-State 0 0 0 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 — 4 8 0
WP — Knebel (2-0). LP — Williams (0-1).
2B — Texas 2 (Felts, Etier). HR — K-State 1 (Klein).
Going into this weekend’s series against Texas the Wildcats stated earlier in the week that they wanted to duplicate the way they opened the series at Texas A&M last Friday night.
K-State was able to do that, and with much less runs.
The Wildcats defeated the Longhorns 5-2.
Starting pitcher Matt Applegate, who has been the go-to guy for Friday nights, said he was happy to take much more pressure off his offense compared to last Friday night in College Station, Texas, where K-State won 15-12.
“Last week the offense came out and put it on (Texas A&M) and then I went out, and I just wasn’t there and wasn’t able to get the win for the team and put the game away like I should of,” the senior right-hander said. “The team let me know, and the players know, that my job was to come out on Friday and give us a chance to win and when we get a lead to win the game.
“I was able to bounce back (Friday night) and got a run early but just kept going at them and going at them and we got the lead. I wasn’t going to let what happened before at A&M and just attacked (Texas) and let my defense work.”
Texas starting pitcher Nathan Thornhill struggled in his time on the mound. The right-handed sophomore gave up four runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings of service. He walked three and struck out four.
Applegate was relieved by sophomore Gerardo Esquivel, who allowed just two hits, no walks and struck out three in 2 1/3 innings, while freshman Nate Williams closed the game in the ninth inning and picked up his second save of the season.
The Wildcats also had productive at-bats with sophomore Ross Kivet batting 3-for-3 for the game and shortstop Jake Brown was 2-for-2 with two RBIs.
K-STATE 5, TEXAS 2
Texas 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 — 2 7 1
K-State 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 1 x — 5 10 1
WP — Applegate (2-2). LP — Thornhill (2-2). S — Williams (2).
2B — Texas 2 (Maitland, Payton). K-State 1 (Kivett). 3B — K-State 1 (Witt).