All season, Kansas State coach Brad Hill has wanted the Wildcats to not take into account the bigger context for games, to approach each outing for what it is — nine innings of baseball. Nothing bigger than that.
Monday night will put Hill’s philosophy to the test.
Oregon State defeated Kansas State 12-4 on Sunday night, forcing a deciding Game 3 in the NCAA super regional on Monday night with a trip to the College World Series on the line. Oregon State is trying to get back to Omaha for the first time since winning the national championship in 2007. It would be the first trip for the Wildcats.
On Monday, K-State probably will start Gerardo Esquivel, who pitched the Wildcats’ regional-clinching win over Arkansas, but Hill said “we’re still thinking” on who would get the start.
Sunday, Oregon State got the best of K-State starter Blake McFadden in the first inning, and in a big way — the prelude to a 21-hit attack, which is the most given up by K-State this season.
First, Michael Conforto homered for the Beavers for a second game in a row, taking McFadden’s pitch over the center-field wall with two outs for a 1-0 lead. Teammate Dylan Davis homered to almost the exact same spot to make it 2-0.
The next batter for Oregon State, Danny Hayes, doubled down the right-field line and was brought home with a single by Ryan Barnes for a 3-0 Oregon State lead. Hill pulled McFadden after two-thirds of an inning and inserted another freshman, Levi MaVorhis, who rose to the Wildcats’ rotation at the end of the regular season.
“I think, obviously, the first inning kind of told the story of the game,” Hill said. “The back-to-back home runs really got the crowd involved and (Oregon State) really fed off of that. And we had a freshman out there who was a little bit shell-shocked, who was dealing with a little bit of nerves.”
MaVorhis didn’t fare much better, giving up back-to-back singles to Kavin Keyes and Jake Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s single scored Barnes and Keyes for a 5-0 lead. K-State went three up and three down in the first.
The Beavers kept adding runs in the second, both on an RBI single by Davis that scored Tyler Smith and Andy Peterson for a 7-0 lead. K-State was finally able to cut into the lead in the second thanks to a solo home run to right field from Jared King, who was selected by the New York Mets in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft on Friday. It was the third home run given up this season by Oregon State freshman Andrew Moore, a semifinalist for national pitcher of the year, and made the score 7-1.
“The guys did a good job of going out and getting runs and coming ready to play,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort (on Saturday) we talked about some things about coaching hitting, but that’s about it.”
Oregon State’s offense continued to roll in the third inning with a sacrifice bunt RBI by Max Gordon and an RBI single by Smith — the Beavers’ 12th hit — for a 9-1 lead. By then, MaVorhis had already been pulled in favor of Jake Doller. Moore hit his stride on the mound in the third, striking out the side for K-State by sitting down Blair DeBord, RJ Santigate and Big 12 player of the year Ross Kivett all in a row.
“The runs early really helped relax me,” Moore said. “I think once we got that lead it was a lot easier for me to get into a groove.”
The Wildcats kept pushing on offense, however, and got two runs back in the third after loading the bases with no outs and getting back-to-back sacrifice flies from Austin Fisher and Jon Davis that scored Tanner Witt and Shane Conlon to cut the Beavers’ lead to 9-3.
K-State brought in Jordan Witcig in place of Doller in the fifth inning, and Witcig gave up a single to the first batter he faced, Andy Peterson, that scored Keyes for a 10-3 Oregon State lead. Witcig walked Smith in the seventh with the bases loaded to make the score 11-3.
Moore had a season-high nine strikeouts before leaving in the ninth inning.
“We’ll flush that (loss) really quick and get back at it tomorrow,” Conlon said. “It’s always tough after a loss, but the season is on the line. Both teams are tring to go to Omaha.”