Wildcats Host Creighton Tuesday Night
Wildcats Host Creighton Tuesday Night
March 19, 2012
Tuesday, March 20
Manhattan, Kan. /// Tointon Family Stadium (2,331)
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K-STATE: Brad Hill
Alma Mater: Emporia State
Career Record: 696-292-3 (18th season)
Record at K-State: 278-201-3 (9th season)
CREIGHTON: Ed Servais
Alma Mater: UW-La Crosse
Record at CU: 310-172 (9th season)
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Fresh off a five-game, seven-day road trip, Kansas State opens a four-game homestand on Tuesday night as the Wildcats host Creighton in a 6:30 p.m., contest at Tointon Family Stadium. K-State will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak to the Bluejays as its last win in the series was in the 2009 home opener. The game can be seen online on K-StateHD.TV, while it will be carried in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller and Matt Walters on the call. Free live audio is also available online at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
K-State went 3-2 last week after sweeping two games from Minnesota in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, while the Wildcats earned a Friday-night victory at No. 8 Texas A&M. The Big 12-opening game for both teams featured a combined 27 runs on 33 hits as K-State picked up a 15-12 victory. The Wildcats recorded 20 hits on Friday against the Big 12’s top pitching staff, the most by the Wildcats in a conference game since 2002. Of K-State’s 20 hits, 19 were singles as the only extra-base hit was a grand slam by Wade Hinkle, his second of the week, as the Wildcats led 7-0 after the second inning. The Aggies battled back, however, to take an 11-9 lead after the seventh, but K-State answered with six in the seventh and four more in the eighth, while left-hander Jared Moore pitched two perfect innings as K-State went on for the upset victory. Texas A&M was able to come back with wins on Saturday and Sunday to take the series.
Thanks to its 11.3 hits-per-game average over the last nine contests, Kansas State is the top hitting team in the Big 12 with a .310 batting average. The Wildcats, who also lead the conference in on-base percentage (.427), runs per game (7.45) and walks (116), field two of the top four hitters in the Big 12 in Hinkle and sophomore Jared King. King leads the Big 12 at .431 - 13 points better than the second-leading hitter - while he is also tops in the conference in hits per game (1.72) and total bases (49). Hinkle is fourth in the league at .408 and leads the league in three categories: RBI (25), runs scored (24) and on-base percentage (.538). The senior first baseman has reached base in 19 of 20 games this season and has also reached safely in 35 of his last 56 plate appearances.
Junior left fielder Tanner Witt and senior third baseman Matt Giller have each seen their batting averages skyrocket over the last week. Backed by nine hits in his last 14 at-bats, Giller has raised his average 109 points over the last five games to .409. Witt tallied 11 hits last week to now sit at .350, and he had the key hit in K-State’s four-run eighth inning on Friday with a two-RBI single.
Kansas State is expected to start freshman right-hander Matt Wivinis on Tuesday. In six appearances this season, the Downers Grove, Ill., product is 1-0 with a 5.25 ERA, allowing seven runs on 15 hits with just three walks and 13 strikeouts in 12 innings of work. His last appearance was Friday at Texas A&M when he allowed one run on a hit with a walk and a strikeout in 0.2 innings. Tuesday marks the second start of his young career as he also started the series finale against Hartford. In that game, Wivinis picked up the win as he allowed two runs on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts in 4.1 innings of a predetermined pitch-count start.
DID YOU KNOW...
• Brad Hill entered 2012 sixth in the nation among active coaches with a .706 career winning percentage.
• Kansas State’s seven-run second inning Friday was the most runs in an inning against a Big 12 team since scoring eight on Oklahoma State on March 28, 2010.
• First baseman Wade Hinkle hit two grand slams last week, the first Wildcat to do so since Todd Fereday hit two in a single game in 1994.
• Senior Jake Brown tied a Big 12 and school record with six hits in the first game of a doubleheader against Hartford en route to Big 12 Co-Player of the Week honors.
• The Cats are 223-16 when leading after seven frames during Brad Hill’s eight-plus years in Manhattan, including a perfect 11-0 mark this season.
• Senior Wade Hinkle has drawn 16 walks in 2012 after just 11 in 43 games played lat season.
WITHSTANDING THE STORM
Kansas State held a 7-0 lead at Texas A&M on Friday only to see the Aggies come back to take an 11-9 advantage after eight runs over the seventh and eighth innings. But the Wildcats were able to fight back with six runs en route to a 15-12 upset victory over the nation’s eighth-ranked team.
The come-from-behind victory was monumental as it was the first time ever by the Wildcats in Big 12 play (441 games) that K-State held a lead of at least seven runs, saw the opposing team either tie or take the lead, but still battle back for the victory. The last time the Wildcats accomplished the feat was in 2002 against CW Post. In that contest, K-State led 9-0 lead through five innings before CW Post scored 10 unanswered to lead, 10-9, in the eighth inning. The Wildcats scored two in the eighth and held on for an 11-10 win.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Kansas State will be looking for continued success at Tointon Family Stadium, a venue that the Wildcats have been very difficult to defeat. K-State has won at least 20 home games in five of the last seven seasons, including a 74-22 (.771) mark over the last three-plus years. K-State’s home record is even more impressive in non-conference games as the Cats are 50-6 (.893) since 2009 in that category, including a perfect 18-0 mark three years ago.
CREIGHTON AT A GLANCE
Heading into its first conference series of the year, Creighton holds an 11-7 record following a 4-1 mark last week. The Bluejays began their week with a 2-0 win on Tuesday against BYU and a 3-1 victory over Louisiana Tech on Wednesday. Following a 4-1 loss Friday night to North Dakota, Creighton bounced back with wins of 12-3 and 16-3 to take the series. Tuesday’s game is the first of two for the Bluejays against Big 12 opponents this season as they host Kansas on April 3.
Creighton, which is hitting .261 this season, is led at the plate by senior infielder Nick Judkins at .386 with one double, two triples, one home run and a team-leading 18 RBI. Another senior infielder, Chance Ross, is second with a .299 average. Anthony Bemboom leads the team with seven doubles, while Gabriel Thibodeaux and Mike Gerber are the team leaders in home runs with two apiece.
Creighton is expected to start right-hander Erik Mattingly Tuesday night. It will be the first start of the year for the senior, who has no record and a 1.23 ERA in five relief outings after allowing just one run on four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in 7.1 innings of work. Mattingly’s last outing came on Sunday against North Dakota when he threw a perfect sixth inning with one strikeout. He also pitched last Tuesday against BYU, tossing three scoreless frames and allowing one hit with no walks and five strikeouts.
The Creighton bullpen is spearheaded by right-hander Reese McGraw, who is 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA and three saves in 11 outings this year. The senior has allowed four run in 15 innings with three walks and 15 strikeouts. Kurt Spomer also has a pair of saves on the season and holds a 2.82 ERA.
THE CREIGHTON SERIES
Kansas State leads the all-time series against Creighton, 46-37-1, but the Wildcats will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak to the Bluejays on Tuesday night. K-State’s last win over Creighton was the 2009 Wildcat home opener, a 12-1 victory. Since then, the Bluejays won a 5-1 decision in Omaha later in 2009 before winning in Manhattan, 7-4, in 2010 and 7-6 in Omaha in 2011. The Wildcats are 35-17-1 against the Bluejays in Manhattan, and they will be looking to avoid a series-high tying four-game losing streak. The last time Creighton won four straight was 1980-81.
Last season, K-State trailed 6-4 entering the ninth inning before Wade Hinkle hit a two-run homer to tie the game at six apiece. In the bottom half, Creighton’s Joey Bowen drew a bases-loaded walk for the one-run victory.
THE TWO-OUT DAGGER
Kansas State has done a majority of its damage this season late in innings as 40-percent of its RBI (55-of-137) have come with two outs, including 45 in its 12 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. Additionally, K-State collected seven in Friday’s win at No. 8 Texas A&M, four of which came on Wade Hinkle’s grand slam.
Individually, Hinkle leads the way with 13 after 13 all of last season. Jared King, Ross Kivett and Tanner Witt are all tied for second with seven, while Jake Brown and Dan Klein have six apiece.
CREATING BULLPEN DEPTH
Kansas State has gotten the most out of its young pitchers through 20 games this season. Three Wildcat freshmen hurlers - Nate Williams, Matt Wivinis and Robert Youngdahl - have combined to allow just 11 earned runs in 29.1 innings of relief, good for a 3.37 ERA. They have also retired 78-percent of their first batters faced (18-of-23) and have allowed just a .262 batting average. The trio has been even more impressive in non-conference play as they hold a combined 1.69 ERA and are limiting opponents to a .225 average.
Leading the way this season has been Williams. A product of Valley Center, Kan., the right-hander has been outstanding in his eight games as the only blemishes on his line are a solo home run in the ninth inning of a blowout win at San Diego State and a sacrifice fly last Friday at Texas A&M. Williams has only given up four hits this year as he is holding opponents to a .111 batting average. Youngdahl has not allowed an earned run in his eight non-conference outings, which spans 8.1 innings.
HINKLE SHOWING PLATE DISCIPLINE
A season after batting injuries, senior 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 leads the Big 12 with 25 RBI and is one of just four players in the Big 12 hitting over .400 heading into the week. However, the first baseman he has made his biggest strides by finding a way to get on base as he leads the conference with a .538 on-base percentage thanks to the fact that he has reached base in 35 of his last 56 plate appearances. Hinkle also leads the conference with 24 runs scored entering the week.
Hinkle, who recorded only 11 walks in 43 games a year ago, has become more patient at the plate as he already has 16 this year to tie for second in the Big 12. The first baseman drew three walks and was hit by a pitch at Nebraska, while he also worked three walks in the series finale against Hartford.
ONE SWING, BIG IMPACT
Entering the 2012 season, only three players in head coach Brad Hill’s eight-year tenure at K-State had hit two grand slams in a career, and none of them had two in a single season. Senior Wade Hinkle became the first, and he did so in a matter of days. The Albuquerque, N.M., hammered a pair of grand slams last week, hitting one in a victory at Minnesota on Tuesday and the other in a winning effort at No. 8 Texas A&M on Friday. Hinkle became the first Wildcat to hit a pair of grand slams within a week since Todd Fereday hit two in a single game against Iowa State in 1994.
Both of Hinkle’s shots had a major impact on each game. His grand slam into the folded up chairback seats beyond the right-field wall of the Metrodome last Tuesday completed a six-run fourth inning as K-State won the game, 9-5. On Friday, Hinkle’s grand slam came with two outs in the second inning and turned what was a three-run frame into a seventh-run inning. The Wildcats went on to win the game, 15-12.