By Chris Kutz
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – K-State reliever Kyle Halbohn shut the door with a five-out save following the Wildcats’ three-run eighth inning as the K-State baseball team opened the 2015 season with a 5-4 win over Iowa on Friday at Charlotte Sports Park.
After the Wildcats (1-0) took a 5-2 lead in the top half of the eighth, sparked by a pinch-hit RBI single by Tyler Moore, Halbohn stranded a pair of inherited runners in the bottom of the frame and worked around a two-out double in the ninth to pick up the save in his K-State debut. The right-hander had spent the last two years at the junior college level pitching for Spartanburg Methodist.
“(Halbohn) attacked the zone with strikes, that’s the big thing,” said K-State head coach Brad Hill. “He was fearless. He got a little help on the pop-up on the safety squeeze (for the first out in the eighth), but he really used that momentum to get on through the game. Even in the last inning, the two-out double, he could have started feeling for it, but he didn’t. He stayed aggressive with his pitches.”
K-State held a 2-0 advantage through five-and-a-half innings, but Iowa answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth to even the score. The Wildcats went on to answer in the eighth when Danny Krause drew a leadoff walk, and Shane Conlon followed up with a single to center that moved Krause to third. Conlon moved up a base on a wild pitch, one of five by Iowa in the game, before Moore, the backup catcher for the night, drove a full-count pitch through the left side past a drawn-in Iowa infield to score Krause and give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead.
“(Moore’s) been swinging the bat really well in batting practice,” said Hill. “It’s been a toss-up on who we were going to start behind the plate; I even thought about DH-ing him, honestly. He’s the guy I felt right there who was going to give us a good at-bat.”
K-State went on to load the bases later in the eighth after Clayton Dalrymple was issued a one-out intentional walk. Catcher Alex Bee then stepped up and delivered a deep fly ball to left field that allowed Conlon to score on the sacrifice fly. Sam Chadick, who pinch-ran for Moore, later scored on a wild pitch with Tyler Wolfe at the plate to make it 5-2 K-State.
Iowa did not hold back in their next at-bat, though, as Nick Day, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, reached base on a fielding error by Wolfe to open the bottom of the eighth. K-State pitcher Jordan Floyd, who entered the game in the sixth, drew a high-chopper to the next batter, Eric Toole, to record the first out but also allow Day to reach second. Floyd was then lifted in favor of Nate Williams, who was making his first appearance since the 2013 Super Regional. Williams labored through three batters, issuing three walks and throwing two wild pitches that helped the Hawkeyes bring the score to 5-4.
Lost in the late-game scoring was K-State starting pitcher Nate Griep’s performance in which the redshirt sophomore did not allow a hit through his first five innings pitched. The right-hander finished with a career-high seven strikeouts while being responsible for two runs, two hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings of a no-decision.
Griep was relieved by Floyd as the left-hander earned his first career win following two innings of relief. Floyd threw a wild pitch and balked home a run charged to Griep that tied the game in the sixth, but the sophomore settled in and finished the night not allowing a hit or a walk
K-State pitchers finished the game by only three Hawkeye hits.
The Wildcat offense, meanwhile, had seven hits spread out amongst seven different hitters. Krause led K-State by reaching base safely three times (one hit, two walks).
Iowa starting pitcher Tyler Peyton did not factor into the decision despite striking out six and allowing one run in five innings pitched. Jared Mandel faced just one batter, but he was charged with the loss after being responsible for the eventual game-winning run.
The Wildcats were the first to get on the board when Wolfe, who reached with a one-out double, was plated by a sacrifice fly from Jake Wodtke in the fifth. The lead was stretched to 2-0 in the sixth when Max Brown legged out an infield RBI single that drove home Krause.
K-State returns to action on Saturday with a pair of games at North Charlotte Regional Park. The Wildcats will face Pittsburgh at 10am (CT) to start the day followed by a 2 pm (CT) contest against George Mason.