ARLINGTON, Texas — Kansas State defeated Kansas, 7-1, in an elimination game of the Big 12 Baseball Tournament at Globe Life Field on Friday. Here are three thoughts on the game.
Kaelen Culpepper, Power Cat
Sometimes one swing of the bat can set the tone for an entire game. That’s what third baseman Kaelen Culpepper did in the bottom of the second inning on Friday.
Culpepper found himself with two runners on for his first at-bat of the game. Nick Goodwin walked to lead off the inning and Brady Day followed with a single off Kansas starter Sam Ireland. After that, it was all Culpepper, who sent a 3-1 pitch into the left-field seats and giving the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
From there, Kansas State padded the lead and never let Kansas get back in the game. Culpepper ended up going 3-for-4 with five RBI and two runs scored.
German Fajardo made it all stand up. The starter threw 7 1/3 innings, giving up just one run, one walk and five hits. He also struck out nine. The warm Kansas State ovation when he left in the eighth was for a job well done.
Kansas’ Season is Done
When you get to Friday at the Big 12 Tournament, someone is going home unhappy. That ended up being Kansas, which finished off its season under first-year coach Dan Fitzgerald with a 25-32 record.
The offense came courtesy of catcher Jake English, who hit a solo home run in the top of the third to cut Kansas State’s lead to 3-1 at the time. The home run was auspicious for the Jayhawks.
Unfortunately there wasn’t much else for Kansas from an offensive standpoint. The Jayhawks had two hits through the first five innings and ended up with six.
Kansas showed improvement this season, winning five more games than a season ago. But in tournaments like this, it’s all about pitching depth. And Kansas State just had more of it on Friday.
Fitzgerald was reflective about his first season and where the Jayhawks can go from there. He feels, from fall baseball to Friday, the program made enormous strides.
Tomorrow Against TCU
Once you lose in the Big 12 Tournament, your path gets decidedly more difficult. Kansas State has won two straight games since its blowout loss to TCU, 16-3, in a stunning seven-inning run-rule game.
TCU has now run-ruled both of its Big 12 Tournament opponents (Kansas was the other), and the Horned Frogs have the benefit of being able to rest on Friday while the Wildcats have to turn around and face TCU at 9 a.m. Saturday.
That’s just baseball in May, especially in the Big 12.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard