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Walk-off HR pushes KU past Wildcats, 8-7

By The Mercury

LAWRENCE — Kansas third baseman Zac Elgie hit the first pitch of the bottom of the 11th over the center-field wall to send the Jayhawks to an 8-7 walk-off victory over Kansas State Wednesday night in a non-conference tilt at Hoglund Ballpark.

With the win, KU improved to 17-25 on the season, while the Wildcats fell to 19-23.

K-State has lost its last two games in extra innings after a 15-inning loss to Wichita State in Manhattan on Tuesday. The Wildcats also went extra innings in back-to-back games last year against both Wichita State and Kansas.

KU held an early 6-1 lead thanks to a six-run first, and it took a 7-4 advantage into the top of the ninth as it turned to right-hander Tanner Poppe. He quickly retired two batters before issuing a walk to Jared King.

Wade Hinkle was next and belted a 2-1 pitch over the right-field wall to pull the Wildcats to within one at 7-6. It was Hinkle’s team-leading eighth-home run of the year.

With the bases empty and two-outs, Blair DeBord restarted the rally with a walk and Dusty Maas came in to pinch run for the K-State catcher. After Maas stole second, Mike Kindel battled to a 3-2 count and roped the 10th pinch of the at-bat into center field to tie the game at seven.

The Jayhawks squandered a chance in the bottom half as it loaded the bases with one out, but Tanner Witt struck out Jake Marasco and forced Michael Suiter to fly out, which sent the game into extras.

Both teams has chances in the 10th inning when the Wildcats also loaded the bases with just one out, until King grounded into a double play to end the frame. KU loaded the bases again in the bottom half against Witt, but another flyout to center field ended the inning.

K-State put the go-head run into scoring position in the 11th with one out until a foul out and a fielder’s choice ended the frame before Elgie’s homer in the bottom half.

“I was proud because we could have checked it in after the first inning,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “But then Caleb (Wallingford) settled in and put some zeros up, we chipped away a little bit and competed really hard. We just couldn’t finish. We were sitting there with two opportunities late in the game, but it didn’t happen.”

Elgie was one of four Jayhawks to record multi-hit games, including Tucker Tharp, who went 4-for-6 with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first. Jordan Luvisi (1-1), who recorded the final two outs of the top of the 11th, earned the win.

K-State had five players tally two-hit games in King, Hinkle, Kindel Jon Davis and Kyle Speer. Hinkle’s three RBIs led the team as he is now tied for team-high honors with nine multi-RBI games this season.

The Wildcats scored a run in the first inning on a King single to give K-State a 1-0 lead. However, the first three KU batters reached base against Cats’ starter Wallingford, including Tharp’s leadoff homer. Following a pair of flyball outs — including a sacrifice fly — Wallingford tried to get out of the inning with the Wildcats trailing by just one, but a walk, three singles and an error completed the six-run frame.

Wallingford bounced back in his final four frames, as he faced just two over the minimum with a strikeout to keep the Wildcats in the game.

He was followed by another freshman left-hander in Robert Youngdahl, who worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth before sitting down the Jayhawks in order over his final two innings.

The Wildcats also received a solid pitching performance from Witt, who totaled two scoreless innings and worked around four walks with a career-best three strikeouts.

The Wildcats return home for a three-game series this weekend against Oklahoma State at Tointon Family Stadium. Friday’s game, which begins at 6:30 p.m., serves as Ladies Night as fans can purchase a $10 ticket package that includes one general admission bench ticket and one pink K-State baseball hat.

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