K-State Set For First Big 12 Road Series
K-State Set For First Big 12 Road Series
March 27, 2013
Thursday, March 28 - Saturday, March 30
Waco, Texas /// Baylor Ballpark (5,000)
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Riding a five-game winning streak, Kansas State hits the road for the first time since February 24 as the Wildcats travel to Waco, Texas, to face Baylor, Thursday through Saturday, at Baylor Ballpark. K-State is in search of its first-ever series win in Waco in hopes of snapping a six-game losing streak to the Bears. The series begins with a pair of 6:35 p.m., contests on Thursday and Friday, while Saturday’s series finale is scheduled for a 1:05 p.m., first pitch. Saturday’s game will be shown on Fox College Sports with Daron Sutton (play-by-play) and Preston Wilson (analyst) calling the action. Listeners in the Manhattan area can hear the final two games on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Matt Walters and Ryan Lackey on the call, while free live audio of the entire series can be heard at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE
Kansas State, which has won five in a row and seven of its last eight, is coming off a 10-8 victory Tuesday night over Nebraska. The Wildcats, who snapped a four-game losing streak to the Huskers, trailed 5-2 in the fifth inning but scored eight runs over the fifth, sixth and seventh innings and held on in the ninth for the two- run victory.
K-State, which is receiving votes in this week’s USA TODAY Sports Coaches’ Top 25 for the first time since April 25, 2011, has been on fire offensively as the Cats are hitting .398 and averaging 12.75 runs over their last four games. Kansas State ranks in the top four of the Big 12 in 13 offensive categories, including first-place marks in batting average (.323), on-base percentage (.411), slugging percentage (.448), runs scored (166) and triples (12). K-State’s .323 batting average ranks sixth nationally entering the weekend despite the fact that no individual ranks in the top 100 nationally as seven of the regular starters are hitting .300 or better.
Ross Kivett, who is 22-for-46 over the last 12 games, leads the squad and ranks fourth in the Big 12 with a .394 batting average. He drove in a career-high five RBI Tuesday on three hits, including a double. The junior has seven multi-hit games in his last 12 contests, raising his average 82 points. Kivett, who has nine RBI in his last three games, is one of three players tied for team-high honors with 18.
First baseman Shane Conlon is second on the team in batting average at .370 and has a team-high tying four home runs, while RJ Santigate is third at .348. Juniors Blair DeBord and Jared King are behind Santigate at .338. Both players have five multi-hit games in the last eight contests. Kansas State also boasts the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week in senior Tanner Witt. The outfielder, who went 8-for-16 with a double and six RBI last week, is hitting .303 this season and leads the nation with six sacrifice flies while also serving as the team’s closer (four saves).
K-State will use the same three starting pitchers this weekend at Baylor, but a new order has been established as senior left-hander Joe Flattery gets the call on Thursday night followed by a pair of right-handers in Nate Williams and Matt Wivinis on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Following a season debut in which he allowed seven runs (five earned) in just two innings, Flattery has been consistent over his last five outings, holding a 3.18 ERA during that span. Last week against Bethune-Cookman, the Fort Dodge, Iowa, product worked his second-career complete game as he allowed two runs on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts. Flattery, a senior, worked the minimum through seven innings of the contest and allowed just one hit until the ninth.
Williams, who served as the team’s closer last year, bounced back from consecutive outings in which he gave up five runs in 4.1 innings by tossing six shutout frames against B-CU despite walking five batters. However, Williams only surrendered two hits in the contest and set a new career high in strikeouts with seven. Wivinis has been perhaps K-State’s best starting pitcher as he is riding a four-game winning streak and has worked at least seven innings in each of his last three starts. Last week against Bethune-Cookman, Wivinis was credited with his second complete game of the season, working seven innings of a snow-shortened series finale and allowing three runs without a walk and five strikeouts.
DID YOU KNOW
• Kansas State is looking to win its first two conference series of the year for the first time in the Big 12 era (1997).
• The Wildcats are 9-4 this year in games where their opponent scores first.
• Kansas State ranks in the top four of the Big 12 in 13 offensive categories, including five first-place marks and five second-place rankings.
• K-State entered this week ranked in the top 25 nationally in batting average (7th), triples (12th), steals, (12th), fewest walks allowed per nine innings (19th), on-base percentage (20th) and hits (22nd).
• The Wildcats are receiving votes in this week’s USA Today Coaches’ Poll, the first time K-State has earned votes in any poll since prior to the 2012 season (Collegiate Baseball and NCBWA), while it is the first time receiving consideration from the coaches since April 25, 2011.
• The Wildcats only struck out once Tuesday against Nebraska, the lowest amount of the year and the lowest since one against Baylor in the Big 12 Championship on May 23, 2012.
STARTING BIG 12 PLAY STRONG
After a series victory two weekends ago against league newcomer West Virginia, Kansas State is looking to win its first two Big 12 series for the first time in program history. This year’s squad picked up just the third series win in a league-opening series in the Big 12’s 17 years, duplicating the feats of the 2004 and 2010 clubs. In 2004, which was head coach Brad Hill’s first season in Manhattan, K-State won two-of-three at Missouri before being swept by Nebraska the next weekend. The Wildcats swept Oklahoma State to open conference play in 2010 but lost two-of-three the next weekend at Texas Tech.
IT’S NOT HOW YOU START...
As the adage says, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” K-State has proven that saying to be true so far this season as opponents have scored the game’s first run in over half of the Wildcats’ 17 wins. Kansas State, which is 9-4 in games where its opponent scores first, has already surpassed last year’s win total in those contests. In head coach Brad Hill’s 10 years in Manhattan, K-State has been .500 or better just twice when its opponent scores first as the 2009 squad went 18-10 (.643) and the 2010 team was 13-13 (.500). In addition, the Wildcats are on pace for 20 regular-season wins when its opponent scores the game’s first run.
BAYLOR AT A GLANCE
Baylor, which is 11-14 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 play, enters the weekend set after splitting the last eight games, including a 5-3 loss at UTSA Tuesday night. Last Saturday at Oklahoma State in their Big 12 opening series, the Bears were shutout on Friday night, 5-0, before earning a 5-3 victory in 12 innings on Saturday. Sunday’s game was canceled due to inclement weather.
The Bears, who are hitting .252 as a team, are paced by a trio of hitters with an average above .300. Senior outfielder Nathan Orf leads the way at .374 with three doubles, one homer and 13 RBI. Another outfielder, sophomore Logan Brown, is second at .315 with three doubles, one triple, one home run and eight RBI, while he is the team leader with 11 stolen bases. Sophomore infielder Duncan Wendel is also hitting above .300 at .309. Both Orf and Wendel are coming off two-hit games at UTSA. Senior Cal Towey, who is hitting .277, leads the team in both doubles (7) and RBI (20). Towey hit .474 (9-for-19) against K-State last season, the top mark among returning players.
Baylor is expected to start three right-handers this weekend in Dillon Newman on Thursday, Max Garner on Friday and Austin Stone in Saturday’s series finale. Newman, who is 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA, has started six games this season, recording one complete-game shutout and throwing in two other Baylor shutouts. The junior has allowed 10 runs in 38.2 innings and only walked two batters as opposed to 27 strikeouts. He suffered his first loss of the year last week in Stillwater after allowing five runs on six hits in seven innings of work.
Garner holds a 1-3 record despite a respectable 3.12 ERA as the senior has worked a team-high 40.1 innings, allowing 14 earned runs on 38 hits with 14 walks and 32 strikeouts. Garner took a no decision in his last outing against OSU after working 6.1 innings and surrendering three runs (two earned) on seven hits. Stone will be making his fifth start and eighth appearance of the year on Saturday as the sophomore is 0-2 with a 5.14 ERA. The right-hander worked a scoreless inning of relief with two strikeouts Tuesday at UTSA, while his last start was March 16 against New Orleans. In that contest, Stone allowed an unearned run on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts in three innings of work.
THE BAYLOR SERIES
Baylor leads the all-time series against Kansas State, 40-16, including a 23-3 mark in Waco. Since the Big 12’s first season in 1997, the Wildcats only have two wins at Baylor Ballpark, each coming in the last two trips to Waco. K-State earned a 7-1 victory at No. 8 Baylor on March 27, 2009 - its largest margin of victory against the Bears in Waco - before dropping the final two games of the series. In 2011, K-State won the middle game of the series, 6-3, before falling in the rubber match the next day. The rubber-match victory for the Bears began a current streak of six-straight victories for BU, its longest winning streak against the Wildcats since winning 11-straight from 1998-2001.
Reigning Big 12 Player of the Week Tanner Witt holds the best career batting average against Baylor at .400 (14-for-35) with two doubles and a 4-for-5 mark in steals. In K-State’s last trip to Waco in 2011, Witt went 7-for-13 and was perfect in all three stolen-base attempts. Then-freshman Ross Kivett also hit above .400 during the Wildcats’ last trip to Waco, going 3-for-7 with three RBI.
After falling by 11 in the series opener to West Virginia, K-State was able to battle back and win a pair of one-run victories to take the series. The two one-run wins against the Mountaineers marked just the fifth time since the Big 12’s first year in 1997 that the Wildcats won a pair of one-run conference games in the same series. Two years ago against Texas Tech, K-State won the first two games, 2-1 and 4-3, en route to a series sweep, while the 2008 Wildcats swept KU thanks to victories of 5-4 and 11-10 in the final two contests.
THE HITS KEEP ON COMING
After hitting only .281 as a team last season, K-State has been red hot at the plate through the first 25 games of 2013. The Wildcats, who enter the weekend ranked sixth nationally with a .323 batting average, lead the Big 12 by 20 points thanks to 17 games with 10 or more hits. Kansas State’s .323 hitting through the first 25 games is its highest mark since college baseball adopted BBCOR bats as the Wildcats were hitting .296 at this point last season and .266 25 games into the 2011 campaign. K-State only had 30 games with 10 or more hits over the 58-game 2012 season and 28 in 61 games during 2011. Even more impressive is the fact that the Wildcats entered with week without an individual ranked in the top 100 nationally in batting average despite sitting in the top 10 as a team.
KIVETT CATCHING FIRE
Junior second baseman Ross Kivett is in the midst of perhaps his best stretch of games offensively as a Wildcat. The Broadview Heights, Ohio, product leads Kansas State with a .394 batting average to rank fourth in the Big 12. His average has skyrocketed over the last 12 games as he has gained 82 points since March 8 thanks to seven multi-hit games during that span, including a season-high tying three hits on four occasions. On Tuesday against Nebraska, Kivett drove in a career-high five RBI on 3-of-4 hitting as he produced RBI in each of his final four plate appearances after fouling out to begin the game.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
After recording only seven stolen bases in the first six games, Kansas State improved its running game during the 19-game homestand by tallying 44 steals, including a season-high seven in two contests against Niagara (March 5 and 6). K-State, which entered the week ranked 12th nationally in steals, currently ranks second in the Big 12 at 51, just one shy of first place. K-State is looking to continue a streak of five-straight seasons with over 100 steals. Last year, K-State registered 104 steals to rank seventh in school history, while the 2009 squad broke the school record with 149. Ross Kivett leads the way for the Wildcats this season with 12, a mark that ranks second in the league.
UNLIKELY HOME RUN LEADERS
With just one home run between the two entering 2013, Kansas State’s Shane Conlon and Jon Davis might have been the most unlikely duo to lead the team in home runs this season as each player has hit four. In fact, five players on K-State’s roster had as many or more career home runs entering 2013 than Conlon and Davis combined, while Davis’ lone homer was in the final game of the 2012 season. Additionally, Conlon is hitting for the first time since 2011 as he was exclusively a pitcher last year prior to a season-ending injury. Conlon and Davis enter this weekend’s series tied for fourth in the Big 12 in home runs.
SOLID STARTS BY WIVINIS
Sophomore Matt Wivinis has put together outstanding performances over his last three starts, while he is currently riding a four-game winning streak. In the series finale against No. 21 Cal Poly, the right-hander became the first Big 12 pitcher this year to toss a complete game against a ranked team, which was impressive considering he gave up three runs over the first two innings. The right-hander, whose previous career-long outing was six innings, tossed the first complete game by a Wildcat since Joe Flattery did so on May 18, 2012, at Texas Tech. Additionally, he needed only 91 pitches to shut out the Mustangs, the fewest by a Wildcat in a nine-inning complete-game effort in the last 10 years.
Wivinis backed up his complete game with a winning effort against West Virginia in the Wildcats’ Big 12 opening series, while he worked a snow-shortened seven-inning complete game last week against Bethune-Cookman. His two complete games this year are the most since A.J. Morris had five in 2009.
THROWN INTO THE FIRE
Freshman right-hander Jake Matthys, who is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA and one save, has been one of the top freshmen relief pitchers in the Big 12 making an impact on the final outcome of games as he has the second-most combined wins and saves (Oklahoma’s Jacob Evans has eight by going 4-0 with four saves) in the league this season.
Matthys, who has continually been called upon in tough situations, was an integral part to the Wildcats’ series win over West Virginia as he tossed three perfect innings with six strikeouts. He struck out the side in the eighth inning of the second game before K-State drove in the game-winning run in the bottom half as he picked up the win. Then, in the rubber match, Matthys came into the game with a runner on third base and no outs in the eighth inning as K-State led, 4-3. All the right-hander did was record a short fly ball, a line out and a strikeout to preserve the one-run lead before a perfect ninth inning.
KING HEATING UP
Following an injury that sidelined him for a week, junior outfielder Jared King has begun to catch fire over the last nine games with five multi-hit contests in that span. King was especially impressive during last Friday’s doubleheader against Bethune-Cookman as he went 5-for-8 with seven RBI over the twin-bill, including a career-high tying four RBI in the first game and his second home run of the season in game two. On Tuesday, King registered a pair of doubles and drove in a run. Since the injury pulled him from the lineup on March 8, King has raised his average 67 points to a current .338 mark.