*Courtesy of K-State Sports Information*
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – K-State jumped out to 5-1 lead after the top of the fourth inning, but top-seeded Texas Tech scored seven unanswered runs to come back and defeat the eighth-seeded Wildcats, 8-5, on Wednesday in the first round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The Wildcats (26-30) used a pair of two-out, two-run doubles by Jake Scudder and Michael Smith to help build their four-run advantage, but 14 of Texas Tech’s 17 hits after the third frame fueled the come-from-behind victory. The Red Raiders (41-14) scored three runs in the fifth to tie it at 5-5 before two runs in the sixth and a run in the eighth put away the Wildcats.
“We got off to a really good start, obviously,” said K-State head coach Brad Hill. “Three runs in the first and I liked the way our kids got after it. There was a big two-out hit by Michael Smith (in the fourth). You feel like you’re off to a really good start, but then that’s why (Texas Tech is) the conference champion for a reason and just great composure (by the Red Raiders). They didn’t panic over there. They felt very comfortable and confident that they were going to comeback, just chip away at it like they did.”
The loss puts K-State in the elimination bracket, where it will face No. 5 seed Oklahoma on Thursday at 9 a.m. The Sooners fell to West Virginia earlier in the day, 6-0.
After K-State starting pitcher Corey Fischer scattered five hits, two runs and a walk in the first four innings, the Wildcat bullpen yielded the go-ahead runs. Jordan Floyd was summoned in the fifth after back-to-back singles off Fischer opened the frame, but the left-hander sandwiched an RBI single with his two strikeouts before surrendering a pair of run-producing singles followed by a walk to end his outing. The last of the pair of two-out singles, produced by Hunter Hargrove, evened the score.
In the sixth, freshman Mitch Zubradt, who ended the fifth with a groundout to the only batter he faced, allowed back-to-back singles to open the inning. Both runners, Stephen Smith and Tyler Floyd, came around to score on a single by Tyler Neslony and sacrifice fly by Eric Gutierrez.
Zubradt took the loss, his first of his career, after he was responsible for two runs on three hits and a walk over 1 1/3 innings.
While Texas Tech pulled away with the five runs over the sixth and seventh, the Red Raider bullpen quieted K-State’s offense. Led by Robert Dugger and Hayden Howard, who picked up the win and save, respectively, the Texas Tech relief corps limited the Wildcats to one hit and just three baserunners (one walk, one error) over the last five innings.
The Wildcats wasted little time in staging a threat against Texas Tech starting pitcher Ty Damron in the first as a leadoff single by Clayton Dalrymple, hit by pitch by Tyler Wolfe and walk drawn by Josh Rolette loaded the bases for Scudder. The Big 12 Newcomer of the Year fed a double down the left field line to drive in Dalrymple and Wolfe to make it 2-0 K-State. Tyler Moore followed up Scudder with a fielder’s choice to score Rolette and give the Wildcats a three-run lead.
“Damron got a little more aggressive after (the three runs in the first),” said Hill. “He really challenges with the fastball and got it elevated where we couldn’t catch up to it for a couple of innings. He kind of settled down for a little bit.”
Texas Tech answered the three K-State runs in the first when Cory Raley hit an RBI triple with two outs off Fischer to cut it to 3-1, but Smith followed up a single by Quintin Crandall and two-out walk by Josh Ethier in the fourth with a double to the wall in left field to make it 5-1 Wildcats.
Prior to the Red Raiders tying the game in the fifth, they cut the K-State advantage to three runs in the fourth when Neslony, who opened the frame with a double, scored on a sacrifice fly by Hargrove.
Of Texas Tech’s 17 hits, four were for extra-bases. K-State, meanwhile, had three hits for the extra-base variety of its six total.
Crandall had a double and single to lead the Wildcats with two hits. It was his 12th multi-hit game this year.
Six Red Raiders had multi-hit efforts, led by three apiece from Smith, Floyd and Neslony.
K-State will face Oklahoma in an elimination game for the second straight year. Left-hander Parker Rigler will get the start on the mound for K-State on Thursday and face righty Alec Hansen.