MANHATTAN, Kan. – The K-State baseball team held a 2-0 lead entering the sixth inning, but a pinch-hit home run by Bakersfield’s Soloman Williams turned the momentum in the Roadrunners’ favor as the Wildcats lost the series opener to Bakersfield, 5-2, on Monday at Tointon Family Stadium.
K-State starting pitcher Landon Busch struck out a career-high seven in 5 1/3 innings, but a solo homer surrendered to Williams to start the sixth ignited a two-run frame for Bakersfield (16-22) as well as plate the first of five unanswered runs to end the game.
The Wildcats (22-19) allowed the game-deciding runs in a two-run seventh on a fielder’s choice and error while a ground-ball double play scored the Roadrunners’ final run in the eighth.
K-State put two runners on base in each of the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, but two line-out double plays and a fly out halted the threats.
“One swing of the bat, and all of sudden they have momentum,” said K-State head coach Brad Hill. “That’s baseball. We just have to find a way to curb it. We didn’t have good at-bats until the seventh, eighth, and ninth [innings], and then balls found gloves. We barreled up, but it was too late. [Early on] there was a lack of focus – that’s on me. I have to get them more ready to play.”
K-State combined to walk nine times, and with the addition of seven hits, had 16 base runners in the game. The Bakersfield pitching staff, led by starter Nick Rogowski, worked around the jams, though, and forced the Wildcats to hit into three double plays and strand 10 runners.
Rogowski picked up the win, allowing two runs in six innings while walking five.
“We just didn’t have good swings,” said Hill. “[Rogowski] threw a lot of breaking balls, and we started chasing out of the zone that resulted in no-bat-speed swings. Big-hop ground balls and lazy fly balls aren’t going to produce a lot of offense.”
Bakersfield had 12 hits, with four of them not leaving the infield, and used K-State’s four errors to help plate its five runs. After Williams’ home run, the Roadrunners tied the game later in the sixth when David Metzgar singled with a runner on first. Metzgar attempted to take second base on the throw from the outfield to third base to get the lead runner, but K-State first baseman Tyler Stover eventually caught Metzgar in a rundown. Stover made a throw to second to help tag out Metzgar, but Stover’s throw hit off the back of Metzgar and went into left field to allow Andrew Lojewski to score from third on the throwing error.
In the seventh, back-to-back singles and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third base with one out for Bakersfield. After Williams was intentionally walked by Jake Fromson to load the bases, Ethan Landon induced a ground ball fielded by K-State shortstop Austin Fisher. Fisher flipped to Ross Kivett for the force out at second, but Kivett’s throw to first to complete the potential double play sailed wide, allowing Max Carter to score from second on the error and adding on to Jordie Hein scoring from third on the fielder’s choice.
In the eighth, Metzgar led off the inning with a single and later scored on a double play hit into by Mahlik Jones.
K-State built its two-run advantage with a run in the first and fifth innings. Tanner DeVinny notched his team-best 30th RBI with a single in the first, and Fisher made it 2-0 Wildcats with a sacrifice fly in the fifth to score Max Brown.
Fisher stepped to the plate in the seventh and ninth innings with runners in scoring position, but both times resulted in line-out double plays. With runners on second and third in the seventh, Fisher hit a hard line drive to Bakersfield third baseman Jones, who caught the ball and used his momentum falling towards third base to force out Kivett. In the ninth, Fisher hit a line drive to the shortstop Mylz Jones, who fielded the drive and tagged second base to complete the game-ending double play.
Brown and Shane Conlon each had a team-best two hits. Kivett and RJ Santigate, the top two hitters in the lineup, combined to walk five times, with Kivett matching his career-high in walks with three.
Fromson suffered the loss, the first of his K-State career, after allowing two runs, one earned, in one inning pitched. The right-hander also surrendered three hits.
The loss was K-State’s third straight defeat to Bakersfield. It also ends K-State’s 22-game winning streak against nonconference opponents at Tointon Family Stadium.
The Wildcats and Roadrunners will meet in the final contest of the two-game set on Tuesday, April 22 at 6:30 pm.