Photos from the opening game between Kansas and Kansas State in baseball for the Sunflower Showdown.
The late-game dramatics that capped a series sweep over Missouri Sunday were absent against another Kansas University rival on Friday at Hoglund Ballpark.
Visiting Kansas State edged Ritch Price’s Jayhawks, 5-4, in front of 1,663 fans to open a three-game baseball series.
“We had a week to get over (the Missouri sweep),” starting pitcher T.J. Walz said. “We’re still pumped about that, but it’s a new series and a new job to do.”
Walz pitched five shutout innings before the Wildcats found their bats in the sixth.
Down two runs after a Jimmy Waters RBI double in the first and a solo home run by Brett Lisher in the second, K-State mounted a lead it would never relinquish. Center fielder Nick Martini got things going when he knocked in Carter Jurica — who reached on a walk — with a double off the right-center field wall. An ensuing double by K-State catcher Daniel Dellasega tied the game 2-2, and Mike Kindel finished the big inning by plating two insurance runs with a single.
“I left some pitches up and they hit them,” Walz said. “I hung a slider to Martini and a curveball to (Kent) Urban.”
Price said the sixth inning was crucial for K-State.
“I think the difference in the game is that we couldn’t get out of the inning once T.J. got in trouble without them putting up a four-spot,” Price said.
Until that point, Price said he thought Walz, who struck out four batters, pitched a good game.
“I was really pleased,” he said. “I was concerned about his pitch count. I thought he had a lot of 2-2 counts and 3-2 counts, which isn’t characteristic for him, but I thought he competed and battled well.”
Jurica led off the K-State seventh by taking the first pitch of his at-bat over the left field wall for his ninth home run of the season. Travis Blankenship then entered the contest for the Jayhawks in relief and was able to get KU out of the inning without allowing any more runs.
The Jayhawks appeared poised to mount a comeback in the bottom of the seventh when the Wildcats brought in relief pitcher Evan Marshall. After a Robby Price single put a runner on, KU third baseman Tony Thompson smacked his lone hit of the night, an RBI single, to cut the score to 5-3. Jimmy Waters, who went 2-for-4, followed Thompson with a line drive to right field to cut the deficit to one run.
The Jayhawks were unable to produce the same Mizzou magic in the bottom of the ninth, however, as K-State closer James Allen made quick work of KU’s No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters to preserve the victory.
Kansas (29-20-1, 10-11-1 Big 12) will travel to Manhattan for the second game against K-State (33-15, 12-9) today.