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K-State Baseball Ready for Home Opener
March 7, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
After a long, cold winter in Manhattan, signs of spring can be found in Tointon Family Stadium as the home baseball season is - finally - here.
With snowy conditions forcing K-State to cancel last weekend's home games, today at 3 p.m., the reigning Big 12 Champions will play at home for the first time in 2014 and kick off a nine-game home stand.
"I'm really excited and looking forward to it - the atmosphere, the fans, especially because this year we have a season ticket holder record," sophomore right-handed pitcher Levi MaVorhis (1-1, 3.93), who will start Friday afternoon, said. "It's always fun playing here in front of the home crowd where you don't have anyone booing you. It's just always fun playing at home." ¬
MaVorhis, who started for K-State in its 9-4 win over Grand Canyon last Friday, struck out a career-high eight batters in his career-high 7 1/3 innings against the Antelopes.
This afternoon's game will be the first of a three-game series between the Wildcats (4-7) and the Iowa Hawkeyes (9-1), and, despite a shaky start to the season, K-State will look to continue its current three-game winning streak on its home territory dating back to the 2013 NCAA Manhattan Regional.
"Obviously, it's been a long road, and for the guys to be able to come back home, it's just more comfortable," head coach Brad Hill said. "They feel more comfortable at home. We feel good about being at home and hopefully we'll get a few fans out and enjoy some of that atmosphere. Hopefully the weather will stay."
The Wildcats come home after going 3-0 last weekend in Abilene, Texas, where they picked up wins over Grand Canyon and Missouri State. K-State credits its recent success to finally getting back to into its style of play and knows its best baseball is yet to come.
"I would have been way more nervous if we had played well and lost those seven games early on, but we played very poorly," senior Ross Kivett, who earned Big 12 Player of the Week with a conference-best .500 batting average last weekend, explained. "We turned it around a little last week in our preparation, teamed up, and honestly I think that slow start was just because we didn't play well. We're going to start playing well here soon and I'm excited to see where it goes."
The Hawkeyes travel to Manhattan riding a seven-game winning streak and will be led this afternoon by right-handed pitcher Calvin Mathews. Mathews is coming off of a seven-inning performance where he allowed only one run on five hits last weekend in Deland, Fla.
Last season, K-State traveled to Iowa City, Iowa, to take on the Hawkeyes and, despite falling in a close opening game, it traveled back to Manhattan winning the series, 2-1.
"Winning two games up there is not easy to do," said Hill about his team's wins last season. "They have very good arms. They have a new coach this year (Rick Heller), and he's a very good coach, well respected in the game. They're playing very well. They're 9-1 and just playing good baseball. I'm sure they're playing with a lot of confidence."
While the Hawkeyes may be playing with added confidence, Hill said he has no doubt his team, led by its seniors and upperclassmen, will be prepared to handle whatever is thrown its way.
"Every game we should have that sense of urgency, but at the same time we just want to continue playing well," Hill continued. "The new guys are trying to get into the system and get comfortable, and the old guys, they played pretty well last week; the older guys set the tone. They've just got to do that, then we'll see some new guys really step up and make some plays for us."
It's an exciting time of year for the Wildcat baseball team, and now, finally getting back into its home stadium, it's prepared and motivated for the task at hand.
"I'm expecting a pretty good crowd," Kivett said. "I've been seeing the buzz for a while now, and I'm sure it'll be an adrenaline rush seeing all that purple out there."
Here's a peek at the Wildcats upcoming schedule:
Friday, March 7 at 3 p.m. vs. Iowa
Saturday, March 8 at 3 p.m. vs. Iowa
Sunday, March 9 at 1 p.m. vs. Iowa
Wednesday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. vs. Omaha
Friday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m. vs. Northern Colorado
Saturday, March 15 at 2 p.m. vs. Northern Colorado
Sunday, March 16 at 1 p.m. vs. Northern Colorado
Tuesday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. vs. Air Force
Wednesday, March 19 at 3 p.m. vs. Air Force
For the complete 2014 schedule, click here.