Wildcats Rally to Top Kansas, 9-6
May 11, 2013
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas State did what no other team had been able to do in 25 previous chances against Kansas National Stopper of the Year candidate Jordan Piché – score multiple runs and hit a home run. The Wildcats rallied from a 6-0 deficit to take game two of the Sunflower Showdown, 9-6, and clinch a Big 12 series win at Hoglund Ballpark Saturday afternoon.
Kansas State (36-15, 13-7 Big 12) won a late battle between the second-best hitting team in the country and the second-most stingy reliever in the country while scoring two runs in the top of seventh to tie the game at 6-6, then used a two-run blast by Austin Fisher in the ninth and a follow-up, solo shot by Mitch Meyer for the 9-6 win. The two runs in the seventh were the first time Piché, who entered the game with a 0.71 ERA, had given up multiple runs in one inning and the two home runs were the first and second given up by the junior in more than 53 innings this season.
With the win, K-State maintained its hold on the top of the Big 12 standings, with sole possession of first pending the outcome of the second game of a doubleheader between West Virginia and TCU Saturday evening.
Kansas jumped out to an early 6-0 lead after three innings, thanks largely to a pair of home runs by senior first baseman Alex DeLeon. The Woodland Hills, Calif., native hit his eighth home run of the season out to right center to lead off the second inning, then sent an offering from K-State starter Matt Wivinis over the left-center wall with a runner on in the third for his ninth long ball of the season. DeLeon finished the day 3-for-4 and was the only Jayhawk to record multiple hits.
Kansas batted around the order in the third, scoring five runs on six hits, with Kevin Kuntz driving in a pair of runs on a double to left and Dakota Smith providing the other RBI, in addition to DeLeon’s shot, on a single to center to push across Jordan Dreiling. Kuntz’ double was his third in the last two games, after entering the series with just two doubles on the year.
KU starter Wes Benjamin struck out seven batters in 6.0 innings of work, and kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard for three innings before Lance Miles drove in Jared King with two outs in the fourth. Including last year’s complete game shutout of K-State, Benjamin had gone 12.2 innings without allowing the Wildcats to score.
Benjamin retired KSU in order in the fifth but a few errors to start the sixth, along with a rising pitch count, seemed to derail the sophomore left-hander. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Benjamin plunked Mitch Meyer to plate K-State’s second run, then Miles delivered again with a two-RBI single through the left side to make it a two-run contest. Benjamin struck out Alex Bee to match his season high in Big 12 play and got two fly outs to escape without any more damage.
Meanwhile, after chasing Wivinis from the game, the Jayhawks couldn’t string anything together against the Wildcats’ bullpen. KU managed just two hits over the final six innings as Joe Flattery, Jordan Witcig, Nate Williams and Tanner Witt shutout the Jayhawks.
Kansas looked to the Big 12’s saves leader (10) in the top of the seventh, looking for an extended outing from one of the nation’s best relievers in Piché. For the seventh time this season he pitched three innings or more, but for the first time the machine-like pitcher showed a little humanity.
Fisher, who finished the game 2-for-5 with three RBI and three runs scored, extended his hitting streak to 16 games when he drove in the first run against Piché in the seventh and Jon Davis doubled in Fisher to tie the game at 6-6.
Neither team scored in the eighth, but a leadoff walk led to a two-run home run to right field by Fisher in the ninth to make it 8-6 and Meyer clubbed his second of the series one batter later before Piché got Kyle Speer to ground out to end the inning.
Tanner Witt got the Jayhawks to fly out three times in a perfect ninth while earning his seventh save of the year.
Hoglund Ballpark was sold out Saturday as 2,131 fans packed the park for the second game of the Sunflower Showdown series. Game three is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday with Kansas junior RHP Frank Duncan (3-4, 3.70 ERA) pitching against K-State freshman RHP Blake McFadden (4-2, 3.97 ERA). Sunday is Bud Walker Caring for Kids Day with free hats given away at the gate. Sunday is also Youth Baseball Day and following the contest kids are invited to run the bases and KU players will sign autographs. Kansas’ senior class will also be recognized before first pitch.
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