2014 Team Preview: Pitchers

Feb. 13, 2014

K-State Athletics

Previews of the 2014 K-State infield and outfield can be found here and here, respectively. Below is a look at the Wildcat pitching staff. In 2013, the K-State pitching staff set a program-record for the aluminum bat era (since 1977) with a 3.92 ERA.

STARTING PITCHING

The Wildcats made the 2013 run mainly because of one of the nation’s top offenses, filled with timely hitting, and a bullpen that was able to hold on to leads late in games. The group of starting pitchers never earned its respect despite playing its role at important times down the stretch of the regular season. K-State allowed 3.6 runs per game in its final 13 regular season games, nearly a full run less than its average for the entire season (4.5 runs per game). The Wildcats went 10-3 over the stretch.

Left-hander Joe Flattery and his 13 starts have left (he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Tigers). Jake Doller, who made nine starts last season, has graduated. All of that means the Wildcats’ starting staff will feature less-weary – or altogether new – performers.

Despite being a sophomore this season, Levi MaVorhis is the one returnee with the most starting experience and is expected to be a key cog in the starting staff. Last season, MaVorhis made four Friday starts in Big 12 play, one in the Big 12 Championship tournament, and one in the first game of the Manhattan Regional against Wichita State. In each start, the Wildcats won. MaVorhis finished with a 3.81 ERA (13er, 30.2ip) as a starter, helping him be named to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.

Although he did not make a start in 2013, senior left-hander Jared Moore has earned an opportunity to be a member of the Wildcats rotation this season. The Boulder, Colo. native turned in his finest fall camp in his time at K-State this past offseason and looks to provide leadership as the only senior on the Wildcat pitching staff.

Moore has made seven starts in his career, all of which have taken place before May 2, 2012. In his seven career starts, Moore is 1-4 with a 7.53 ERA (17er, 20.1ip), but with more than a season’s worth of pitching experience under his belt now, Moore’s stats as a starter are not reflective of his present abilities.

Sophomore Jordan Witcig will get the ball on the first Sunday of the season at Cal Poly. The Kansas City (Missouri side) will make only his second career start, but in his nine career appearances, Witcig does have a 3.68 ERA and has held opponents to a sub-.200 batting average against. In his nine games as a freshman, Witcig only allowed one run in his six regular season appearances. His lone career start was in the Big 12 Championship tournament in Oklahoma City, where he allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings against Oklahoma.

BULLPEN

The K-State bullpen – a strong suit of the 2013 run to the Big 12 championship – is a mix of impressive returning performers and untested newcomers.

The Wildcats bullpen is at its strongest at the back end. Sophomore right-hander Jake Matthys returns to the closer role in 2014. The Spring Lake Park, Minn. native was tabbed by Collegiate Baseball as a Third Team Preseason All-American this year after he garnered several accolades in his freshman campaign, including Big 12 Freshman of the Year, All-Big 12 First Team, and Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American.

How did he earn all the honors? By simply rewriting some of K-State’s record books. Despite making only one start – the final game of the season – Matthys established a K-State freshman record for wins (9), which are tied for the second-most by any class in a single season for the program. He made 33 relief appearances, the most by any K-State pitcher in a season, and his 2.05 ERA in 34 games is the seventh-best by a Wildcat. The most important metric, though, in which people judge a closer is his saves total and Matthys turned in the most saves by K-State freshman with nine.

Matthys did not become the closer until K-State’s first Big 12 series against West Virginia in mid-March. He struck out three in two perfect innings, preserving a 4-3 K-State win over the Mountaineers. Matthys went on to appear in two-thirds of K-State’s 24 regular season conference games, holding Big 12 opponents to a .186 batting average against.

Another tested option in the bullpen is Landon Busch. The sophomore southpaw pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in 2013. The Brookings, S.D. native posted a 4.58 ERA in his first collegiate season, but he did hold opponents to a sub-.200 batting average all season, including a .100 average against in four Big 12 outings.

The majority of the pitching staff is inexperienced at the Division I level, but that is a familiar storyline to the Wildcats. Last season, the K-State pitching staff featured seven letterwinners and 10 freshmen. This year, the story is about the same: eight returning lettermen and eight “newcomers” (five true freshmen, two redshirt freshmen and a junior transfer).

After redshirting in 2013, Nate Griep and Colton Kalmus are expected to play a significant role for the Wildcats in 2014. Kalmus is a former three-sport athlete at Rowlett High School, registering a 1.66 ERA in his junior and senior seasons, passing for 1,823 yards as the school’s quarterback, and playing on the school’s golf team. Griep, meanwhile, will be looking to embark on his college career after being named a Louisville Slugger High School All-American and Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year while at Millard West High School in Omaha, Nebraska.

Jake Whaley, a 6’4” right-hander from Marshalltown, Iowa, arrives in Manhattan after pitching for Marshalltown Community College for the last two seasons. The junior transfer is a strikeout pitcher as he tallied 59 punchouts in 44.2 innings last season. He even has a no-hitter to his name when he fanned nine and walked one in a seven-inning contest on May 6, 2012.

The group of five true freshmen includes southpaw Jordan Floyd (Kansas’ 2013 Class 5A co-Pitcher of the Year, as selected by Kansas Association of Baseball Coaches, and the Yankees’ 25th-round draft pick in last year’s draft); Jake Fromson (product of Lee’s Summit High School in Missouri and the Building Champions baseball academy); Ethan Landon (first team all-state selection in his sophomore and junior years at Lincoln Southwest High School in Sioux Falls, S.D.); Jon Roblez (Class 4A All-Kansas First Team in 2013); and Braxton Wilks (a two-way player out of Episcopal High School in Houston, Texas, posting a 1.29 ERA and batting .380 in his senior season).