K-State stymies KU lineup, eliminates Jayhawks with 7-1 win
Kansas State pitcher German Fajardo had already limited Kansas to one of its worst offensive showings of the year in the regular season, and he did one better Friday night, holding KU to the same number of runs — just one — on a mere five hits and one walk in 7 1/3 innings of a high-stakes Big 12 Championship elimination game at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats’ offense held up its end of the bargain. Sophomore third baseman Kaelen Culpepper smacked a line drive just over the fence in left field for a three-run home run, opening the scoring in the second inning as part of what became a 3-for-4, five-RBI showing. He led the way for Kansas State as it ended Kansas’ season with a 7-1 win in a special Big 12 Conference postseason edition of the Sunflower Showdown.
The Jayhawks entered the league tournament as the lowest seed, but prolonged their campaign with Wednesday’s dramatic upset win over top-seeded Texas, a highlight for their first campaign under head coach Dan Fitzgerald. They finished the year at 25-32 overall following Friday’s defeat.
Catcher Jake English homered for the second day in a row, briefly cutting KU’s deficit to 3-1 on the first pitch of the third inning. The run helped the Jayhawks tie their all-time single-season team home run record with 75, but the moment took on a tinge of irony as they were unable to muster any such power for the remainder of the game. Kansas failed to record another extra-base hit against either Fajardo or Blake Corsentino.
English and shortstop Collier Cranford recorded two hits each for the Jayhawks, who, trailing 5-1, put two runners on in the seventh inning when a suddenly vulnerable Fajardo hit Cranford with a pitch after Michael Brooks had already singled.
But Luke Leto grounded out to end the threat, and Kansas State extended its lead in the bottom half on a two-RBI single by Culpepper off Gavin Brasosky.
Leto’s groundout was one of several ill-timed inning-ending at-bats for KU. Big 12 Co-Freshman of the Year Kodey Shojinaga, one of the conference’s most prolific hitters, hit into a pair of uncharacteristic double plays. He also couldn’t corral a one-out pop-up in the fourth inning, an error that preceded a sacrifice fly by K-State’s Roberto Pena.
Soon after, English misfired on a throw to first base, and Cole Johnson scored as well.
Kolby Dougan was a bright spot for the Jayhawks, as he tossed three scoreless frames in the middle innings to keep them in the game. Starter Sam Ireland, who allowed Culpepper’s home run, took the loss.
Fajardo, who got the win, gave way to Corsentino with two more runners on in the eighth, but Corsentino got a strikeout and a lineout to end the threat.