By JAMES ALLAN
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State rallied from a 4-2 eighth-inning deficit to hand the University of Iowa baseball team a 5-4 extra-innings defeat Saturday night at Tointon Family Stadium.
The win clinches a Wildcat series victory. K-State won the opener Friday, 3-0.
The Hawkeyes took a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning with a one-out rally. Junior Chris Whelan led off the inning with a walk and senior Mason McCoy followed with a single before sophomore Robert Neustrom’s RBI single gave Iowa a 3-2 lead. McCoy scored an insurance run, scoring on a Tyler Eckberg wild pitch.
“Robert had a big RBI single and things looked good; we had the bullpen set up the way we wanted it,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “Unfortunately, the guys at the back end didn’t get the job done tonight. Free bases were the thing that did us in. A majority of the runs they scored came via the walk and a lot were in situations where they can’t happen.”
The Wildcats took advantage of free bases in the eighth when reliever Elijah Wood walked and hit the first two batters in the inning. Reliever Zach Daniels then walked the bases loaded before Kansas State scored a run on a double-play ball, cutting the lead to 4-3.
In the ninth, the Wildcats had a two-out rally to tie the game. Will Brennan singled to left field to keep K-State’s hopes alive before Josh Ethier drew a two-out walk against Daniels to put the tying run in scoring position.
Cameron Thompson followed with an RBI single to centerfield, but Iowa got out of the inning when Nick Nelsen induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
After going down quietly in the top of the 10th, free bases came back to haunt Iowa in the bottom half. Kansas State’s Steve Serratore reached on a leadoff walk to start the bottom half.
Iowa went to sophomore Shane Ritter, who got two outs, but Quintin Crandall provided the dramatic, ripping an RBI triple into the right centerfield gap to send the Wildcats to the walk-off victory.
Kansas State led 1-0 through four innings before Iowa took a 2-1 lead in the fifth. Freshman Grant Judkins drew a leadoff walk before junior Tyler Cropley connected on a two-run home run to left field for his first home run as a Hawkeye.
Sophomore Cole McDonald gave Iowa a solid start, allowing one run on four hits over five innings. He had four strikeouts to two walks. Nelsen (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing one run in 2/3 an inning.
“Cole gave us a quality start, but he kind of ran out of gas,” said Heller. “Overall we have to pitch better. We thought that was going to be a strength of this ball club. They’re capable and we have a lot of confidence in them, they just have to go out and get it done.
“Hopefully this is just a hiccup and we can go back and get it fixed.”
Offensively, Iowa mustered just four hits against four K-State pitchers. Nick Jones (4-0) earned the victory, tossing two shutout innings. Parker Rigler went six innings in the start, allowing two runs on two hits.
Neustrom finished 2-for-4 with an RBI. It was his 10th multi-hit game of the season.
Iowa (9-8) returns to action Sunday at 1