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SLATE: Kansas State takes series against Oklahoma; Sooner soccer and tennis get revenge

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Plus a good weekend for Track in Waco, men’s golf wins in Lincoln, and women’s golf at the Big 12s

Artist’s interpretation of Oklahoma’s defense Sunday
Artist’s interpretation of Oklahoma’s defense Sunday
Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The conventional wisdom was that this weekend’s series at Tointon between Kansas State and Oklahoma would see runners spinning around the diamond like a fan set on high. After all, Oklahoma had the best offense and worst pitching in the conference.

That is not what happened. In a 2-1 series victory for the BatCats, “only” 30 runs were scored.

Friday’s game was rained out, setting up a Saturday double-header. In game one, K-State entered the ninth inning with a 2-1 lead courtesy of a two-run Cameron Uselton single in the fifth inning. Jordan Wicks struck out seven and only gave up one run and three hits in seven innings, but was deprived of the decision as Oklahoma manufactured the tying run in the top of the ninth, chasing reliever Kasey Ford with nobody out and two men on base.

Tyler Eckberg came in and retired every batter he faced for two innings, but Oklahoma was able to sneak the tying run across regardless on a productive out. But Eckberg’s silent tenth inning allowed K-State to get to the meat of their lineup in the bottom of the frame, and after Blake Burrows walked and Cameron Thompson was walked intentionally after an Uselton sacrifice moved Burrows to second, Dylan Phillips fought off a few pitches before lacing a walk-off single to left center for a Wildcat victory. Eckberg (2-3) picked up the win.

Carson Seymour (2-4) was touched for three runs in both the first and fourth innings of game two, putting the BatCats in a 6-0 hole from which they would not quite recover. The Wildcat bullpen would record 523 innings of scoreless relief, allowing only three Sooner baserunners, and that gave K-State the chance to claw their way back.

The BatCats tried to get it all back in the fifth. With Kamron Willman on first base after drawing a walk, Dylan Caplinger stroked a pitch over the left field fence for his first homer of the year. Burrows singled and stole second, scoring on an Uselton double, and the lead was suddenly chopped in half. After a Thompson pop-out, Nick Goodwin singled and Uselton scored to make it 6-4, but that was all the Cats could get in the fifth — and as it happened, all they’d get for the duration as Oklahoma’s bullpen was responsible for 423 innings of lockdown fire extinguishing themselves.

In Sunday’s series finale, Oklahoma again got on the board first with a run in the top of the opening frame. But Chris Ceballos drove in Phillips on a sacrifice fly in the second and Zach Kokoska knocked in Phillips on a third-inning single to give K-State the lead. In the fifth, the Sooners got both of those runs back to go ahead 3-2, but then Oklahoma’s defense helped bury their hopes of escaping with the series win.

In the bottom of the fifth, Goodwin doubled before Phillips smacked his tenth homer of the season, recapturing the lead at 4-3. Two outs later, Daniel Carinci singled, Caleb Littlejim reached on an infield single, and Burrows singled to right. A throwing error by Sooner right fielder Brett Squiers allowed both runners to cross the plate.

In the sixth, K-State added another pair of unearned runs. With one out, Goodwin singled and swiped second, Phillips walked, and Kokoska hit a grounder to first. Trying to turn the 3-4-3 double play, first baseman Tyler Hardman threw the ball away, allowing Phillips to reach second safely and, more importantly, Goodwin to score. Phillips was gunned down at the front end of a double steal, which immediately rendered all further runs in the inning unearned because he should have been the third out. Caplinger and Carinci walked to load the bases, and then Littlejim walked to push Kokoska across the plate for the final run in an 8-3 K-State victory.

Eckberg picked up his second win in two days, improving to 3-3 on the season, as he threw another four scoreless innings in relief and was the pitcher of record when Phillips homered in the fifth. Connor McCullough, the rock early in the season, had another shaky effort as the starter: four innings, eight hits, three runs allowed, and three walks issued over just two strikeouts.

The win improves K-State to 21-15 (4-8), while Oklahoma falls to 19-17 (4-8). Obviously, this was a clash between relatively even squads; had Oklahoma won Sunday both teams would be 20-16 overall. Instead, they’re tied in the Big 12 standings and the BatCats have an edge if the NCAA comes calling in June.

Jimmy Watkins of the Mercury has a full story.

There’s no mid-week mini-series ahead; the next action for K-State will be at Tointon on Friday as West Virginia arrives for a three-game visit. The Mountaineers sit just ahead of the Cats in the Big 12 standings at 5-7, but they’re only 14-16 overall and a terrible 4-9 on the road. That gives K-State a very viable chance to make a move forward.

Track and Field

K-State and Big 12 rivals Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and hosts Baylor were joined by Texas A&M, Northern Illinois, and a host of mid-major Texas schools for the Michael Johnson Invitational over the weekend. That’s a pretty meaty lineup to contend with, so a weekend in which the Wildcats captured eight event wins and eight other top-three finishes is a pretty good weekend indeed.

On Friday, Kassidy Johnson won the women’s 1500m while Helene Ingvaldsen led a 1-2-3 Wildcat finish in the women’s hammer throw along with teammates Shaelyn Ward and Ashley Petr.

The following day, the jumpers went off. Five of K-State’s six wins on Saturday involved flying through the air, as Jullane Walker and Taishia Pryce combined to sweep the long jump crowns, Tejaswin Shankar and Chantoba Bright swept the triple jumps (with Devon Richardson taking third in the men’s event and Rhianna Phipps second in the women’s), and Kyle Alcine claiming the men’s high jump title in Shankar’s absence.

K-State’s sixth win on the day came in the men’s discus, as Colin Echols had his best effort ever at 53.31m. The other Saturday podium finishes came on the track, as the Wildcats got a third-place finish in the women’s 100m hurdles from Vitoria Alves as well as taking third in the women’s 4x100m relay and both 4x400m relays.

This weekend, the action continues down in Norman at the J.D. Martin Invitational.

Golf

It’s hard to complain about being under par and on the right side of the leaderboard. That’s where K-State’s women sit after day one of the Big 12 championships, posting a 1-under 287 in the opening 18 holes to enter today tied for fourth with Oklahoma and eight shots back of leaders Oklahoma State, ranked sixth in the nation.

Four of K-State’s five entrants are in the top 25 on the leaderboard, led by Reid Isaac at 2-under 70, tied for fifth and four strokes behind Baylor’s Gurleen Kaur — but only a shot out of second place. Niamh McSherry is a shot back of Isaac at -1, while Haley Vargas and Heather Fortushniak are both at +1 and tied for 24th.

The second round tees off at 9:00 this morning. Friday, Austin Siegel checked in with the team in Sports Extra.

The men, meanwhile, captured their first tournament win in two years as they tied Minnesota for first in the Git-R-Done Invitational in Lincoln. Beginning the day Sunday in third place, the Cats shot a 6-under 278 to surge to the lead. The charge was led by Tim Tillmans, who fired a 4-under to tie for second place overall at 5-under for the tournament, a shot behind Minnesota’s Angus Flanagan. Will Hopkins was 1-under for the day and finished at even par, tied for fifth. Riccardo Leo managed a 1-over day, carding a +3 216 to finish tied for tenth. Luke O’Neill provided a big boost, scoring 2-under in the final round; that helped him recover from a poor first 36 holes to finish 5-over and tied for 18th, moving up 11 spots on the final day. Indeed, every Wildcat moved up the leaderboard on day three, as even Jacob Eklund — who struggled to a +6 finish in the first two rounds — moved up three spots to a tie for 21st at 7-over.

The short version: all five Wildcat golfers finished within the top third of the individual leaderboard.

It was a fight, however. Michigan State entered the day with the lead at +1, but suffered through a 6-over day to finish third at +7. But Minnesota, who began Sunday four shots back of the Spartans, almost kept pace with K-State as they fired a -5 279. The Cats and Gophers were both on fire; they shot a combined 11-under, but no other team on the course was able to manage any better than a +5 on Sunday.

Just as the women are currently chasing the Big 12 title, the men will next step to the tees at the Big 12 men’s championships next week. That tournament is in Hutchinson, and will mark the first actual tournament Kansas State’s men have played in Kansas in four years.

Tennis

Yeah, it was a bad weekend. The Cats lost 4-0 to #40 Oklahoma State on Friday, then lost a 6-1 decision to #24 Oklahoma on Sunday at Senior Day. The losses leave K-State at 7-11 (2-7), in sole possession of eighth place in the conference as the regular season comes to an end.

Thursday, the play-in match of the Big 12 championships will take place at Baylor. K-State will take on ninth-seeded Kansas, and the winner will face the top-ranked Longhorns, 22-1 (9-0), on Friday. It’s going to be a short visit no matter what.

Looking beyond this weekend, Jordan Smith landed Dutch national Florentine Dekkers for his 2021-22 class on Thursday.

Soccer

The promising Wildcat breakout soccer season ended with a loud thud on Saturday. Visiting the previously winless Oklahoma Sooners, K-State (3-9-2, 2-6-0) played to a scoreless draw for 107 minutes before Cailey England beat Wildcat keeper Peyton Pearson for a golden goal to give Oklahoma (1-12-2, 0-9-1) something to hang onto for the off-season.

Next up? Who knows? The 2021 schedule won’t be released until June.

Football

Yes, football. Actual football news. Per Ryan Wallace at GPC, K-State has landed the commitment of cornerback Colby McCallister from Friendswood, Tex. He’s not ranked by 247, and his only other known offer was from Alabama State, so this is not a five-star.