MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State senior outfielder Tanner Witt scored on a bases-loaded passed ball in the bottom of the ninth to send the 18th-ranked Wildcats to their first Big 12 Championship in school history with a 6-5 victory over No. 19 Oklahoma Friday evening at Tointon Family Stadium.
K-State is now 15-7 in Big 12 play to claim its fourth ever regular-season conference championship and the first since 1933. The Wildcats improved to 38-15 on the year overall with two regular-season games remaining. The Sooners fell to 35-18 overall and 12-10 in league action.
In addition to their first conference title in 80 years, the Wildcats, who were predicted to finish seventh in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches’ Poll, made the biggest jump by a regular-season championship since the preseason poll began in 1999
“It’s pretty amazing,” head coach Brad Hill said. “These kids are phenomenal. All the credit goes to these kids, and the coaching staff did a tremendous job of preparing them and getting them ready to go. This is a great accomplishment for this program.”
K-State also became just the second Big 12 school and the fourth nationally in the BCS era to win conference titles in football, men’s basketball and baseball during the same academic year.
Witt led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk against Sooner bullpen ace Jacob Evans (6-2) and was sacrificed over to second base by Shane Conlon. After OU elected to intentionally walk Jared King, Evans hit Austin Fisher to load the bases.
Pitching to Jon Davis, Evans threw a ball high and away, which skipped off catcher Anthony Hermelyn’s glove and went to the backstop, allowing Witt to slide in safely for the Wildcats second walk-off win via a passed ball this year.
“When we got down 4-0 against one of the top draft picks,” Hill said, “there was no panic in the guys. They believed they were going to come back and win.”
Kansas State was led by a trio of players with two-hit games in King, Davis and Ross Kivett. Jake Matthys (8-0) broke the K-State freshman record for wins and moved into a tie for eighth place in overall victories in school history.
The championship wouldn’t come easy, however, as the Wildcats trailed Oklahoma and potential No. 1 overall draft pick Jonathan Gray 4-0 after the Sooners scored three in the fourth and one in the sixth. In the bottom of the sixth, K-State strung together three-straight singles – the latter by Fisher – to plate the Cats’ first run.
Following a ground out, Mitch Meyer came through with a clutch two-run single to get K-State back in the game at 4-3.
Witt tied the game with a single up in the middle in the seventh inning, while Davis led off the eighth inning with a triple that landed just inside the right-field foul line. Hill elected to pinch hit Lance Miles, who drove in the go-head run on a single to right field.
Looking to close the door in the top of the ninth, Matthys surrendered only his second home run of the season, a one-out solo shot by Jack Mayfield, to tie the game at 5-5.
Oklahoma was led offensively by Hermelyn and Garrett Carey, who each went 3-for-4. Hermelyn had one RBI, while Hunter Haley was 2-for-3 with two RBI. Gray finished the game allowing four runs on nine hits with a walk and three strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
Kansas State and Oklahoma continue their three-game series Saturday with a 6:30 p.m., contest at Tointon Family Stadium. Just standing-room only tickets are available for Saturday’s game and can be purchased at the Tointon Family Stadium box office beginning 60 minutes prior to first pitch.
The game will be shown to a national audience on Fox College Sports Central. Listeners in the Manhattan area can hear the game on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN and online at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.