LAWRENCE — Kansas State scored nine unanswered runs, including three in the ninth inning on homers by Austin Fisher and Mitch Meyer to break a 6-6 tie, as the Wildcats rallied to defeat Kansas, 9-6, Saturday in the Sunflower Showdown at Hoglund Ballpark.
With the win, K-State improved to 36-15 on the year and 13-7 in Big 12 play. The Wildcats’ 36 wins are tied for the third-most in school history, while their 13 conference victories are one shy of the school record set in 2009. Additionally, K-State won the season series over KU for the fourth straight season.
The Wildcats remain in first place in the Big 12 standings as West Virginia split a doubleheader with TCU Saturday to move to 12-8 in the Big 12. Oklahoma, which entered the weekend in a three-way tie for first with the Wildcats and Mountaineers, has lost its first two games against Oklahoma State to fall to 11-9, while the Cowboys are now in third at 11-8.
KU dropped to 31-20 on the year and 12-11 in league action. Today’s series finale serves as the Jayhawks’ final Big 12 game this season as they end the year at Utah next weekend.
After trailing 6-0 through three innings, K-State was able to battle back and tie the game with two runs in the seventh inning off one of the Big 12’s best pitchers in KU reliever Jordan Piche (6-3). The right-hander entered the contest with a conference-best 0.71 ERA and had not allowed more than one run in any of his 25 previous outings.
Beginning his third inning of work, Piche walked Shane Conlon to lead off the frame, and the Wildcat first baseman moved to third on a stolen base and a wild pitch. However, neither of those plays mattered as Fisher hammered a 0-2 slider off the scoreboard in right field to give the Cats an 8-6 lead.
Two batters later, Meyer clobbered his second homer in as many days and fourth of the season over the wall in right-center field.
“We had a really nice offensive approach,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “They have a really great closer, he just got some balls elevated and we had a great approach against him.
“It’s one performance at a time and you just try to keep stacking them on top of each other. The guys have done a good job of that. We need to prepare to come out and try to win another game tomorrow.”
Piche allowed five runs in three innings — more than doubling his season total through 51 innings entering the game — on five hits with a walk and a strikeout.
“I thought I would get another slider and it was elevated,” Fisher said of his home run. “As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone. It seems like we haven’t been putting up as many runs as we did in the beginning of the season.
“The offense came up big today and picked a guy up, and that’s what you’re supposed to do as an offense. We just need to keep it rolling.”
The comeback would not have been possible if it weren’t for the effort of relievers Jordan Witcig, Nate Williams and Tanner Witt, who combined for six scoreless innings. Witcig held the Jayhawk lead at six by throwing two scoreless innings with three strikeouts as the K-State offense started to pick up steam.
Williams (4-3) worked around a one-out hit in the sixth inning and a leadoff walk in the eighth to toss three scoreless frames and earn his second-career relief victory. Witt tossed a perfect ninth inning to register his seventh save of the year, which is tied for seventh in school history.
“It started with Jordan Witcig,” Hill said of the bullpen’s dominance. “He got an opportunity early in the game and did his job. He gave us two zeros, and you could feel the momentum start to swing. Nate came in and was really good, and our guys really feed off him offensively.”
Fisher, who went 2 for 5 with three RBIs and three runs scored, improved his career-long hitting streak to 16 games as he is now one shy of entering the school’s Top 10. Lance Miles also had two hits and drove in a career-high three runs, while Jared King and Jon Davis added two hits apiece.
KU scored the first six runs of the game, thanks in part to a five-run third inning. Jayhawk first baseman Alex DeLeon hit home runs in consecutive innings, including a two-run shot to highlight the third.
K-State began to chip away at the deficit with a two-out RBI single by Miles in the fourth. K-State plated three more in the sixth when Meyer was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Miles shot a two-run single to left field, making the score 6-4.
In the seventh, Fisher and Davis recorded consecutive RBI hits off Piche to tie the game when Fisher singled to left and Davis doubled to deep right-center field.
“We got locked in offensively,” Hill said. “There were a lot of big hits that kept that thing going.”
The Wildcats conclude their series at Kansas today with at 1 from Hoglund Ballpark.
K-STATE 4, KANSAS 3
K-State freshman pitchers Levi MaVorhis and Jake Matthys combined for 8 1/3 innings, while Conlon tallied three hits as the Wildcats hung on to win the series opener at KU, 4-3, Friday night at Hoglund Ballpark.
MaVorhis (5-0) allowed just one run on six hits with a walk and a strikeout in 5 1/3 innings. He continually worked out of danger as he forced KU to leave the bases loaded in the second inning, strand a one-out double on in the third and get out of a first-and-third situation in the fourth with an inning-ending double play.
Matthys, who picked up his fifth save of the season, was equally impressive in his three innings in which he allowed a run and struck out two batters.
The pitching by MaVorhis and Matthys was necessary as the Wildcats stranded 13 runners, their highest in Big 12 play this season and one shy of their overall season high. Six of the 13 came in the final two innings when K-State left the bases loaded in both frames to keep KU in the contest.
Conlon and Mitch Meyer were the lone Wildcats to record multi-hit games. Meyer went 2 for 5 and hit his fourth homer of the year. Meyer scored two runs, including one on a Kyle Speer sacrifice fly in the second inning to open the game’s scoring.