FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. —The final game of Kansas State's baseball season followed a familiar pattern: The Wildcats built a five-run lead against Washington State on Sunday at the Fayetteville Regional, but couldn't maintain it and lost 9-6.
The same thing happened Friday in the opening game of the regional, when Washington State rallied from three runs down to beat the Wildcats. On Saturday, K-State built an eight-run lead on Grambling State then barely held on for a 9-8 win.
Washington State played Arkansas on Sunday night in the regional finals. If the Cougars won, a second championship game will be played today.
On Sunday, Washington State's six-run sixth inning was K-State's undoing. Derek Jones' three-run home run off K-State reliever Thomas Rooke capped the Cougars' inning. Jones also had a two-run double in the third.
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"I think a lot of it the teams didn't quit," Kansas State coach Brad Hill said. "At this level the teams are here for a reason. The teams that fight and play to the end are the ones you are going to be playing at this time of year."
K-State center fielder Nick Martini was 3 for 4 with a three-run home run, and shortstop Carter Jurica went 2 for 5 and homered in the first inning.
Martini's homer was the key blow in a four-run third that chased WSU starter James Wise.
It was the last time K-State scored.
They were not, Martini said, resting on their laurels. "We got off to a good start," Martini said, " but I think we knew when we were up 6-1 that Washington State was never going to quit. They didn't quit yesterday against Arkansas and they didn't quit the first time we played them."
"I thought we competed," Hill said. "We just couldn't get the momentum back to our side."
Hill credited WSU lefty reliever Richie Ochoa, who pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Hill said Ochoa presented a "different look" and that the Cougars playing well defensively.
"We just couldn't get the big hit," Hill said of K-State stranding 10 runners. The Wildcats brought the tying run to the plate versus reliever Seth Harvey in the ninth, and left the bases loaded in the eighth.
K-State starter Justin Lindsey allowed Matt Fanelli's solo second-inning home run, but took a 6-1 lead to the fifth inning. Jones' two-run double made it 6-3 heading into the sixth. Lindsey caused his own problems in the sixth, with a walk and two hit batsmen to start the inning. By the time the inning ended, K-State had surrendered another lead.
Wildcat reliever Evan Marshall threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, but his teammates couldn't provide anymore runs.
Kansas State finished its season 36-21, and reached NCAA postseason play for the second consecutive season.