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Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Baseball triumphs in Sunflower Showdown opener

The Wildcats win 3-2 after a nail-biting opener over the Jayhawks
Mallory Schroeder
All-American closer Tyson Neighbors celebrates after closing the door on the Jayhawks. K-State won the Sunflower Showdown opener Friday, May 3 at Tointon Family Stadium.

Kansas State baseball lacked offensive presence for most of Friday night’s opener, but the Wildcats made up for it with essential performances on the mound, including pitcher Tyson Neighbors sealing the deal on the mound after a nerve-racking ninth inning. 

“That was your classic Friday night Big 12 contest,” head coach Pete Hughes said. “Two really good teams, two great starting pitching performances, home runs, big hits, pressure pitches being made. That’s what it’s all about, that’s what we all signed up for, you know. Big boy baseball at its best.”

For most of the contest, the Jayhawks enjoyed the game’s momentum with two home runs in the third and fourth innings. 

K-State opened the scoring, however, plating a run of its own in the first inning. Third baseman Jaden Parsons scored courtesy of shortstop Kaelen Culpepper. K-State trailed 2-1 going into the eighth innings, failing to capitalize offensively. 

In addition to pitching, the Wildcats stepped up defensively. 

In the top of the seventh inning, Kansas doubled and had runners at the corners. Starter Owen Boerema induced a double-play to shortstop Kaelen Culpepper and second baseman Brady Day.

Escaping the jam ended Boerema’s night. The graduate southpaw threw seven innings with eight strikeouts and two runs allowed. 

“I know I have great defense behind me,” Boerema said. “KC and Brady, those guys have been solid all year. I know that I can just get it in the zone and let them put it in play, and the guys behind me will have my back.”

After a silent six innings offensively, Culpepper brought K-State fans to their feet, doubling to left center as Parsons scored to tie the game at 2-2. 

Kansas worked around Day in the ensuing at-bat, allowing right fielder Nick English to single up the middle and bring home Culpepper. K-State grabbed a 3-2 lead and the hope of bringing home a series-opening win. 

“You want your best players getting the biggest hits, and that’s what happened tonight,” Hughes said.

The top of the ninth inning was tense for all fans. Neighbors took the mound and allowed the first three Kansas batters to walk, loading the bases. Pitch by pitch, Neighbors started to find the strike zone and set down the ensuing two batters. 

“We’ve all seen how much work Tyson has put in,” Boerema said. “I think every guy in our dugout knew that he had it in him to get out of the jam. Just his work ethic, he shows up to the field every day, on top of the obvious talent.”

With three balls, two strikes and the bases loaded, Neighbors overcame the odds and struck out the last batter looking, ending the game with an electric 3-2 rivalry win. It was the seventh straight win for K-State over its rival from Lawrence. 

“There’s only one guy in our program who can pitch his way out of it, and it was the guy on the mound,” Hughes said. “So you live and die with him, gladly.” 

The nail-biting win places the Wildcats with an overall record of 27-18 and a conference record of 11-11. Fans can carry on supporting the Wildcats as they continue the Sunflower Showdown at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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