Kansas State went into the top of the ninth inning Friday night with a seven-run lead, and for the first time in quite a while, the Wildcats seemed confident the offense would have no need to warm up the bats for the bottom of the inning.
Still, Nebraska-Omaha didn’t go away easily.
The Mavericks were able to load the bases and plate two runs, and with two outs, K-State was struggling to end the game.
K-State closer Matt Wivinis couldn’t find the knockout pitch and a fielding miscue on an easy pop-up had the Wildcats and the fans at Tointon Family Stadium just a little bit nervous, again.
It was a scene K-State has seen all too often this season. The Cats have seen good starts many times this season, but bad breaks have sunk K-State in the late innings.
Finally, though, K-State battled through and a pop-fly ended the game — giving the Wildcats a needed 9-4 victory to snap a nine-game losing streak that dated back to April 20 at Missouri.
Nebraska-Omaha is, by no means, a powerhouse — it was a Division II program a year ago and came into this weekend’s series at just 12-32. But K-State head coach Brad Hill was just happy to win.
“No question, no question,” Hill said about streak-breaking victory. “It feels good to get wins. We needed to get this win to get better and to feel good about ourselves.
“We did a couple things tonight that we haven’t been doing, so that was important.”
K-State began the game hot out of the gate with a 3-0 lead after the first inning. And by the start of the fourth, the lead had grown to 5-0.
K-State sophomore center fielder Jared King scored the Wildcats’ first run of the game with an RBI single to right. Then a two-run double by RJ Santigate plated the second and third runs in the first to get K-State on the board quickly.
The Mavericks put up two runs in the top of the sixth after second baseman Caleb Palensky tripled down the right-field line.
K-State was able to add important insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth on a three-run home run by King to give K-State a 9-2 lead.
The Wildcats’ starting pitcher, Kayvon Bahramzadeh, who had just his second Friday night start of the season, allowed just two runs on three hits in six innings with four strikeouts and no walks.
Bahramzadeh was followed by Jared Moore for 1 1/3 innings of work. Then Wivinis closed the game, getting his second save of the year.
“We came out aggressive, like we always do,” Bahramzadeh said. “Things just kind of fell our way.
“It was good for us to get a little taste of winning again.”
Santigate led the night with a 3-for-4 outing at the plate with two RBIs, while King was 2-for-4 with two runs and four RBIs.
Junior right fielder Tanner Witt, who had a single and three walks drawn, said breaking the losing streak was important for the mentality of the team going forward.
“The losing streak was taking a toll on all of us,” he said. “We have been wanting that win so bad we’ve almost been trying too hard.
“Getting that win just loosened everyone up, calmed everyone’s nerves and hopefully can get us to where we can go out there and play like we know how to.”
NEBRASKA OMAHA 4
Nebraska Omaha 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 — 4 6 1
Kansas State 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 4 x — 9 13 1
WP — Bahramzadeh (5-3). LP — Reck (1-6). Save — Wivinis (2).
2B — Nebraska Omaha 2 (McGill, Brown). K-State 3 (Kivett, Santigate, DeBord). 3B — Nebraska-Omaha (Palensky). HR — K-State (King).