The K-State baseball team dropped a pitchers’ duel on Sunday, losing 2-1 in the Sunflower Showdown series finale at Tointon Family Stadium.
KU (21-11, 5-4 Big 12) used a solo home run in the second inning and a sacrifice fly in the fifth to build a 2-0 lead that K-State (18-13, 2-4) was unable to overcome. Sunday’s loss gives KU the first season series win over K-State since 2006. It was also K-State’s first home series loss against a Big 12 opponent since April of 2012 against Oklahoma State.
“Any series loss hurts, there is no question about that,” said K-State head coach Brad Hill, “but probably more than anything else it is losing at home. Losing a series at home hurts, no matter who it is.”
K-State starting pitcher Nate Griep fought through eight-plus innings, scattering 10 hits, four walks, and two hit by pitches. KU’s leadoff hitter reached base eight times in Griep’s nine innings started, with two of them being via one of K-State’s two errors, but Griep helped force KU to strand 11 runners in the game.
The redshirt freshman right-hander took the loss, his first career defeat, to drop to 3-1 on the season.
KU’s Frank Duncan used 128 pitches to throw his third complete game of the season. The right-hander struck out three and walked one while allowing one run and seven hits in nine innings.
“You have to give credit where credit is due,” said Hill. “[Duncan’s] been through some things, and he bounced back this year. Today, he proved that he is one of the best pitchers in the league. It was a great outing by him. We just could not capitalize on a couple of opportunities that we had.”
K-State had a runner in scoring position six times, but it came away with one hit in such situations.
Tucker Tharp hit a leadoff home run to left field in the top of the second to stake KU to a 1-0 advantage, and in the fifth, back-to-back leadoff singles by KU eventually led to the Jayhawks’ second run. Ryan Pidhaichuk hit a sacrifice fly to score Justin Protacio, who started the inning with a single. On the same play, though, the ball got away from K-State pitcher Blair DeBord, who was trying to apply the tag at home. Griep fielded the ball behind home plate and fired it to third to retire Joven Afenir after the KU right fielder over-slid the bag.
In the bottom the fifth, DeBord led off with his only hit of the game, a single to center field. Carter Yagi followed by roping a ball into the right field corner for a double and advancing DeBord to third. The next batter, Ross Kivett, then hit the first pitch he saw for a double down the right field line to score DeBord. Yagi, however, also tried to score on the play but was caught trying to go back to third base after his attempt towards home.
KU loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, with the help of two bunt singles off Griep, but K-State relief pitcher Ethan Landon got two ground balls and a pop out to foul territory to put away the Jayhawks with no runs in their final at-bats.
Fellow freshman Tanner DeVinny had a team-high and career-high three hits, including two doubles. He extended his hitting streak to 15 games, the longest by a Wildcat this season.
Kivett finished 1-for-2 with an RBI, a walk and a stolen base. The steal was Kivett’s team-leading 10th of the season and 69th of his career.
The Wildcats will move on and play a pair of midweek games this week, starting with a 6:30 pm contest against Wichita State at Tointon Family Stadium on Tuesday, April 8.