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Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

JJ Slack and fundamental baseball deliver K-State eighth-inning comeback win

Slack’s third appearance leads to four scoreless innings to push the comeback win
Mallory Schroeder
Pitcher JJ Slack draws his arm back for the pitch. Slack helped the Wildcats beat the Shockers in Manhattan 6-3 by pitching four scoreless innings.

Editor’s note: Fixed Brady Day’s, “Hitting the ball didn’t get paid off today” quote to, “Hitting the ball hard didn’t get paid off today.” We missed the word “hard” when we originally published the article.

Kansas State baseball is often a team of high-flying plays and big-time hits into the outfield. Wednesday night was a different story.

The Wildcats managed a 6-3 win over Wichita State, defeating the Shockers in both games this season. A series of bunts, bloop hits and an unexpected showing from a pitcher with just two season appearances sealed the deal.

“I can’t say enough about JJ Slack coming in and just neutralizing a really hot offense,” head coach Pete Hughes said. “You keep preaching to these kids, if you work hard and you stay in the team frame of mind, when you get your number called you’ll be ready. He hasn’t had the opportunities he’s wanted this year … [but] warranted an opportunity for him tonight. It couldn’t have gone any better for him.”

Slack, a graduate student transfer from Southwestern, pitched only 1 2/3 innings before shocking the Shockers. In his four innings, entering in the fourth down 3-0, Slack struck out four while keeping Wichita State off the board, including escaping a jam with zero runs allowed in the fourth inning with runners on first and third base.

Hughes said Slack was working on a new arm slot — the angle of the pitcher’s arm — with pitching coach Rudy Darrow, and it was good enough to earn time on the mound.

“It means a lot, especially all the process and everything that’s been going on through the season,” Slack said about his performance. “Steadily working with coach Darrow throughout the season, being a great teammate as much as I can and then trying to do my job when my numbers called.”

As a potential new arm added to the bullpen, the former Southwestern pitcher hopes this game is just the start.

“Build on it, build on it,” Slack said about his mentality. “There’s a new ceiling every outing, there’s a new ceiling every game. So just keep trying to reset [the] ceiling, set a new ceiling and just keep getting better every day.”

After Slack’s four efficient and dominant innings, the Wildcats found themselves down 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth. Through much of the night, K-State’s bats found little strong contact, constantly blooping hits over the infield.

“Sometimes you gotta take that 60 degree wedge out of your bag and use it a couple times and plop it over the infield,” Hughes said. “Good things happen when you put the ball in play.”

The Wildcats continued putting the ball in play in the eighth, starting with a bunt from second baseman Brady Day, his third hit of the day.

“Hitting the ball hard didn’t get paid off today,” Day said. “Get jammed and I get a single, stuff like that. Any way I can get on base and help the team.”

The Wildcats grabbed four eighth-inning runs through singles, a sacrifice fly and two bunts: Day’s and a risky two-strike bunt from third baseman Jaden Parsons.

“You just gotta trust the kid doing it, and I do,” Hughes said.

After the scoring burst, pitcher Jackson Wentworth completed the close as reliever Jacob Frost earned the win, moving his record to 3-1.

The Wildcats take the win and move on to a three-game road series against Oklahoma, starting 6:30 p.m. Friday.

“We’re close,” Hughes said about the 21-10 team record. “We took a step in the right direction today.”

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About the Contributor
Luke Lazarczyk
Luke Lazarczyk, sports writer
Sports editor for 2023-24. Previously sports editor for 2022-23 and writer for 2021-22.
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