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Baseball Cats Hold Off Rally, Advance to Regional Final


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. ( – In front of a crowd of over 11,000 fans, K-State fended off the fifth-ranked and top-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday night, as the Wildcats won 7-6 in the winner’s bracket to advance to the 2024 NCAA Fayetteville Regional final at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Trailing 2-0, the Wildcats (34-24) evened the score before taking a one-run lead with a sacrifice bunt from Jaden Parsons until Kaelen Culpepper delivered a three-run homer to dead center to cap a six-run fifth inning off of All-American and Team USA pitcher Hagen Smith, who is second in the nation in total strikeouts (161). True freshman Nick English scored the game-deciding run in the eighth with his third blast of the season.

“What an unbelievable environment just to be a part of it, I know it’s difficult for the opponent to come in here and play, that’s for sure,” head coach Pete Hughes said following the Cats’ first Top 5 win since 2021. “I can’t imagine there’s a better atmosphere in college baseball and it’s been like that for a long time around here.”

“Throw in the fact that one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball today was pitching against us, in a rabid atmosphere, rabid environment. You just kind of pick your spots, if you even get one versus [Smith] then hopefully you execute. We had some of things go our way, but we took advantage of the big inning and the only opportunity we had to score against him. Fortunate to have kids execute and slow down the moment on the big stage,” Hughes added.

Smith, the Arkansas single-season strikeouts leader, received just his second loss of the season after surrendering a season-high six runs (six earned) on four hits (9-2). The left-hander punched out seven batters in the nightcap before he was relieved in the sixth. Prior to Saturday’s contest, Smith had only allowed 13 earned runs over 79 innings.

Jackson Wentworth earned his fifth win of the season, after holding the Razorbacks to two earned runs on seven hits in his 5 2/3 innings of work (5-5). With three strikeouts in the victory, the right-hander now totals 110 strikeouts on the year, which is eight shy of matching current Major Leaguer’s Jordan Wicks’ single-season record.

“We asked some of our athletes to get out of their comfort zone a little bit like asking [Tyson Neighbors] to get 10 outs for us. It’s that time of year when people go above and beyond, and you get to see what kind of competitors you have and know that you have in your dugout.”

Neighbors was credited with his ninth save of the season – 20th of his career – after logging 3 1/3 innings in relief of Wentworth. The Royse City, Texas product surrendered four runs (four earned) on six hits with five strikeouts.

“I just love seeing them have success because they’ve paid the price for the moment they had tonight, and they know that it’s not over. We’re still greedy. We have a lot of work to do, but they should enjoy the moment for the time being.”

K-State the No. 3 seed in the regional, advanced to the regional championship round for the third time in program history and will face the winner of Sunday’s afternoon contest between Arkansas (44-15) and No. 4 seed SEMO (35-26) at 6 p.m. Louisiana Tech (45-19) was eliminated from the tournament.

Neither team allowed a runner to reach scoring position until Arkansas’ Wehiwa Aloy and Kendall Diggs each singled into center in the fourth but were left stranded with a popup to first that ended the threat.

In the home half of the inning, Day broke up Smith’s no-hit bid with a single into the center.

After four scoreless innings, the Razorbacks capitalized on a wild pitch and throwing error to plate the opening run. A single out to center helped Arkansas to a 2-0 lead in the next at-bat.

Smith issued back-to-back walks to put the Cats’ first runner in scoring position and build momentum in the Wildcats dugout leading to a six-run fifth inning. Raphael Pelletier’s sacrifice bunt moved runners to first and third before Chuck Ingram and Brendan Jones strung together a pair of hits to even the score.

K-State took the lead in the next at-bat, as Parsons laid down the squeeze bunt to bring home Ingram, who slid past the tag at home. With runners on first and second, Culpepper blasted his second home run of the day 365-feet out to dead center to expand the Cats’ lead, 6-2.

Neighbors relieved Wentworth in the sixth and inherited runners on first and second. The junior righty forced a grounder to short to preserve the lead.

Arkansas scored runs in the seventh and eighth to bring the game back within two, until English launched a one-out, solo homer into the left field bullpen for the insurance run.

A two-run homer for left fielder Peyton Holt made it a one-run ball game, but Neighbors locked in a struck out two to hold off the Razorbacks.


  • K-State scored a season-high seven runs on five hits with two errors committed and left two men on base.
  • Arkansas scored six runs on 13 hits, committed no errors, and stranded 13 on base.
  • Five different Wildcats produced a hit.
  • Culpepper and English each homered in win.
  • Culpepper drove in a game-high three RBI with his three-run homer in the fifth.
  • Wentworth (5-5) was awarded the victory, holding the Razorbacks to two runs on seven hits with three strikeouts in his 5 2/3 inning start.
  • Neighbors closed the game surrendering four runs (four earned) on six hits with fie strikeouts and earned his ninth save of the year.
  • Smith received just his second loss of the season, after allowing six runs (six earned) on four hits in five innings of work (9-2).
  • The Cats went 3-for-6 with runners on and hit a perfect 1.000 (3-for-3) with runners in scoring position.
  • Arkansas hit .273 (3-for-13) with men on base and went 3-for-11 (.273) with runners in scoring position.


  • K-State turned in its 19th multi-home run game of the season.
  • The Cats improve to 4-5 against nationally ranked programs in 2024.
  • K-State handed Arkansas its just its fourth loss at home this season (34-4).
  • Saturday’s win marked the first Top 5 win since May 28, 2021, vs. Texas Tech.
  • Arkansas leads the all-time series 30-20, while K-State leads 2-0 in NCAA Tournament contests against the Razorbacks.
  • K-State improved to 5-3 in neutral games.
  • The Cats are 9-8 overall in the NCAA Tournament, and 8-6 in regional games.