HOUSTON, Texas Justin Bloxom went 5-for-5 at the plate with two home runs as 14th-ranked Kansas State cruised to a 16-8 win over Xavier in its first-ever NCAA Regional baseball game Friday afternoon at Reckling Park.
The Wildcats (42-16-1) belted 17 hits against the Musketeers (38-20) as Bloxom, Jordan Cruz (3-for-4), Carter Jurica (2-for-4) and Jason King (2-for-3) led the K-State offense in the opening game of the Houston Regional at Rice University.
Bloxom recorded a career-high five hits, four of which went for extra bases. His two home runs pushed his season total to 11, marking the first time since 1997 that two or more Wildcats have produced double-digit home runs in a season as Cruz also delivered his 11th home run in the blowout.
Bloxom also became the third Wildcat this season with two home runs in a game. Nick Martini swatted two against BYU, while Cruz had two at Texas. Bloxom’s 13 total bases against Xavier were the most since Drew Biery also had 13 against South Dakota State in 2006.
Lance Hoge (6-4) got the win after battling through early threats by the Musketeers. Hoge surrendered eight hits, but allowed just three runs with two walks and two strikeouts in five innings.
The Wildcats tagged Xavier starter Zac Richard (4-1) with eight runs in just 2.1 innings. The right-hander gave up eight hits and walked one batter.
Kansas State jump-started its first NCAA tournament appearance in the first inning as Hoge shut down the Musketeers in order before the Cats plated four runs. Jurica started the outburst when he roped a one-out double down the left-field line before Martini singled up the middle on the first pitch he saw to get the Cats on the board. Bloxom followed with another single to put runners on first and third.
King laced a single into right field, extending his hitting streak to a career-best eight games and giving the Cats a 2-0 lead. After Biery popped out, Cruz lifted a ball into shallow center field that Xavier center fielder Adam Posano couldn’t glove as he dove, allowing two more runs to score..
Hoge worked out of a major jam in the third inning when Xavier loaded the bases with one out. Hoge, who walked two batters in the inning, struck out Ben Thomas, Xavier’s home run leader, then retired Jordan Conley on a deep fly to right that Cruz ran down at the wall.
Kansas State batted around in its half of the third, as the Wildcats blew open the game with eight runs to build the lead to 12-0. Bloxom started the onslaught when he hit a one-out solo home run over the right-field wall, briefly tying Cruz for the team lead in home runs. But, after a walk and a single, Cruz answered Bloxom’s blast by crushing a ball over the right-field wall chasing Richard from the game.
Xavier brought in reliever Tommy Shirley, who didn’t fare any better. Rob Vaughn began another Wildcat rally when he doubled into right center. Following a strikeout and a pair of walks, Martini, who began the inning with a groundout, roped a two-RBI single into left field.
Bloxom was next and nearly became the first Wildcat since 1988 to hit two home runs in an inning when he doubled off the top of the wall in left-center field to drive in two more runs and cap the inning.
A bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, a single and a double-play ball scored three runs for Xavier in the fourth inning. But, after a scoreless fifth for the Cats, Bloxom hit his second homer of the game, a two-run shot to give K-State a 14-3 advantage.
A two-RBI triple by Jurica in the sixth added to K-State’s lead, making the score 16-3.
Kansas State advances to face top-seeded Rice in a winner’s bracket contest on Saturday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m., at Reckling Park.