The ball came off Kevin Brown’s bat and screamed across the night sky, destined to land in the gap in deep right-center field at Tointon Family Stadium.
A shot, for sure, from Bryant’s best hitter that was going to score two runs with two outs and break a 1-1 tie against Kansas State in the fifth inning of Saturday’s Manhattan Regional.
Then, from the left, a blur of purple. And a dive. And a catch by K-State center fielder Jared King that sparked the Wildcats’ 7-1 win, putting them in the driver’s seat in the regional.
“That’s one of the best plays I’ve ever seen, and not because it was such an athletic play but because of the situation in the game,” K-State second baseman Ross Kivett said. “That was the turning point. You see a guy of his caliber laying out for his team like that, it means something.”
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King wasn’t done there — his double in the sixth inning scored Kivett and Shane Conlon for a 3-1 lead.
“The catch was a big momentum swing, then we were able to tack on a couple of runs,” King said. “A couple of pitches before that, actually, (K-State coach Brad Hill) had me in the left-center gap and he saw something in Brown’s first couple of swings and he motioned for me to move over. That’s why I was in a spot to even be able to make the play.”
The Wildcats added two more runs in the sixth on Bryant mistakes as King scored from third on a passed ball and Austin Fisher scored on a fielding error for a 5-1 lead.
“We got a really good start from our pitcher and we were right in the game,” Bryant coach Steve Owens said. “We got an inning going and their center fielder made just a tremendous play. They came back and took advantage of a couple of defensive miscues.”
The Wildcats are one victory away from advancing to an NCAA super regional for the first time. Bryant will play Arkansas at 2 p.m. Sunday in an elimination game, with the winner advancing to play K-State at 7.
If the Wildcats were to lose that game, they would play again on Monday.
K-State went ahead 1-0 in the first inning when Kivett led off with a single and scored on a single by Tanner Witt. Bryant came back with a run in the first on a line drive by John Mullen that smacked pitcher Joe Flattery in the shin and allowed Jordan Mountford to score.
“I probably won’t feel that until tomorrow,” Flattery said.
K-State ended the first inning when left fielder Witt threw out AJ Zarozny at the plate. Catcher Blair DeBord caught the ball and applied a tag to the head and chest that knocked a sliding Zarozny unconscious.
A pitch by Bryant’s John Healy went toward DeBord’s head in the ninth inning, prompting an exchange between DeBord and Healy and warnings from the umpires to both dugouts.
Zarozny, who couldn’t remember where he was or how he got there after the play, according to Owens, was taken to a local hospital with a concussion.
“I’ve never seen a play where a guy got knocked out, cold,” Owens said. “I’ve never seen a play where a guy got knocked out while getting tagged.”
Hill defended DeBord.
“That was a baseball play, he wasn’t trying to hurt anybody,” Hill said. “The throw took him to the other side of the plate and he didn’t know where he was going to hit (Zarozny) when he turned back around.”
Flattery picked up the win for K-State, going five innings with three strikeouts and one earned run. Craig Schlitter, who went 5 1/3 innings with six strikeouts, was the losing pitcher.
“The fact that the other pitcher was throwing really well helps you kind of get in a rhythm,” Flattery said. “You don’t really realize that you’re mentally exhausted because you’re just going back and forth.”
Big 12 freshman of the year Jake Matthys picked up the save. The win improved the Wildcats to 43-17, tying a school record for wins.
|Kivett 2b||5||2||2||1||Mountford rf||5||1||1||0|
|Witt lf||4||0||1||1||Zarozny lf||1||0||1||0|
|Conlon 1b||4||1||2||0||Claire 2b||2||0||1||0|
|King cf||4||1||1||2||Brown 3b||4||0||0||0|
|Fisher ss||3||1||1||0||Mullen dh||4||0||0||1|
|Davis rf||4||0||0||0||Anderson cf||4||0||1||0|
|Meyer dh||3||0||0||0||St. George 2b/lf||4||0||1||0|
|Miles ph||1||0||1||0||Muscatello ss||4||0||1||0|
|Dalrymple pr||0||1||0||0||Rinn 1b||3||0||0||0|
|DeBord c||3||1||0||0||Scott c||2||0||2||0|
|Kansas State||100||004||002||—||7 8 0|
|Bryant||100||000||000||—||1 8 2|
E— Brown (8), Rinn (4). LOB— Kansas State 4, Bryant 9. 2B— King (15), Fisher (2). HBP — Fisher by Healy; Zanotta by Matthys. SH — Witt (3), Santigate (4). SB — Conlon (17). CS — Meyer (3), Rinn (4).
|Flattery W, 5-4||5||7||1||1||1||3|
|Matthys S (8)||2 1/3||0||0||0||0||2|
|Schlitter L, 10-4||5 1/3||4||3||2||0||6|
WP — Williams (6), Healy (6), Hayward (4). HB — Healy, Matthys. BK — Schlitter (3), Healy (1). PB — Scott (6).
Umpires — home, Paul Gullie; first, Dan Mascorro; second, Steve Mattingly; third, Craig. T — 2:48. A — 2563.