MANHATTAN, Kan. – Behind a bullpen that tossed four scoreless innings and Cameron Thompson’s two hits, K-State registered a 3-1 victory over UT Rio Grande Valley in the series opener Friday at Tointon Family Stadium.
Mitch Zubradt tallied his fourth save as he was one of three K-State (9-8) relievers to hold UTRGV (12-6) scoreless on two hits over the game’s final four innings. The Wildcats manufactured runs in the second and fourth innings to go with an insurance run in the eighth – an RBI single by Thomas Hughes – for the Cats’ third straight victory.
Wildcat starter Griffin Hassall logged a career-best 4 2/3 innings to go with seven strikeouts in his first career start. In a no decision, the freshman right-hander scattered four hits and allowed one earned run.
“He’s got the ability to throw three pitches for a strike in any count,” said head coach Pete Hughes of Hassall. “When you can do that, it makes your fastball that much more effective. The best part was him competing like crazy and no stage is too big for him. On a Friday night as a freshman, some kids might’ve been overwhelmed but we expected that out of him.”
After Hassall made way for his bullpen, Andrew Stratman, Caleb Littlejim and Zubradt limited the Vaqueros to two hits while striking out six and walking one. Littlejim struck out four over two innings and Stratman did not allow a hit over an inning and a third in earning his second win of the season.
“They’ve been awesome the whole week,” Hughes said of the bullpen. “Starting from the San Francisco series really. Guys have adapted to their roles and we’ve expanded their roles. Then you’ve got a kid like Stratman, who kept the right frame of mind and team mentality, and when we called his number, he was more than effective, and you keep going back to him.”
K-State relievers have not allowed a run over its last 19 2/3 innings pitched, allowing just five hits in that span. In seven outings, Zubradt is 4-for-4 in save opportunities and has yielded two hits over nine innings without a run against him as a closer this season.
“I think he’s embraced this role,” added Hughes of Zubradt. “I think our guys get a lot of confidence when they see him trotting in from the bullpen.”
UTRGV stranded 10 runners and went 1-for-16 (.063) with runners on base while going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
K-State took a one-run lead in the second inning after Thompson led off the inning with a single. After a single from Zach Kokoska, the Cats had runners on the corners with one out. Chris Ceballos’ sacrifice fly drive in Thompson, giving Ceballos his team-leading 14th RBI.
Thompson, after leading off the fourth inning with a double, would score again on a sacrifice fly, this time off the bat of Kokoska. Kokoska’ fourth run batted in in the last three games put the Cats ahead 2-0 after four innings.
Thompson had K-State’s only multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
UTRGV cut the lead in half with a two-out RBI double from Anthony Gomez. Gomez’s double brought in Andy Atwood who had singled and stole second base.
UTRGV starting pitcher Trevelle Hill threw all eight innings for the Vaqueros in taking his first loss of the season (4-1). Hill fanned eight and gave up three earned runs on six hits.
Atwood, the Vaqueros’ leadoff hitter, went 3-for-5 with a run scored.
K-State and UTRGV continue the three-game series Saturday at 4 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium and will stream live on ESPN3 and the ESPN app. Coverage is also available on News Radio 1350 KMAN (93.3 FM, 1350 AM) with streaming audio at K-StateSports.com/watch.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
- K-State scored three runs on six hits with one error and left four runners on base.
- UTRGV scored one run on six hits without an error and left 10 runners on base.
- Thompson had the only multi-hit game for the Cats, going 2-for-4 with a double.
- Ceballos upped his team-leading RBI total to 14.
- K-State pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts against three walks.
- Three Wildcat relievers combined to hold UTRGV scoreless on two hits over 4 1/3 innings.
- In his first career start, Hassall struck out seven over 4 2/3 innings.
- UTRGV went 1-for-16 (.063) with runners on base and 1-for-10 (.100) with runners in scoring position.
- Zubradt picked up his team-high fourth save and has recorded the final out in seven of K-State’s nine wins.
- K-State leads the all-time series with UTRGV, 3-1
- K-State’s season-long winning streak is now at three games to get above .500 for the first time this season.
- The K-State bullpen has not allowed a run and given up only five hits over its last 19 1/3 innings, going back to the series finale vs. Old Dominion on March 10.
- The Wildcats have held a lead in 14 of 17 games this season.
Source: Kansas State Sports