Oklahoma State's offense struck early and propelled the 27th-ranked Cowboys to a 9-2 win over Kansas State Friday night at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
Robbie Rea homered twice for the Cowboys, and Jason Hursh won for the first time in his last four starts as OSU improved to 26-10 overall and 6-6 in Big 12 Conference play.
"We jumped out early, and that's been a focus of our coaching staff this week -- jumping out early and then maintaining that throughout the game," said Rea, who homered in consecutive at bats in the fifth and seventh innings and in doing so became the first Cowboy with multiple homers in a game this season. "I've been working with coach (Rob) Walton and coach (Josh) Holliday and trying to figure things out, and I just got back to the basics this week."
It looked like Kansas State (27-12, 6-4), who entered the weekend leading the NCAA in batting average, would be the ones to take the early lead.
Ross Kivett and Tanner Witt led off the game with back-to-back infield singles and a walk to Shane Conlon loaded the bases with no outs.
But Hursh escaped danger, striking out Jared King and then getting Jon Davis to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"(Hursh) showed great poise and pitched out of a jam -- one bad pitch right there and they've got three or four runs early and it might be a whole different game," said OSU head coach Josh Holliday.
Riding the momentum of their starting pitcher, the Cowboys rallied for four runs on four hits in the bottom of the first off K-State southpaw Joe Flattery (2-4).
Saulyer Saxon led off the big inning with a single, and after stealing second, he scored on a one-out double by Tanner Krietemeier. The Cowboys would add three more runs, each of them coming with two outs and all of them of the unearned variety following a passed ball, as Zach Fish and Victor Romero also collected RBI hits.
K-State trimmed its deficit to 4-1 on an RBI single by King in the top of the third, but the Cowboys answered with three more runs in the bottom of the inning. Rea got the scoring started with a sacrifice fly that provided the first of his three RBIs on the night, and back-to-back RBI singles by Donnie Walton and Saxon made the score 7-1.
The big lead gave Hursh plenty of breathing room. Despite allowing 11 hits, the right-hander gave up just two runs and struck out seven in seven innings of work, and his defense turned a season-high three double plays behind him. That helped the sophomore earn his first win since March 22 against Baylor and improve to 4-3 on the year.
"Jason (Hursh) hung in there against a very good team that put some swings on him," Holliday said. "(KSU is) offensively, along with New Mexico, the toughest outs we've seen top to bottom. It was very important to get seven strong innings out of (Hursh). We needed a strong outing out of our ace, and he gave us what we needed. I'm proud of him for hanging in there and making pitches when he had to."
Rea helped further cushion OSU's lead with his solo homers in the fifth and seventh innings. The senior now ranks second on the team with four round trippers, three of those coming in conference play.
The two teams return to action Saturday at 3 p.m. Admission to the game is free.