June 3, 2013
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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State’s bullpen team of Gerardo Esquivel, Nate Williams and Jake Matthys tossed 7.1 scoreless innings and the Wildcats scored two seventh-inning runs on wild pitches to advance to their first Super Regional with a 4-3 victory over Arkansas Sunday night in the championship game of the 2013 NCAA Manhattan Regional at Tointon Family Stadium.
The Wildcats, who won their school-record 44th game and enter the NCAA round of 16 with a 44-17 record, travel to Corvallis, Ore., to take on Oregon State in the best 2-of-3 Super Regional for the right to advance to the 2013 College World Series. The Razorbacks, who went to the College World Series last season, ended their year at 39-22.
K-State found itself in a 3-0 hole in the bottom of the first after Arkansas left fielder Brian Anderson stroked a two-RBI single and Matt Vinson followed with a two-out RBI hit through the right side of the infield.
Arkansas loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning, but Esquivel came out of the bullpen in place of starter Blake McFadden to induce an inning-ending pop out. The ball caught by shortstop Austin Fisher began a streak for Esquivel of retiring 13 of the 14 batters he faced, including one by strikeout.
Kansas State rewarded the junior right-hander for his effort and completed a comeback in the seventh inning when Ross Kivett and Tanner Witt led off with walks against Michael Gunn (1-1). Reliever Jalen Beeks came on and, after a sacrfice bunt moved Kivett and Witt into scoring position, Arkansas elected to intentionally walk Jared King. However, on his second pitch, Beeks bounced a ball over the plate and to the backstop, allowing Kivett to score the tying run.
With Witt now at third and the strategy of an intentional walk no longer in play, Beeks uncorked another wild pitch at King's feet on a 3-1 count bringing Witt home with the go-ahead run.
“It was a great ballgame – I really do not know what to say,” head coach Brad Hill said. “It was a great ballgame. Obviously, Arkansas has a tremendous club. Their pitching is phenomenal. When we got down 3-0 in the first inning, you get concerned about whether you can get back into it and if you can continue to hold them at three runs, because it felt like if they would have got five or six, it would have been difficult to come back against that club. I should have learned by now, after 61 or 62 games, to never count these guys out, ever. They have done a tremendous job all year to just continue playing their game and do what they do.”
Williams entered the game in the seventh inning and retired the Razorbacks in order. After the right-hander walked a batter to begin the eighth, Matthys entered for a school-record 32nd appearance this season and tossed two scoreless frames. The final out came on a line drive to Witt in left field, and the Wildcats celebrated their first regional championship behind the mound.
“We have been in this situation before and I knew that if I put up four zeroes, that would give our guys that chance,” Esquivel said. “Our offense prides itself on never giving in, and they did not do that today. They just came through. I gave us a chance, handed the ball off to Nate (Williams) and he did a very good job in the seventh inning and then Jake (Matthys) finished it off.”
Esquivel, who earned a spot on the all-regional team, earned the win in his second-straight appearance after tossing 4.1 innings with a walk and a strikeout. The Chicago, Ill., product threw 35 of his 49 pitches for strikes and he threw a first-pitch strike to 12 of the 14 batters he faced.
Matthys, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, allowed two hits and struck out a batter in two scoreless frames, recorded his ninth save of the year to tie for fifth in school history.
The Wildcats were led offensively by Shane Conlon, who went 2-for-4. Arkansas’ Joe Serrano was the only other player in the game with multiple hits by going 2-for-5.
Esquivel was joined on the all-regional team by Blair DeBord (catcher), Conlon (first base), Kivett (second base), Witt (outfield) and King (outfield). Kivett, who went 6-for-12 with two homers and five RBI, was named the Manhattan Regional's most valuable player.
The 2013 NCAA Corvallis Super Regional will begin either Friday or Saturday at Goss Field. Complete details, including television information, will be announced by Tuesday.