OKLAHOMA CITY — Once again, Kansas State showed it’s a team that won’t stop fighting.
Down four runs to Oklahoma going into the bottom of the ninth Saturday, the 15th-ranked Wildcats rallied to tie the game and force extra innings. In the end though, the Sooners would outlast K-State, winning 7-6 in 11 innings at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark to eliminate the Wildcats from the Big 12 Championship.
K-State coach Brad Hill said it was an exciting one to watch, despite the outcome.
“I would have liked to been an innocent bystander just watching that game, that would have been a lot of fun,” he said. “We were right in the middle of it — I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. You could have written us off for dead a long time in that game. Ninth inning we just fought, battled, we didn’t quit. We competed all the way through.”
With the loss, K-State (41-17) missed out on the opportunity to play in its second-ever Big 12 final and a chance to strengthen its case to host a regional later this week. Host sites will be selected tonight. The rest of the tournament field will be selected on Monday at 11 a.m. on ESPNU.
K-State second baseman Ross Kivett said after everything the team went through last season, the postseason will be a reward.
“I’m glad that we get to watch it this year,” Kivett joked. “I think we’re excited that we played hard and gave ourselves an opportunity to watch the selection show.”
Tanner Witt started the K-State rally in the bottom of the ninth down 5-1 with a one-out single to score RJ Santigate. Shane Conlon followed with a double to score Kivett and put runners at second and third.
Jared King struck out swinging and then Jon Davis was hit by the pitch to load the bases with two outs. Mitch Meyer singled up the middle to score Witt and Conlon and tie the game.
OU coach Sunny Galloway called the comeback classic Big 12 baseball.
“We knew Kansas State could swing the bat, we knew they were going to score runs, and we felt they were going to make a run, and they did,” he said. “When they put the four runs up, there was disappointment in our dugout.”
After the Sooners’ Max White doubled off the wall, Matt Oberste singled to put the OU ahead 6-5 in the 10th. Kivett had the answer in the bottom of the inning, though, singling to score Clayton Dalrymple and even the score again.
Kivett said he was just looking to get a ball, at least, on the ground. Instead, he hit an inside pitch into shallow left field.
“I didn’t hit what I thought was coming,” he said. “I was trying to stay flat. I knew if I could get something on the ground I’d get a chance to beat it out. It went off my thumbs.”
Then in the 11th, Oklahoma’s Craig Aikin singled off Jake Matthys with two outs to score Taylor Alspaugh from third and take a 7-6 lead.
Oklahoma’s Kyle Hayes recorded back-to-back strikeouts of Meyer and Alex Bee with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th to end the game. Ralph Garza Jr. earned the win and Hayes was credited with the save.
Galloway said the game as a whole defined just how strong the Big 12 has been all season long.
“That game should say an awful lot about Big 12 baseball, and I hope that it does,” he said. “I hope it speaks volumes, not just for the two teams that were playing, but for the team that wasn’t here getting to play.”
Oklahoma (39-19) tacked on the first run in the top of the second inning, getting a sacrifice fly from Anthony Hermelyn to score Oberste from third.
The Wildcats loaded the bases in the bottom of the third with two singles and a walk, but Oklahoma pitcher Jake Fisher struck out Conlon and King with curveballs in back-to-back at-bats to end the inning.
The Sooners would make K-State pay in the top of the fourth inning, getting their biggest hit of the game off Wildcats pitcher Jared Moore. Garrett Carey launched a two-out, bases-loaded double to center field to unload the bases and put Oklahoma ahead 4-0.
K-State loaded the bases again in the bottom of the fourth, chasing Fisher, who had been solid most of the day. Fisher struck out six in 3 1/3 innings, allowing six hits, with a walk and hit a batter.
With Fisher out of the game, Kivett was hit by a pitch on a full count to score the Wildcats’ first run of the game, breaking a championship record streak of 21 2/3 innings of shutout baseball from the Sooners’ pitching staff to start the tournament. K-State stranded the remaining base runners to end the inning.
Hermelyn added his second sac fly in the fifth inning to extend the Sooners’ lead to 5-1, scoring Jack Mayfield from third.
Freshman pitcher Jordan Witcig made the start for the Wildcats, pitching in place of late scratch Joe Flattery, who had shoulder soreness. Witcig came into the contest with just six appearances on the season and eight innings pitched, but had a team-leading 1.12 ERA.
Matthys took the loss for the Wildcats, giving up two runs on five hits in four innings of relief. Kivett, Witt and Conlon recorded three hits apiece for K-State, which had 17 hits and left 13 runners on base. Davis finished 2 for 4, while Meyer had one hit and two RBIs.
Meyer said, despite the loss, the game is going to serve as motivation going forward.
“We showed that we can still compete,” he said. “There’s nothing that was really bad about it. We played hard. If anything, it gives a boost going into next week, just wanting to win that much more.”