Bazzell prepares to bat

Redshirt freshman infielder Kevin Bazzell practices his swing when up next to bat against Iowa at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park March 10, 2023.

No. 14 Texas Tech led for six-and-a-half innings during its Friday night series opener against Kansas State, but first baseman Roberto Pena erased that trend with a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning and propelled the Wildcats to a 3-2 win at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas.

Pena scored all three K-State runs in the victory, which improved the Wildcats to 10-6 in Big 12 play. Batting at the bottom of the lineup, Pena put the Wildcats on the board with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly off Tech starter Mason Molina, and played hero two innings later with the go-ahead blast off reliever Ryan Free, his 12th home run of the year.

Tech had its chance to shake things up, putting three runners on base over the final two innings, but the Red Raiders couldn't get much going against the K-State bullpen of right-handers Ty Ruhl and Tyson Neighbors. Ruhl tossed two shutout innings in relief of starter Owen Boerema and was credited with the win, while Neighbors picked up his eighth save of the year with a scoreless ninth inning against the top of the Tech lineup.

Pena's late dinger and Tech's lack of offensive production during the final innings arguably wasted a second consecutive solid start for Molina. Molina saw his ERA dip to 3.70 after tossing six innings of one-run ball against the Wildcats, striking out six and walking one in the process.

His lone blemish came on Pena's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth, which cut Tech's lead to 2-1. Tech had jumped ahead in the top half of the inning behind back-to-back RBI singles from redshirt freshman third baseman Kevin Bazzell and sophomore first baseman Gavin Kash off Boerema.

It was an otherwise lackluster night offensively for both teams, who combined to bat 2-14 (14 percent) with runners in scoring position, leaving a combined 17 runners on base in the process. Infielders Kaelen Culpepper and Nick Goodwin led K-State with two hits apiece, while redshirt freshman third baseman Kevin Bazzell recorded his fifth career three-hit game to lead Tech.

The Red Raiders will look to even the series Saturday with right-hander Trendan Parish on the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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