LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas State scored four runs in the top of the first inning and added two insurance runs in the eighth as the Wildcats held off Kansas, 7-4, Saturday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark. With the win, the Wildcats clinched the series against the Jayhawks and improved to 31-17 overall and 9-11 in Big 12 play, while Kansas fell to 22-28 and 8-15.
Kansas State clinched its first series win over the Jayhawks Saturday since the 2003 season when the Cats took two-of-three games and also got to the nine-win mark in conference play for the first time under head coach Brad Hill. The Cats will enter Sunday’s contest in no worse than sixth place in the league standings with seven conference games left.
K-State wasted no time getting on the board in the game as Tyler Link drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a Brett Scott sacrifice bunt. Adam Muenster then singled to center to score Link and give the Cats a 1-0 lead. After Byron Wiley was hit by a pitch, J.J. Muse reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners at the corners with two outs. Nate Tenbrink then drove in Muenster with a bunt single to up the margin to 2-0. Eli Rumler then reached on an error and Tyler Ruch walked to give the Cats a 3-0 edge and chase starter Nick Czyz from the game. Rob Vaughn then drew a bases loaded walk to score the fourth run of the inning, while Link grounded out to end the frame.
Kansas cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first as three straight two-out hits plated two runs as the Cats held on to a 4-2 lead after one. K-State pushed the lead to 5-2 in the third when Vaughn reached on a fielding error by shortstop Erik Morrison, which allowed Rumler to score from second. Rumler was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a groundout.
The Jayhawks cut the lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth as an errant throw from catcher Rob Vaughn on a strikeout with a wild pitch allowed a runner to score from second base. Then, the Jayhawks plated another run in the fifth on a two-out single from Morrison to get within one at 5-4.
Relievers Justin Murray and Ben Hornbeck were tremendous Saturday for the Wildcats as the two combined for 4.2 innings of two-hit scoreless action. Murray got the win to move to 4-2 on the season, after relieving starter Trevor Hurley, who was chased after giving up a line out and a double in the fifth.
Hurley was again effective in his second Big 12 start as the sophomore gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits with two strikeouts in 4.1 innings. Hornbeck earned his first save of the season after retiring seven of the eight batters he faced.
With the Cats holding on to a 5-4 lead, K-State, which left 15 men on base in the game, finally broke through for some late runs in the eighth as Wiley drew a walk and Bunker reached on a throwing error by pitcher Paul Smyth on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Rumler then punched a single past the second baseman with the infielders drawn in to extend the Wildcat lead to 7-4.
Kansas starter Nick Czyz (3-7) lasted just 0.2 innings on the day while the Jayhawks used a total of five pitchers on the afternoon.
Kansas State and Kansas conclude play in the series Sunday with a 1 p.m. matchup at Hoglund Ballpark as the Wildcats go for their first Big 12 Conference sweep of the season.