ARLINGTON, Texas (Kansas State Sports Information) – Blake Adams struck out nine, Dominic Johnson homered and K-State ousted West Virginia 8-5 in an elimination game Thursday afternoon at the 2022 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship at Globe Life Field.
K-State (28-28) scored in six different innings, jumping out to a 3-0 lead after two innings. Dylan Phillips registered three hits in a 3-for-5 day with two runs batted in to lead eight different Wildcats with a base hit.
“Life in the losing bracket is a tough, tough life to live,” said head coach Pete Hughes. “We hadn’t been playing well but our kids are resilient, and I thought they came out with a lot of energy against a team that has been playing well. It’s important for us to jump out and get the lead early and we haven’t done that in a while. It begins and ends with a solid start and good starting pitching which we got from Blake today.”
Adams pitched into the seventh inning, as he retired nine straight and 12 of 13 batters at one point. Adams struck out five over the first two innings and finished the day with four earned runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings.
“They got to me early last week and I had to change a few things and really focus on getting the ball down which was a big key today,” Adams said. “I left a few pitches up and this is a team that makes you pay for it, and they made me pay for it last week. I was building off last week’s learning experience to come in with some momentum. I started making pitches in the third inning and getting ahead of batters which was key.”
Adams took the mound with a two-run lead, as Johnson kickstarted his offense with a single to begin the game. Nick Goodwin drove him in with a one-out double and Phillips tallied his first RBI single a batter later.
In relief of Adams, Ty Ruhl and Phillips held the Mountaineers (33-22) without a hit over the day’s final 2 1/3 innings. Phillips moved from first base to the mound in the ninth, inheriting two baserunners, and retired all three he faced for his team-high seventh save.
West Virginia erased the Wildcats’ three-run lead with three runs in the third inning, as four consecutive Mountaineers reached base with two outs. McGwire Holbrook, Braden Barry and Dayne Leonard rattled off consecutive run-scoring singles off Adams to even the score.
The game remained tied until Justin Mitchell delivered a go-ahead, two-out single in the fifth. Phillips, who began the frame with a single, came around to score on Mitchell’s first of two hits.
The Cats expanded their lead an inning later, as Johnson led off the sixth with his 12th home run of the season. Cash Rugely followed with a single and later scampered home on a two-out single from Phillips.
In the seventh, Rugely drew his second bases-loaded walk of the game, staking K-State with a 7-3 advantage.
After WVU got one run back in the bottom of the seventh, Josh Nicoloff started the ninth with a double. Nicoloff moved to third on a sacrifice bunt laid down by Mitchell and a batter later, raced home on a squeeze play executed by Raphael Pelletier.
“We just played West Virginia last weekend and our guys know how explosive that offense can be,” Hughes added. “They can put a five spot up on you in a heartbeat. You saw in the third inning today that they were going first to third on us for 20 minutes. I think it was fresh in our guys’ heads, you can’t build a big enough lead against West Virginia, a national tournament team.”
K-State laid down a season-high four sacrifice bunts in the game.
The Wildcats stranded 11 baserunners in the game, including eight from the second though the fourth innings. K-State left the bases loaded in the second, finishing 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
The win snapped a five-game losing skid and was K-State’s first against WVU this season. The Wildcats advance to Friday action at the Big 12 Championship for the second straight season.