A 17-4 opening day victory over the Western Michigan University Broncos gave the Owls the start they were looking for this season. The win marked KSU’s second triumph over the Broncos in two years.
Western Michigan, the defending Mid-American Conference champion, is one of two schools on KSU’s schedule this season that made it to the college baseball playoffs in 2016.
The Owls scored the first run of the game in the second inning on a single to center field by junior Forrest Bramlett. Then WMU put junior pitcher Tony Dibrell in his first stressful situation, loading the bases with just one out recorded. Dibrell struck out the next batter and then forced the following batter to fly out to left field.
KSU scored five runs in the bottom of the third inning, three of which resulted from back-to-back home runs. Junior Austin Upshaw hit a two-run home run, and redshirt junior Forrest Bramlett tacked on another solo home run soon after.
In the bottom of the fourth, with KSU already commanding a 7-0 lead, Taylor Allum bashed a grand slam to right-center field, putting the game virtually out of reach for the Broncos.
Dibrell continued to pitch unhindered, allowing just one base-runner after loading the bases in the third inning. His day ended after throwing five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts while allowing just three hits.
The reserves — junior Will Bice, senior Mason Ward and redshirt junior Jordan Versteeg — finished the last four innings, only giving up four runs on four hits and striking out nine additional batters.
Though it was only the first game of a long season, KSU’s opening day performance was enough to leave head coach Mike Sansing excited for what is to come in the months ahead.
“There’s nothing like opening day,” Sansing said. “The excitement of players, fans and coaches for this day is special, and the anticipation to get here is exciting. I thought we came out and played extremely well. Offensively, we got good at-bats and I thought [Tony] Dibrell was very good tonight.”
The Owls return to the field on Tuesday, Feb. 21, to host in-state rival Georgia State University.