MANHATTAN — In baseball, momentum is unpredictable. It can change at any moment and for any reason.
That's what 1,429 fans were reminded of Sunday at Tointon Family Stadium during Kansas State's 8-5 victory against rival Kansas.
After two innings, the Jayhawks were up 3-0 and in complete control. From then on, the Wildcats dominated the game.
Kansas players were at a loss to describe the turn of events, but that's because they didn't have access to the K-State dugout. It was there, sometime in the third inning, that the game's momentum shifted permanently in favor of the Wildcats.
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The cause? A good-old fashioned rant.
"It actually took coach screaming at us to get us going," said K-State third baseman Adam Muenster, who went 3 for 5 with two RBI.
"Everyone was running for cover," said K-State coach Brad Hill, who credited much of the loud lecture to assistant Andy Sawyers. "We were playing tentative and nervous. As a coach, you don't know what to do. We've tried encouragement. That didn't necessarily get their attention."
The yells did.
Having not won a conference series since the middle of April, K-State looked at Sunday's rubber game with Kansas (30-21-1 overall, 11-12-1 Big 12) as a pivotal contest, and consequently played poorly under the pressure. But that all changed after the third inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, Matt Giller singled to spark a three-run rally with two outs. Behind him Chase Graskewicz, Jake Brown and Muenster each singled as well, and KU starter Tanner Poppe helped matters by tossing an ill-advised throw to first base into the stands.
With the score tied, K-State (34-16, 13-10) went on to score three more runs in the sixth and two more in the eighth to take an 8-4 lead. Muenster and centerfielder Nick Martini did much of the damage. Martini drove in three, and both recorded doubles.
When asked if the duo was inspired by their coaches' words, Muenster laughed.
"It seemed to take the pressure off everyone for a little bit," he said. "Big hits started to come after that."
Reliever Evan Marshall came through on the mound. The sophomore entered in the fifth inning and earned the win by pitching 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball.
"Evan, right now, has been our go-to guy," Hill said. "He's been outstanding... no fear. His mentality on the mound is second to none."
KU coach Ritch Price complimented him as well, but said the Jayhawks should have taken a larger lead early on, when they cranked out seven hits in three innings. Up next is a trip to Arkansas-Little Rock on Tuesday, followed by an important three-game series against Oklahoma starting Friday in Lawrence.
"We win this series next week at home we'll be (.500 in Big 12 play)," Price said. "That should get us in the NCAA Tournament."
After winning their series against the Jayhawks two games to one, the Wildcats are off until Friday when they begin a weekend series at Texas A&M.