(Courtesy: K-State Athletics)
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Mitch Meyer drove in a career-high three runs and Kansas State pieced together solid pitching performances as the Wildcats completed the season sweep of Kansas with a 7-3 triumph Sunday in the Dillons Sunflower Showdown at Hoglund Ballpark.
The victory improved K-State to 37-15 on the year and 14-7 in Big 12 play. The 37 overall wins are tied for the second most in school history, while the Wildcats tied the 2009 squad’s school record for the most conference victories. In addition, the Wildcats have now won eight of their last nine road games and swept the Sunflower Showdown for the fourth time in the last seven years.
Kansas State also saw its lead in the Big 12 race grow to two games as West Virginia lost its rubber match against TCU to drop to 12-9, tying Oklahoma for second place.
The Jayhawks, who held a 17-3 home record entering the series, fell to 31-21 overall and finished Big 12 play at 12-12. KU concludes the regular season next weekend at Utah.
Meyer, who homered in each of the first two games against KU, hit a two-out, two-run triple in the third inning to put the Wildcats on top, 4-1. Meyer’s triple was a looping line drive that fell in right field and bounced over the head of Dakota Smith. Meyer tried to circle the bases for an inside-the-park home run but was thrown out at home to end the inning.
The Stilwell, Kan., product also hit a RBI single to left field in the fifth inning, extending the K-State lead to 5-1. Ross Kivett led the Wildcats with three hits and two runs, while Austin Fisher registered a pair of hits, including a RBI single as part of a two-run ninth inning. Fisher extended his career-long hitting streak to 17 games, which is tied for the ninth-longest in school history and is the longest since Nick Martini and Adam Muenster held streaks of 26 and 25 games, respectively, in 2010.
Blake McFadden (5-2) earned the win with five solid innings, allowing only two runs despite walking three batters. The right-hander gave up a run in the first on a Jordan Dreiling double, but he forced the Jayhawks to strand two runners in scoring position. The other run McFadden surrendered came in the sixth when he allowed a leadoff single that eventually came around to score after he had already exited the game to a standing ovation by a large K-State contingent.
“We did it a different way today,” head coach Brad Hill said. “Blake came back after a shaky first inning and he was really solid for us. He just gutted through it, just like our other pitchers. They gave us what they had. We had to piece together our pitchers. We didn’t want to have to do that, but we did and found a way to get it done.”
Kansas State was stuck at five runs and had no answer for Kansas right-hander Tanner Poppe in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings as the Wildcats were sat down in order during that time. The pitching by Poppe gave KU momentum, and the Jayhawk offense got back into the game with a pair of runs in the sixth inning.
With two one and two out in the sixth, K-State went to Gerardo Esquivel, who delivered with a strikeout of Tucker Tharp to strand two runners. Esquivel worked into the seventh inning when he faced runners at the corners with two outs, but Jake Matthys came on to induce a ground out to keep the Jayhawks on the board. Matthys went on to work a perfect eighth inning.
The Wildcats got to Poppe in the ninth inning when Kivett hit a leadoff single and was sacrificed to second base. Shane Conlon was next and drew a walk before a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position.
Battling to drive a ball into the outfield, Jared King hit the seventh pitch he saw into shallow left field for his second of two sacrifice flies as Kivett narrowly beat the throw for a much-needed insurance run. The Wildcats tacked on one more when Fisher also hit the seventh pitch of his at-bat through the left side to give the Cats a four-run lead.
“Those two runs in the ninth were huge,” Hill said. “Ross had a great leadoff hit and gave us momentum. He tagged at third on a gutty play but beat the throw before Fisher finished it off with the base hit.”
The add-on runs looked to be much needed when Kansas loaded the bases against Tanner Witt with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but the right-hander forced Dreiling to fly out to complete the sweep.
Kansas starting pitcher Frank Duncan (3-5) was saddled with the loss after allowing four runs on three hits with four walks and three strikeouts in three innings. KU was led offensively by Kevin Kuntz, who went 2-for-4.
Kansas State closes out the regular season at Tointon Family Stadium next weekend with a three-game series against Oklahoma. The series opens with a pair of 6:30 p.m., contests on Friday and Saturday, while the finale is scheduled for 1 p.m., on Sunday. Friday is “Mustache Night” as the first 1,000 fans in Tointon Family Stadium will receive a free mustache. Saturday is Senior Night as K-State will recognize its four seniors, Witt, Jon Davis, Jake Doller and Joe Flattery.
General admission bench tickets are available for only $3 on both Friday and Saturday when presenting a graduation program. Sunday is a Family Day with Wildcat 4 Packs available for $30 which includes four general admission bench tickets and four concession vouchers. In addition, all kids in attendance can run the bases after the game.
Tickets are available online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets, by phone at 1-800-221-CATS or in person at the main K-State Athletics ticket office inside Bramlage Coliseum. Fans can also purchase tickets at the Tointon Family Stadium box office beginning one hour prior to first pitch each day.
Friday’s game will be shown statewide on Cox Communications’ Kansas 22 and in the Kansas City area on MetroSports. The final two games of the series will be broadcast nationally by K-StateHD.TV on Fox College Sports. Radio coverage from the K-State Sports Network will carry the series opener, while the final two games can be heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN. Live audio from all three games can be heard online for free at www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.