COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Tanner Witt’s two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning capped a four-run frame and helped Kansas State complete a rally to upset No. 8 Texas A&M, 15-12, Friday in the conference-opening game for both teams at Blue Bell Park.
The Wildcats, who moved to 12-6 on the season, won their first Big 12 Conference game of the year for the third time in the last four seasons. The victory was just the fifth in College Station in 26 tries for K-State and the second-straight Friday win on the Aggies’ home turf. Texas A&M fell to 14-5 and has dropped four of its last five games.
K-State’s offense exploded for 20 hits against a Texas A&M pitching staff that was allowing opponents to hit just .211 entering Friday’s game. The Wildcats’ 15 runs were their most ever against Texas A&M, and they plated 13 earned runs against the Aggies, who boasted a 2.48 ERA.
“I knew it was going to be a tough week both physically and mentally,” head coach Brad Hill said. “We showed as much mental toughness as I’ve ever had a club show. I know it’s the first game of the conference season, but it was against a team that has really good pitchers and at a place that Texas A&M doesn’t lose very often. To have a huge lead, give it up and come back and get the win showed a lot of competitiveness. We just pounded away. We made plays when we had to make plays late. I’m really proud of our kids and the way they competed tonight. That was pretty special.”
K-State jumped all over Texas A&M early with seven runs in the second inning, thanks to Wade Hinkle’s second grand slam of the week. But the Aggies battled back by scoring 11 of the game’s next 13 runs to take an 11-9 lead after a five-run outburst in the sixth inning.
With the momentum clearly on the side of Texas A&M, the Wildcats tied the game in the seventh on Witt’s fielder’s choice RBI and a two-out throwing error by third baseman Matt Juengel.
Jared Moore (2-1) shut down Texas A&M for the second-straight perfect inning before K-State took charge for good with four runs in the eighth to extend the lead. Consecutive singles by Jared King and Hinkle put runners on the corners to open the frame and the Cats took the lead when Mike Kindel put down a perfect bunt to score King from third with one out.
With two outs, Witt battled to a 1-2 count before delivering a line-drive single just over the glove of second baseman Scott Arthur to plate two more runs. Ross Kivett capped the inning with a RBI single into left field to put K-State ahead 15-11. Nate Williams allowed a run in the ninth on a one-out sacrifice fly before inducing a ground out to end the game.
“He is a tough kid and competes extremely hard,” Hill said of Witt. “Sometimes he does things that frustrate you, but you know what, the kid is a competitor. He has come up big in a bunch of situations.”
Moore was outstanding in relief, tossing a pair of no-hit innings to halt the Aggie momentum. The sophomore left-hander, who struck out two batters, earned his second career win against the Aggies after taking the victory in the weekend finale last year.
“After we scored the four, you don’t want to give them a chance by walking people,” Hill said of Moore. “We threw a lot of strikes late and didn’t walk anyone late. He came out and established himself by throwing strikes right away. The best pitching performance tonight for us was from him.”
The bottom third of K-State’s order – Matt Giller, Dan Klein and Witt – combined for 10 of K-State’s 20 hits. Giller led K-State with a career-best four hits, while Witt and Hinkle recorded three hits and four RBI. Witt notched a new career-high in base hits and tied his career-best of four RBI, a mark he set against Wichita State his freshman season.
Hinkle’s grand slam was K-State’s only extra-base hit as the Wildcats registered 19 singles, including five that did not leave the infield.
Texas A&M was paced at the plate by catcher Troy Stein, who was 3-for-4 with three RBI. Juengel, Tyler Naquin and Brandon Wood each recorded two hits with Naquin and Juengel driving in a pair of runs.
Aggie reliever Daniel Mengden (0-2) took the loss after surrendering all four Wildcat runs in the eighth inning. K-State scored nine runs — eight of them earned — on 11 hits in 5.1 innings against Texas A&M starter Michael Wacha. It was the most earned runs allowed by the All-America junior in his career.
K-State’s second-inning explosion included RBI singles from Klein and Witt and a sacrifice fly from Jake Brown before Hinkle’s big shot.
The Aggies scored three runs in the third, two on a single by Juengel. K-State got one run back in the fifth on a passed ball, but Texas A&M scored three in the bottom half to cut the lead to 8-6.
K-State tacked on another run in the sixth on Brown’s single up the middle, but Texas A&M scored five runs to take an 11-9 lead. With one out, seven of the next eight batters reached base. Krady Bratsen collected a two-run single to tie the game before Stein and Blake Allemand produced runs on a pair of hits to give the Aggies the lead.
(Story courtesy of KStateSports.com)
NEXT GAME: Saturday, March 17 at Texas A&M (14-5, 0-1)
K-State will look to take the series against Texas A&M when the two teams meet Saturday afternoon in College Station, Texas. The game can be heard in the Manhattan area on Sports Radio 1350 and online at 1350kman.com. KMAN’s Rob Voelker will have the call starting with BD4 Distributing Pregame Show at 1:30 p.m. First pitch from Blue Bell Park will be at 2:05 p.m.