The inconsistency that has plagued the Kansas State baseball team on the road all season finally bit the Wildcats at home with a 6-3 loss to rival Kansas on Saturday at Tointon Family Stadium.
“After whipping up on them like we did yesterday we knew they were going to come out ready to go today,” KSU catcher Blair DeBord said. “We knew they were going to be like that. It’s a rivalry type situation, and we just weren’t able to play our best baseball today.”
In what had become a theme in the game, K-State’s Ross Kivett stepped in with two outs, the bases loaded and his team down 6-3 in the bottom of the eighth to try and dig the Wildcats out of a hole they’d dug throughout the game.
The Wildcats had mounted a two-out rally against reliever Drew Morovick with Tanner DeVinny drawing a walk before Mitch Meyer scored him on an RBI double to left.
DeBord followed with an RBI single scoring Meyer. KU gave Morovick the hook in favor of side-arming closer Stephen Villines. Carter Yagi singled, and Kyle Spear drew a walk to load the bases for Kivett.
The All-American hit a hard grounder to the hole on the left side, but Aaron Hernandez made a diving stop at third and threw to second in time to get Yagi, ending the threat before Villines finished things off in the ninth to earn his third save.
“It was just sloppy play,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “A couple missed fly balls. Like I said, just sloppy. Then you try to flip a switch on at the end, but it’s too late.”
The loss snapped a 14-game home winning streak dating back to last season, and ended an 11-0 home start for the Wildcats (18-12, 2-3 Big 12) this season.
The Jayhawks (20-11, 4-4) got six strong innings from starter Robert Kahana, allowing just one run on three hits, while working around five walks for the win to improve to 2-4.
Unlike the Jayhawks with Kahana, the Wildcats did little with either their bats or gloves to help K-State starter Jared Moore (5-2), who allowed five runs on 10 hits and two walks in the loss.
The Wildcats’ first four hitters went a combined 1 for 18 at the plate. Both teams left 11 runners on base.
KU knocked around Moore for four hits in the top of the first, beginning with a Justin Protacio double down the left-field line.
An RBI single from Michael Suiter scored Protacio two batters later.
The Jayhawks loaded the bases before Moore retired his first batter. He settled down to force back-to-back popups, but a two-out walk to Blair Beck scored Colby Wright before Moore was able to work out of the jam as KU took a 2-0 lead.
K-State got one back in the second after DeBord drew a walk on a wild pitch allowing DeVinny to advance to third. Yagi drove in DeVinny on a fielder’s choice to make it 2-1. The Wildcats would eventually load the bases, but Kahana got Kivett to ground into a 5-2-3 double play to end the inning.
Kahana loaded the bases again in the bottom of the third before DeBord grounded out to end the inning.
“We just gave them too many opportunities.” Hill said. “We didn’t cash in on the opportunities we had, leaving the bases loaded twice. That was really it. Kahana was just hanging around, but once he got through those (bases-load jams) he really pitched pretty effectively.”
Three K-State errors in the top of the fourth allowed KU to load the bases again — this time with no outs — as the Jayhawks tacked on another run when Meyer muffed Wright’s fly in right field and allowed Hernandez to score, making it 3-1.
A single by Joven Afenir scored Ka’iana Eldredge in the top of the sixth. That was it for Moore. Jake Fromson came on in relief, but was welcomed with an RBI double by Hernandez to make it 6-1 KU through six and a half innings.
“Not all is lost,” DeBord said. “We always say that championships are won on Sunday.”
K-State freshman Nate Griep (3-0, 1.67 ERA) is set to start against KU’s Frank Duncan (2-1 1.69 ERA) in the series’ rubber match today at 1.
“Like I said to the team after the game,” DeBord said. “‘We know we’re going to get a good start out of Nate. We’re going to play better defense and offensively we’re going to get after it.’”