Cats Test Top-Seed Texas Tech, Fall 7-4

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K-State got a home run from Zach Kokoska and three RBI from Cameron Thompson, but the eighth-seeded Wildcats fell to regular-season champion Texas Tech 7-4 in the opening round of the 2019 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark Wednesday.

K-State (25-32) cut Texas Tech’s lead to a single run at 5-4 as the game reached the seventh-inning stretch and later brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the top of the ninth inning before TTU’s Taylor Floyd ended the game with a strikeout.

Freshman Eric Torres’ career-long 3 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit relief allowed the Wildcats to climb back into the game. Torres retired the last eight Red Raider hitters he faced, striking out five without a walk.

“You have to play really good baseball to beat the regular-season champion,” head coach Pete Hughes said after the game. “It has to be clean with no margin for error. You have to get two-out hits. [Texas Tech] did a great job against a really, really good pitcher in our program [Jordan Wicks]; drove up his pitch counts, refused to strike out and a had a great two-strike approach.

“I’m really proud of our guys, the way we battled and twice gave our team a chance to come back. There’s no time to think about that now in tournament play. We have to move on for tomorrow, have a short-term memory and try and get back into our winning ways.”

Kokoska hit a game-tying home run in the top of the second inning and Thompson drove in two runs in the fifth before an RBI groundout in the seventh brought the Wildcats within a run at 5-4.

TTU (37-15) responded with two in the seventh, highlighted by a pinch-hit RBI single by Cody Masters, to give the Red Raiders a three-run cushion.

K-State moved a pair of runners in scoring position before an out was recorded in the ninth. Thomas Hughes drew a one-out walk to load the bases, but Floyd retired both Wildcats he faced to preserve a three-run victory.

Texas Tech jumped out to a 1-0 lead after it tallied four hits off Wicks in the bottom of the first, with three consecutive base hits coming with two outs. Brian Klein laced a triple down the right field line and scored on a single by Josh Jung to bring home the game’s first run. Wicks’ first strikeout stranded two and the Red Raiders owned a one-run lead after an inning.

Kokoska tied the game in the top of the second with a solo homer with two out. It was the sophomore’s eighth of the year and the first hit by a Wildcat in the Big 12 Championship since 2012.

TTU added a two-out RBI in the second before a three-run third opened a 5-1 lead for the Red Raiders. In the third, Cameron Warren and Parker Kelly recorded RBI singles as TTU produced three hits in the inning.

Wicks’ (6-3) day was finished after three innings of work with a career-high five earned runs allowed on nine hits and four strikeouts. The 2019 Freshman of the Year took the loss and handed the ball to Torres.

The Wildcats cut their deficit in half after Thompson’s two-out, two-run single in the top of the fifth. Will Brennan and Jordan Maxson each singled in the inning as the Cats trailed 5-3 as the game hit the halfway mark.

The fifth inning would be the last for TTU starting pitcher Micah Dallas, who surrendered three earned runs on five hits. Dallas struck out three and walked two while improving to 5-0.

Brett Lockwood lifted Torres in the bottom of the seventh and failed to record an out, allowing three singles while issuing a walk. Lockwood allowed two earned runs that pushed Tech’s lead to 7-4 through seven frames.

Brennan led K-State, going 3-for-4 while Kokoska ended his day 2-for-4.

Jung and Warren each turned in three-hit days for the Red Raiders.

Texas Tech hit .467 (7-for-15) with two outs and went 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

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Mitch Fortner

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