Kansas State’s Ross Kivett didn’t care about history or legacies or the nearly 4,000 screaming fans packed into every inch of Oregon State’s Goss Stadium on Saturday who wanted him to do nothing less than fail in spectacular fashion.
With two outs and the count full in the ninth inning and his team trailing 2-1, he just cared about one thing.
“All I could think about was I wanted to pass the stick to this guy,” Kivett said, gesturing to teammate Tanner Witt. “And then he can pass it to Shane (Conlon) and then he can pass it to Jared (King.). It’s about what the next guy can do.”
Kivett’s double in the ninth did, in fact, pass the stick to Witt, who singled him home after he had reached third on an error to tie the Beavers 2-2. Then the Wildcats exploded for four runs in the 10th inning on the way to a 6-2 victory open a best-of-three NCAA super regional.
K-State, playing in a Super Regional for the first time in school history, can clinch a spot in the College World Series with a win on Sunday. Game time is 9 p.m.
“We haven’t had anything easy this year,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “Some of the succès we’ve had is because we’ve played a lot of close games, and we’ve won a lot of close games. We know it’s going to be another tough game tomorrow.”
Oregon State’s Michael Conforto, the Pac-12 player of the year, got the Beavers on the board first when he took K-State starting pitcher Joe Flattery deep in the fourth inning, sending a ball rocketing over the bleachers in right field for a two-run home run that scored Andy Peterson for a 2-0 lead. Peterson had reached on a single.
It was Conforto’s 14th home run of the season, but Flattery settled down and lasted five innings, allowing K-State to get into its bullpen, which has saved the Wildcats as of late.
“(Flattery) made one mistake, one bad pitch,” K-State catcher Blair DeBord said. “He was getting the ball up a little bit in the zone and me and Ross were like ‘Just trust us, when haven’t we scored runs this year? We’re going to score runs, OK?’
“After that he settled down and pitched three more innings and was great. I thought he pitched a great game.”
K-State stranded two baserunners in the third inning when Jon Davis struck out — his second strikeout of the game. The Wildcats were able to make the score 2-1 in the fifth inning when Kivett, the Big 12 player of the year, led off with a single. Witt followed with a single and Oregon State starting pitcher Matt Boyd hit the next two batters — Austin Fisher and Davis — to bring home Kivett.
Boyd lasted seven innings, giving up five hits and just one earned run while striking out three.
“I thought Boyd was really tough tonight,” Hill said. “He ended up with 120 pitches, so I know we were battling at the plate, but he really had us looking confused and tight early.”
K-State still had the bases loaded with two outs after Kivett scored, but DeBord grounded out to end the inning.
The Wildcats loaded the bases again in the eighth inning, again with one out, and again with no results.
Shane Conlon singled for K-State to get on first, then Oregon State issued back-to-back walks to King and Austin Fisher to load the bases. Again, Davis got a chance at bring home runs but struck out swinging against Max Engelbrekt, who pulled a muscle in his back on the final pitch and was pulled for Jace Fry.
Fry got DeBord to ground out to end the inning.
“We certainly had opportunities early in the game or throughout the game to win,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “I thought that we wouldn’t have to go extra innings. It’s tough when you get down to the last strike and you don’t get it done.”
First, Kivett and Witt’s ninth-inning heroics. Then, with All-Big 12 relief pitcher Jake Matthys shutting down the Beavers in the ninth, an extra inning for the ages.
“I don’t know how it feels to you guys, but to us it feels like we’re always gonna score,” Witt said. “Tonight it may have taken us until the ninth, but we still got it done. It’s a whole team effort everybody has confidence in everybody else.”
In the top of the 10th, K-State’s bats finally came alive, starting with a double from King that Conforto misplayed in left field to open the inning, then a single from Davis that scored King to give K-State its first lead at 3-2. Pinch-hitter Mitch Meyer singled to score Davis, then Witt’s single with the bases loaded scored RJ Santigate and Meyer for a 6-2 lead.
The sudden burst of offense left the Beavers — and Goss Stadium — reeling. A crowd that had done nothing but roar for the previous three hours sat silent, save for a small contingent of maybe 40 or 50 K-State fans who had made the trip west.
Matthys struck Conforto out looking to end the game.
“We pride ourselves on playing very loose, but the thing that we’ve all been hinting at is that we know exactly how good of a ballclub Oregon State is,” Kivett said. “We’re not looking forward to anything next week or two weeks away. We just want to take things pitch by pitch and give everybody our best shot.”
Hill said freshman right-hander Blake McFadden (6-2, 4.40 ERA) would get the start Sunday. Oregon State will start freshman right-hander Andrew Moore (13-1, 1.22 ERA), a semifinalist for national pitcher of the year.