MANHATTAN, Kan. – Eight unanswered runs, including a go-ahead three-run home run from Josh Nicoloff, helped K-State erase a four-run deficit and complete a three-game sweep of Morehead State Sunday, 9-6, at Tointon Family Stadium.
Nicoloff’s homer, on an 0-2 pitch in the bottom of the seventh, put K-State (11-7) in front in front for good at 7-5. An inning later, Dylan Phillips’ two-run bomb capped the stretch of eight consecutive runs scored, as the Wildcats overcame a 5-1 deficit.
“I always talk to our club about what good teams are capable of doing, and good teams know how to play when they have a lead and good teams know how to play when they’re behind,” said head coach Pete Hughes. “I spoke to them today about it and how do you react when you’re behind. Do you panic or just go about your business? Trust your offense, trust your approach and get back in it. And we’re able to do that.”
Nicoloff, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games, finished 2-for-2 with a double, two walks and three runs batted in. The senior transfer from Columbia hit his second go-ahead homer of the season, as he and Phillips are now tied for the team lead with four apiece.
“It just felt awesome to help us win and help us drive in some runs to take the lead,” Nicoloff said. “We know how good we are. I don’t think there’s ever really a worry in our dugout. They’re a very good team but we know we are very good team, as well. We all just try to stay positive, no matter the score and I think our mindset was really good throughout the game.”
Raphael Pelletier’s first career homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, inched the Cats within a run at 5-4. Phillips’ 461-foot moonshot over the batter’s eye in center field created a four-run cushion after eight frames.
“Dylan Phillips for me got the game ball and as you saw with the way the game ended, I was worried that a two-run lead wouldn’t stand with the wind blowing out,” Hughes added. “For Phillips to get that two-run homer and make it a four-run game, that was everything to me right there.”
Phillips climbed closer to K-State’s all-time career home run record, as he now sits two away from equaling the program mark with his 35 career homers. In addition to his homer, Phillips doubled and drove in three in a 3-for-4 afternoon.
Morehead State (7-12) built its 5-1 lead behind back-to-back home runs in the second inning from Chase Vinson and Colton Becker. Jackson Feltner’s two-out, two-run double in the fourth handed the Eagles their four-run advantage.
K-State began to chip away at the deficit in the next half inning. Dominic Johnson drove a double to deep center field with two outs, scoring Brendan Jones, to creep within three runs. It was Johnson’s second double of the ballgame and sixth double of the series. Johnson’s team-leading hitting streak now sits at 13 games.
In relief, Ty Ruhl and Griffin Hassall held MSU scoreless over the next four innings. Hassall would pick up the victory, as he did not allow an earned run over the day’s final three innings. Both Hassall and Ruhl struck out four.
“We had some key guys,” Hughes added. “I thought Ty Ruhl did a good job, he came in, settled some things down through enough strikes and Griffin (Hassall) has been so dependable. So that helped us get back in and offensively.”
Ruhl and Hassall combined to toss six innings of relief of starter Christian Ruebeck. Ruebeck was taken out in the fourth inning after yielding four runs (three earned) on four hits. He struck out five over the first two innings, as the trio of pitchers teamed up for 13 strikeouts.
Hassall has earned the win in each of his last three appearances (two starts) and improves his record to 3-2.
Feltner paced the Eagles’ offense with three hits (3-for-5) with two RBI. Becker added a pair of hits as did Alex Jacobs (2-for-4).
Starter John Bakke last three innings, walking two, striking out three and allowing one run on three hits.
Reliever Jarrett Miller, who entered the game with a 0.69 ERA over 12 relief appearances (13 innings), took the loss after surrendering Nicoloff’s go-ahead blast.
K-State’s eight-game winning streak is its longest since 2014 (12). The seven straight home wins to begin the season is its longest such stretch since starting 11-0 at home in 2014.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Vinson and Becker led off the second inning with back-to-back home runs to extend Morehead State’s lead to 3-0. A two-run, two-out double off the bat of Feltner created a 5-1 edge for the Eagles after the top of the fourth.
K-State chipped away at the lead when Johnson drove a double to deep center that brought home Jones. Pelletier’s two-run blast in the sixth inched the Cats within a run, 5-4.
An inning later, and on an 0-2 pitch, Nicoloff belted a go-ahead three-run home run to give K-State its first lead at 7-5. Phillips’ 461-foot bomb tacked on two more and capped a stretch of eight unanswered runs for K-State.
In the top of the seventh with Morehead State leading 5-4, a double from Feltner put runners on second and third with nobody out. Hassall proceeded to retire the next three MSU hitters he faced, including two strikeouts, to escape unscathed.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
- K-State scored nine runs on 11 hits, committed two errors and left eight on base.
- Morehead State scored six runs on 10 hits with two errors and stranded nine baserunners.
- The Wildcats scored eight unanswered runs from the fourth to the eighth innings.
- K-State recorded double-digit hits for the seventh straight game and 12th time in its last 13 games.
- Phillips had a team-best three hits, going 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI.
- Dominic Johnson doubled twice and finished the series with six doubles (9-for-13).
- Nicoloff hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh.
- Nicoloff and Phillips each have a team-high four homers on the year.
- Pelletier connected on the first homer of his career, a two-run shot in the sixth.
- In the series, the Cats hit seven home runs with 19 doubles.
- The Cats’ leadoff hitter reached base safely in six of eight innings.
- Hassall was credited with the victory after logging the final three innings without an earned run allowed.
- Hassall struck out four, as he Ruhl and Ruebeck combined for 13 strikeouts.
- Vinson and Becker led off the second inning with back-to-back home runs for Morehead State.
- Feltner went 3-for-5 with two RBI.
- Miller took the loss for MSU after allowing three earned on two hits over 1 2/3 innings.
- K-State leads the all-time series 5-1 and has won the last four matchups.
- K-State is 5-0 at home in the series.
- Phillips now owns 35 career home runs and is two away from tying K-State’s career record.
- Dominic Johnson pushed his hitting streak to 13 games, with multiple hits in each of his last nine contests.
- Nicoloff now has a 12-game hitting streak and Cole Johnson owns an 11-game on-base streak.
- K-State’s eight-game winning streak is its longest since 2014 (12).
- The eight-game streak is tied for the third-longest since 2005 and tied for fifth-longest since 1982.
- The Cats have won their first seven home games for the first time since 2014 (started 11-0 at home).
K-State continues its homestand against Air Force, as the teams will play a two-game midweek series Tuesday and Wednesday. Both contests will be carried on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and the ESPN app. Radio coverage can be heard on News Radio KMAN (93.3 FM, 1350 AM) with free, live audio is also available at K-StateSports.com/Watch.