Feb. 20—Kevin Abel was good.
Jordan Wicks was better.
In a pitcher’s duel Friday at the Sanderson Ford College Classic in Surprise, Ariz., Wicks helped Kansas State start the 2021 season on the right foot with a 3-2 win.
Wicks struck out 10 Oregon State batters, tying his single-game high. He also allowed just three hits in seven scoreless innings of work for the Wildcats (1-0). He sat down 18 of the last 20 hitters he faced Friday after he escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the second inning.
“He was awesome,” K-State head coach Pete Hughes said in a release. “When he gets into that rhythm, he’s really tough to beat.
“Great players figure it out in those big moments in the game. That’s bases loaded, no out. If you damage control that inning, you give up one run. And he comes out punch out, punch out and gets three outs in a row. That’s why he’s a great player and a great competitor. He completely turned the momentum around in that situation.”
Abel, the Beavers’ star hurler, held K-State hitless through the first four innings.
In the fifth frame, the Wildcats broke through. Freshman Nick Goodwin notched a two-run double for the first runs of the game — and the season — for K-State, which took a 2-0 lead. Goodwin’s first hit as a collegian scored Kamron Willman and Caleb Littlejim and the Cats led 2-0.
“I didn’t think any moment would be too big for him,” said Hughes, referring to Goodwin, who hails from Overland Park. “He had two strikes and that was a big, big hit. It was the first hit and got us to relax a little bit, and it helped Wicks settle in with a two-run lead.”
His run-scoring hit wasn’t his only contribution to Friday’s win, though. Goodwin reached base four times in his college debut thanks to three walks.
K-State plated another run in the sixth inning, as Littlejim roped a double down the left field line. Littlejim went 2-for-3 Friday.
Oregon State (0-1) finally got on the board in the eight, as Ryan Ober launched a two-run homer. Ober’s homer snapped a streak of 22 2/3 scoreless innings from the K-State bullpen dating back to last season.
Tyler Eckberg shut the door in the ninth inning, though, striking out a pair of batters to earn the save.
Abel, who won multiple national freshman of the year awards in 2018, didn’t play loss season. He took the loss despite only allowing one hit and recording seven strikeouts in 4 2/4 innings.
With Friday’s victory, K-State ended a five-game losing streak to Oregon State, which appeared in back-to-back College World Series events (2017 and 2018) and won the championship in 2018.
“Any time that you can beat a program like that, it gives you a lot of confidence in your dugout,” Hughes said.
“Hopefully we can build on that and play well this weekend. I like the way we played today.”