Cats Rally, Walk Off 19th-Ranked TCU

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From K-State Athletics

Senior Rainer Ausmus dropped a squeeze bunt to bring home Blake Burrows for the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give K-State a walk-off 11-10 victory Saturday over No. 19 TCU at Tointon Family Stadium.

K-State (19-22, 5-7 Big 12) scored 10 of its 11 runs over the game’s final three innings, including nine unanswered to erase a five-run deficit and take a 10-6 lead into the ninth. TCU (23-15, 6-6 Big 12) rallied to tie the game with four in the ninth, capped by a game-tying three-run homer by Jake Guenther.

“Man, that was a lot of fun,” head coach Pete Hughes said after the game. “That’s the reason we do this is to play in games like that and coach in games like that. I thought the crowd was electric and nothing like the fight in our boys. No one grinds like those guys.

“Those guys just stuck with it. Once we got their starter out of the game, things started to turn. You look at Chris Ceballos got a big hit, Caleb Littlejim got a big hit. As soon as Caleb got that hit, I think the momentum stayed in our dugout.”

Burrows drew a walk to lead off the Wildcat ninth and moved to second after a single by Dylan Phillips. Following a flyout and a passed ball, the freshman stood on third base with one out when Ausmus executed his second squeeze play of the ballgame.

“We practice it every day, so it’s just a matter of execution,” said Ausmus of his squeeze bunt. “I feel comfortable doing it and was just glad I could come through.

“I was trying to see something up at the beginning of (the at-bat), drive something to the gap to win it. But fastball inside that got by the catcher relaxed me because I knew I could get the bunt down. So it was just a quick mental switch.”

“A dependable guy,” said Hughes of Ausmus. “He’s an older guy. He works his butt off. He’s a good bunter, so credit to (assistant coach) Austin Wates for putting guys in situations to have success. He did that, he was awesome. Rainer’s prepared himself for that moment, and good for him for having success.”

The Wildcat offense had just one hit after six innings off TCU starter Brandon Williamson, a solo home run by Ceballos in the third. Williamson left the game with two outs in the seventh inning and two runners on base.

Jake Eissler was then called on and gave up an RBI single to Ceballos before a two-run single with the bases loaded to Littlejim.

Will Brennan legged out an infield single to bring in Ausmus for the Cats’ fourth run of the innings – all with two outs.

Williamson yielded just one hit with three earned runs against him over his 6 2/3 innings. The lefty finished with eight strikeouts and two walks in a no decision.

K-State brought 10 hitters to the plate as it put up a five spot in the bottom of the eighth to take a 10-6 lead. Zach Kokoska led off with a double and scored a double by Ceballos. Ausmus, Littlejim and Brennan each produced RBI singles in the five-run frame.

Brennan, who tossed the game’s final two innings to record the victory, retired the first two TCU hitters in the ninth. After a single by Hunter Wolfe and a walk issued to Josh Watson, Guenther lifted a game-tying three-run home run to center field on a 3-2 pitch.

“I know what (TCU did) in the ninth, credit to a winning program like TCU, they never quit. They were down to their last strike twice. But just our mindset put us in a position where we knew we were going to win that game. We figured out a way to do it, and almost used our whole bench, too.”

Three straight singles to start the second inning led to a pair of TCU runs. Austin Henry drove in the first Horned Frog run with a single to right before Zach Humphrey’s RBI fielder’s choice scored Johnny Rizer to give TCU a 2-0 lead after an inning and a half.

Josh Watson lifted a solo home run in the third and Rizer delivered a two-out single to double the lead to four runs. Rizer would later score on a fielding error to put the Frogs ahead 5-0 after the top of the third inning.

Wolfe tacked on a run in the top of the seventh via a solo home run off K-State reliever Mitch Zubradt, giving the Horned Frogs a 6-1 lead as the game reached the seventh-inning stretch.

Ceballos led the Cats with a three-hit night, going 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI. Ausmus and Littlejim each drove in three while going 2-for-4.

Brennan also tallied a pair of runs batted in with two hits.

Freshman Jordan Wicks, the reigning Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, allowed five runs (four earned) over 5 1/3 innings on eight. The lefty struck out three without allowing a walk in a no decision.

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Mitch Fortner

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