Wildcats Travel to Lincoln to Take on Nebraska

March 5, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lincoln, Neb.  ///  Hawks Field (8,483)

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Kansas State

5-5 (0-0 Big 12)


6-4 (0-0 Big Ten)

MARCH 6 /// 2:05PM

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Gametracker Live Stats
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K-State- LHP Shane Conlon
1-0, 1.29 ERA, 7.0 IP, 4 BB, 5 K
NU - RHP Jon Keller
1-0, 4.61 ERA, 13.2 IP, 4 BB, 7 K

Nebraska leads, 163-106
In Lincoln:  Nebraska leads, 85-38
Last Season:  K-State won a non-conference game, 6-5, on March 16 in Manhattan. Nebraska won a three-game series, 3-2, 2-3, 5-4, April 16-18, in Lincoln, Neb.

K-STATE:  Brad Hill
Alma Mater: Emporia State
  Career Record: 689-289-3 (18th season)
  Record at K-State: 271-198-3 (9th season)

NEBRASKA: Darin Erstad
   Alma Mater: Nebraska
   Career Record: 6-4 (1st season)
   Record at Nebraska: Same

Brian Smoller and Matt Walters

www.k-statesports.com, www.1350kman.com and SportsRadio 1350 KMAN

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MANHATTAN, Kan. - Coming off its first series win of the season, Kansas State will look to build on its momentum with the first of three games against Nebraska this year on Tuesday at Hawks Field. The contest marks the first time the two programs will meet as part of different conferences since 1910. First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 2:05 p.m., and can be heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller and Matt Walters on the call. The game can also be heard online for free at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.

K-State enters Tuesday's game with a 5-5 record this season after winning a three-game series at home against Pacific last weekend. Friday's home opener went to the Tigers as they recorded a pair of two-run innings and had two pitchers combine to shutout the Wildcats over the final six frames en route to a 7-2 win. Kansas State came roaring back in a big way to win the series beginning with a 12-1 victory on Saturday. The Wildcats recorded a pair of two-run innings and received three RBI from Jared King and two apiece from Mike Kindel and Matt Giller, while left-hander Joe Flattery allowed one run over five innings for his second win of the year. It was more of the same on Sunday as K-State plated seven runs over the first two innings, and the Wildcats saw another starting pitcher, Kayvon Bahramzadeh, dominate by allowing just one run on four hits with a career-high eight strikeouts.

King, who is hitting .476 with eight RBI, paces the Wildcats offensively as he ranks second in the league in both batting average and total hits (20). Senior Wade Hinkle has also started off the year on a strong note as he is hitting .395 with a team-leading 11 RBI. Kindel leads the team in home runs with two, while he is second on the squad with nine RBI.

Kansas State will start sophomore left-hander Shane Conlon against Nebraska on Tuesday. The Naperville, Ill., product will be making his first start of the season after six a year ago, including three in conference play. This year, the left-hander has worked out of the bullpen on four occasions, allowing seven runs - only one of which was earned - on eight hits with four walks and five strikeouts in seven innings of work. Conlon threw three shutout innings last Friday against Pacific, working around three hits with no walks and two strikeouts.

• Brad Hill entered 2012 sixth in the nation among active coaches with a .706 career winning percentage.
• The Cats are 217-16 when leading after seven frames during Brad Hill's eight-plus years in Manhattan, including a 5-0 mark in 2012.
• The Wildcats' 15 runs and 21 hits on Feb. 25 against San Diego State are the most by any Big 12 team this year.
• Sunday's victory against Pacific was the Wildcats' ninth-straight decided by at least four runs after winning their season opener, 7-5, in extra innings at CSU Bakersfield.
• The Wildcats have totaled 10 first-inning runs and 20 third-inning runs this season, while they have not had more than eight in any of the other seven innings this year.
• K-State's four freshman relievers have combined to retire all 13 first batters they have faced this season.
• Matt Applegate is third among active Big 12 pitchers in innings (165.2) and fourth in career strikeouts (136).
• Jake Brown is sixth among active Big 12 players with 32 career stolen bases.
• A pair of Wildcats, Jared King and Mike Kindel, tied their career-long hitting streaks on Sunday at seven and five games, respectively.
• Sophomore center fielder Jared King has the most hits by a Wildcat in the first 10 games of a season since 2006 and the most extra-base hits (8) to begin a season since his older brother, Jason, had nine in 2009.

Kansas State has done a majority of its damage this season late in innings as nearly half of its RBI (27-of-57) have come with two outs, including 21 in its five wins. Against San Diego State on Feb. 25, the Wildcats totaled nine two-out RBI, the most since recording 14 against Northern Colorado on March 30 of last season.

Individually, senior Wade Hinkle leads the way with six, thanks to three two-out RBI last weekend against Pacific. Another senior, Dan Klein, and sophomore Ross Kivett are second with four apiece, while Tanner Witt and Jared King each have three, all coming against Pacific.

In last season, the Wildcats recorded both three-run homers in the non-conference game against Nebraska with two outs. K-State had 11 total two-out RBI against the Huskers last year.

Kansas State has gotten the most out of its young pitchers through 10 games this season. The four Wildcat freshmen hurlers - Caleb Wallingford, Nate Williams, Matt Wivinis and Robert Youngdahl - have combined to retire all 13 first batters faced, record a 3.00 ERA, allow only a .222 batting average and strike out 15 batters.

Leading the way this season has been Williams. A product of Valley Center, Kan., Williams has been nearly perfect in his four outings as the only blemish on his line was a solo home run in the ninth inning of a blowout win at San Diego State. That has proved to be the only hit allowed by Williams, who is holding opponents to a .059 batting average and has struck out four batters and has not issued a walk.

Wivinis is right behind Williams as he has surrendered just two runs on seven hits in 7.1 innings, and he leads the group with five strikeouts.

Nebraska enters its home opener on fire as the Huskers have won six of their last seven games after being swept by Gonzaga in the opening weekend. Last week, Nebraska earned a pair of wins at the Dairy Queen Classic in Minneapolis. After falling to West Virginia, 4-1, on Friday, the Huskers came back with a 6-4 win against New Mexico State and a 10-3 triumph over Minnesota.

The Huskers, who are hitting .319 as a team, are led by a pair of veterans in juniors Chad Christensen and Bryan Peterson. Christensen is hitting .390 (16-for-41) and leads the team with two home runs and eight RBI. Peters is right behind him at .355 (11-of-31) with a pair of doubles, one triple and four RBI. Junior catcher Richard Stock paces the team with six doubles in eight games played, while Rich Sanguinetti is second on the team in RBI with seven.

NU will start sophomore right-hander Jon Keller on Tuesday against the Wildcats. In three starts this season, Keller holds a 1-0 record and a 4.61 ERA, allowing seven runs on 16 hits in 13.2 innings.  His last start came on Saturday against New Mexico State when the sophomore surrendered four runs on four hits with two walks and a strikeout in just 1.1 innings.

Keller started the second game of last year's conference series against the Wildcats, taking a no decision after allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts in 5.1 innings.

The Nebraska bullpen is led by right-hander Travis Huber, who holds a 1.80 ERA and two saves in five outings this season. The junior has allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts in five innings. His two saves came two weekends ago against Utah on Feb. 24 and vs. UNLV on Feb. 26.

Tuesday's meeting between K-State and Nebraska is the first of three this season as the Wildcats will travel back to Lincoln on March 27 before the Huskers visit Manhattan on April 3. It will be the first game between the two schools as members of different conference since 1910, while it is the second regular season non-conference game between the two programs in as many seasons. Last year, K-State won a 6-5 non-conference game in Manhattan when the Wildcats blasted two three-run homers - one by Mike Kindel and the other by Kent Urban - to erase a 5-0 deficit.

Nebraska, who leads the all-time series 163-106, countered with a series win in Lincoln during Big 12 play. In game one of the series, the Huskers recorded single runs in the second, third and fifth innings, and their bullpen held on for a 3-2 win. K-State came back with a 3-2 victory of its own in game two behind an eighth-inning solo home run by Jared King. The rubber match also proved to be a one-run game as Kash Kalkowski singled home a run in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 Nebraska win.

The Tuesday tilt is the first of five for the Wildcats against Big Ten foes this year as K-State will travel to Minnesota for a pair of games on March 13 and 14. Kansas State is 134-185 all-time against current members of the Big Ten, but holds a 28-22 record against the conference outside of its history with Nebraska.

K-State was involved in many close games in 2011 as over a third of its games (23-of-61) were decided by one run. K-State was 11-12 in those games, but won six of its final nine games decided by a single run, including a 3-1 mark over the final three weeks. However, the beginning of 2012 has been the complete opposite as, outside of its 7-5 win in the season opener, the other nine games have been decided by at least four runs. Its nine games decided by at least four runs to begin the season are the most since 1992.

Sophomore left-hander Shane Conlon will toe the rubber against Nebraska on Tuesday, which marks his first start of the season. However, starting is nothing new for Conlon as he earned six starts a year ago, including four against conference foes. In his first career start last season against Texas Tech, Conlon threw 6.2 shutout innings, allowing four hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

This season, Conlon has made four relief appearances, holding a 1-0 record and a 1.29 ERA. Conlon has a better record in his career as a starter, going 3-1, but his ERA is 2.50 runs better as a reliever, holding a 2.30 ERA out of the bullpen and a 4.82 ERA as a starter.

A season after batting injuries, senior first baseman Wade Hinkle is starting to make an impact this season for Kansas State in the middle of the lineup. A former junior-college transfer, Hinkle is second on the team and ranks sixth in the Big 12 with a .395 batting average, thanks in part to a 5-for-10 performance last weekend against Pacific. Hinkle, who is also eighth in the league with a .489 on-base percentage, takes a five-game hitting streak into Tuesday's contest. Additionally, the Albuquerque, N.M., product has reached base in all 10 games to begin 2012.

If the first 10 games of the season are any indication, center fielder Jared King looks as though he will progress as a sophomore after earning Freshman All-America honors a year ago. Through 10 games, King is hitting .476 (20-for-42) with six doubles, one triple, one homer and eight RBI. He ranks second in the Big 12 in batting average, first in hits-per-game at 2.0 (second in total hits with 20), and he leads the conference in doubles (6), total bases (31) and slugging percentage (.738).

King, who also ranks fourth in the league in on-base percentage (.522) and fifth in runs scored (11), has recorded one of the best starts to a season in recent school history. His 20 hits in the first 10 games are the most since Joe Roundy had 20 in the first 10 games of 2006. Also, King's eight extra-base hits this season are the most in the first 10 games of a season since his older brother, Jason King, had five doubles and four homers to begin 2009.