MANHATTAN — Kansas State needed a little help to win the school's first NCAA regional championship.
The Wildcats took advantage of two wild pitches from Arkansas' Jalen Beeks to score two runs and claim a 4-3 victory over the Razorbacks in the title game of the Manhattan regional on Sunday night.
The Wildcats, who won their school-record 44th game and enter the NCAA round of 16 with a 44-17 record, travel to Corvallis, Ore., to take on Oregon State in a best 2-of-3 Super Regional on either Friday or Saturday at Goss Field for the right to advance to the College World Series.
Complete details, including television information, will be announced today.
Ross Kivett and Tanner Witt drew back-to-back walks for Kansas State to start the seventh inning, advancing to second and third on a sacrifice bunt.
The Wildcats overtook Arkansas in the seventh, capitalizing on a pair of wild pitches by Hogs reliever Jared Beeks with Jared King at the plate to seize a 4-3 lead.
Beeks was trying to intentionally walk King when his second pitch was down and away from catcher Jean Ramirez and rolled to the backstop, allowing Ross Kivett to score from the third, tying the game at 3.
Two pitches later, another low and away pitch from Beeks got away from Ramirez, as the Wildcats' Tanner Witt easily scored the eventual winning run.
"Sometimes you've got to be lucky," Wildcats head coach Brad Hill said. "We were a little lucky. It is what it is, we were fortunate it worked out in our favor. We'll take it any way we can get it."
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said a wild pitch on an intentional walk, leading to a run, was something he'd only heard of.
"I haven't had one — well now I had — I've heard about them," he said. "It happens, it caught us all off-guard. (Beeks) just lost control of the baseball. He didn't lose the game for us, it just happened."
Kansas State has become accustomed to winning big games in unconventional ways. The Wildcats clinched the Big 12 Conference regular-season title by scoring on a passed ball.
After creating a mindset of never being out of game when trailing late, Hill said he should've known his team had something left.
"You get down 3-0 in the first, you're very concerned if you can get back into it," he said. "I should've learned by now, don't count these guys out, ever. They've done a tremendous job all year of just playing the game, and seeing what happens."
Gerardo Esquivel (2-2) pitched 4 1-3 innings of relief to earn the win, allowing just one hit. Michael Gunn (1-1), who walked Kivett and Witt before Beeks entered the game, was charged with the loss.
Arkansas, 39-22, notched three straight hits off Blake McFadden to start the game, taking a 2-0 lead. Arkansas' Matt Vinson singled to score the third run of the inning — his first hit of the regional tournament.
The Razorbacks loaded the bases in the second inning, forcing K-State to go to its bullpen early. Esquivel got the Wildcats out of the frame with no damage.
Arkansas never put together a serious threat after that.
Esquivel, Nate Williams and Jake Matthys combined to pitch 7 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
K-State had two hits in the first, but couldn't manage a run. Then in the third, the first two Wildcats walked, but K-State was again held at bay.
The Wildcats didn't score until the fourth inning, when Blair DeBord drove a single down the left-field line to score Austin Fisher. Mitch Meyer hit a long fly ball to right with the bases loaded that could have tied the game, but Razorbacks right fielder Tyler Spoon made a diving catch to keep the play to one run, and K-State trailed 3-2.
K-State failed to convert on chances to score in the fifth inning, putting runners at the corners before grounding into an inning-ending double play.
The Wildcats were led offensively by Shane Conlon, who went 2-for-4. Arkansas’ Joe Serrano was the only other player in the game with multiple hits, going 2-for-5.
Esquivel was joined on the all-regional team by Blair DeBord (catcher), Conlon (first base), Kivett (second base), Witt (outfield) and King (outfield).
Kivett, who went 6-for-12 with two homers and five RBI, was named the regional most valuable player.
— Mack McClure