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UVA Baseball Notebook: Kansas State down, but far from out in Super Regional 

Scott German
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Photo: UVA Athletics

While Virginia ended Kansas State’s unblemished run through the 2024 NCAA Tournament with a 7-4 win in sold-out Disharoon Park Friday, the Wildcats have plenty of fight remaining.

K State, unable to hold an early 3-0 advantage, was able to preserve some capable throwing arms for what they hope will be the next two games.

Virginia, leading 1-0 in the best-of-three Charlottesville Super Regional, will hope to punch a return to the College World Series with a win in this afternoon’s 3 p.m. matinee.

Friday’s defeat was indeed a disappointment for the Wildcats, who had hopes of continuing their strong tournament run by winning the all-important Game 1.

In jumping out to a 3-0 lead after four innings Friday, K State was looking strong behind the solid pitching of Owen Boerema.

Boerema, the ace of the Wildcat pitching staff, crossed up Virginia early by going to plenty of off-speed pitches.

The Cavaliers broke through against Boerema in the middle innings, and the Wildcat offense went into hibernation.

“It was a great ballgame,” K State coach Pete Hughes said. “That’s why you play nine innings. Virginia hung out and capitalized on a couple of opportunities.”

Kansas State capitalized on its early opportunity, as leadoff hitter Brendan Jones opened the game with a sun-aided triple.

The Wildcats were red-hot last weekend in the Fayetteville Regional, but the bats were silent against three Virginia pitchers.

Hughes, who knows plenty about Virginia baseball, having been the head coach at Virginia Tech from 2007-2013, said you simply can’t give UVA extra chances.

“From a coaching perspective,” Hughes said, “you hate giving up runs for not being fundamentally sound. In a few instances, we were taking nothing away from Virginia’s offense, but when you hit a three-run homer with two outs, that’s usually a deciding factor in a close game.”

Hughes was referring to Henry Godbout’s three-run homer in the seventh inning off K State reliever Cole Wisenbaker.

The rumblings on press row were, why did Hughes have the lefty Wisenbaker even face the hot-hitting Godbout, a right-handed hitter?

Silver lining for K-State? 

If there was a positive for the Wildcats in their opening game loss, it was that the Wildcat pitching staff was preserved.

After Boerema, who threw 92 pitches, Hughes went to Wisenbaker (15 pitches), Blake Dean (22 pitches) and little-used James Guyette (five pitches).

Kansas State closer Tyson Neighbors was not used, as well as long-reliever Ty Ruhl.

Hughes can move on to Game 2 today with his pitching staff  somewhat intact.

Don’t expect the Wildcats to roll over easily

Kansas State (35-25) played a grueling regular-season schedule, and steamrolled its way to the Fayetteville Regional title last weekend, beating Louisiana Tech, #5 national seed Arkansas and Southeast Missouri State along the way.

“Our guys are resilient,” Hughes said. “They’ll respond. That’s what it’s all about.”

Kansas State must win the next two if they want to make its first-ever College World Series appearance.

A challenging task.

But possible.

Scott German

Scott German

Scott German covers UVA Athletics for AFP, and is the co-host of “Street Knowledge” podcasts focusing on UVA Athletics with AFP editor Chris Graham. Scott has been around the ‘Hoos his whole life. As a reporter, he was on site for UVA basketball’s Final Fours, in 1981 and 1984, and has covered UVA football in bowl games dating back to its first, the 1984 Peach Bowl.