MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State opens its 24-game Big 12 schedule this weekend with a three-game set against a new member of the conference, West Virginia, Friday and Saturday at Tointon Family Stadium. The original series schedule was changed due to cold temperatures and the chance of precipitation on Sunday as the teams will now meet for the first time in series history in a doubleheader Friday beginning at 4 p.m. The nightcap of the twin bill will begin 30 minutes following the conclusion of game one, and Saturday's contest, which now serves as the series finale, is still scheduled for a 2 p.m., first pitch.
A pregame tailgate will be held on the southwest lawn of the Tointon Family Stadium grounds beginning 60 minutes prior to first pitch on both days. Friday's doubleheader is a Team/Camper Night, while Season Ticket Holder Appreciation Day is on Saturday. Fans can purchase tickets through the K-State Athletics ticket office online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets, by phone at 1-800-221-CATS or in person at the Tointon Family Stadium box office beginning 60 minutes prior to first pitch both days.
The West Virginia series can be seen on K-StateHD.TV and heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN. Free live audio is also available online at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE Kansas State will look to bounce back from a series split against Northern Colorado on Tuesday and Wednesday that featured complete opposite performances by the Wildcats. K-State cruised to an 11-0 shutout on Tuesday as it scored four runs in the first inning and received one-hit shutout performance by Jake Doller (seven innings) and Landon Busch (two innings). Doller was on point in his second career start as he only allowed a fourth inning double and retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced. Wednesday was a different story, however, as the Wildcats were unable to record a hit until the sixth inning and advanced a runner past second base on just one occasion in a 3-0 loss.
Sophomore first baseman Shane Conlon leads K-State and ranks third in the Big 12 with his .422 batting average. The Naperville, Ill., product saw a 15-game hitting streak come to an end on Wednesday, but he still ranks second in the league in hits (27), total bases (43), triples (2) and slugging percentage (.672), seventh in runs scored (15) and on-base percentage (.466), and eighth in steals (7).
Junior Ross Kivett has two multi-hit games in the last three contests to raise his average to .339 with four doubles and six RBI. The second baseman leads the Big 12 with 11 steals, including a pair of three-steal games against Cal Poly (March 9) and Northern Colorado (March 12). Kivett's average is tied for second on the team with third baseman RJ Santigate. The former community-college transfer is tied with Conlon for the team lead in RBI with 13, including four in last weekend's series against No. 21 Cal Poly.
Kansas State is will use its regular weekend rotation as right-hander Nate Williams will open up the series on the mound Friday before left-hander Joe Flattery starts the nightcap and righty Matt Wivinis starts on Saturday. A closer during his freshman campaign, Williams began the year with three-straight quality starts before hitting a speed bump last Friday against Cal Poly, allowing six runs (five earned) in just 4.1 innings. Prior to the game against the Mustangs, Williams had allowed just three earned runs in 20 innings to begin the season. Flattery will look to duplicate his success from last weekend despite taking the loss. The senior allowed just two runs in 7.2 innings with a career-high tying seven strikeouts for his second-straight quality start.
Wivinis, a first-year starter, was outstanding last weekend as the sophomore registered his first-career complete game, allowing four runs with no walks five strikeouts. It was the first complete game by a Big 12 pitcher against a ranked team this year, while he needed only 91 pitches to work the full nine innings. DID YOU KNOW Brad Hill became the second coach in program history to register 300 wins at K-State with the Wildcats' win last Tuesday against Niagara. Hill entered the 2013 season seventh in the nation among active coaches with a .692 career winning percentage. Kansas State entered the week ranked in the top 25 nationally in triples (6th; 10), batting average (10th; .321), steals (14th; 35) and walks allowed per nine innings (24th; 2.49) K-State is looking to win its fourth Big 12 opener in the last five years. Shane Conlon opened up 2013 with a 15-game hitting streak, a mark that was tied for the longest to begin a season in Hill's 10 years in Manhattan and the second-longest in the Big 12 at its time. Conlon's hitting streak was two games shy of entering K-State's top 10 and the longest by a Wildcat since Jason King had a 16-gamer in 2011. Austin Fisher held a streak of seven-straight games with a RBI, the fourth-longest streak overall in the last 10 years, but the longest by a No. 9 hitter. Jon Davis has reached base safely in each of the last 14 games despite recording a hit in only eight of those games.
STARTING OFF STRONG K-State will be looking for its fourth Big 12 opening win in the last five years on Friday against West Virginia. The Wildcats defeated No. 13 Oklahoma, 9-1, to open up conference play in 2009 before a come-from-behind 14-11 win over Oklahoma State - which fueled a series sweep - to begin the 2010 Big 12 season. After falling at No. 5 Texas to open the 2011 Big 12 slate, K-State captured a dramatic 15-12 win at No. 8 Texas A&M last year in a contest that featured a seven-run K-State second inning and six runs over the seventh and eighth frames. HOME COOKIN' Kansas State is looking to turn Tointon Family Stadium into a home field advantage yet again this year. The Wildcats, who are 7-3 at home over the first 10 games of 2013, have been difficult to defeat on their home turf over the last few years as they have won at least 20 home games in five of the last eight seasons. K-State is 92-36 (.719) at home over the last four-plus years, but the Wildcats are looking to right the ship when it comes to Big 12 play as they were just 3-9 in home conference games last year.
WEST VIRGINIA AT A GLANCE West Virginia enters its first ever Big 12 series with a 7-9 record under the guidance of new head coach Randy Mazey. The Mountaineers bounced back from a pair of 12-inning losses to Maine and Iowa in Port Charlotte, Fla., last weekend with an 8-7 victory at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Following this weekend's series and a midweek game at Marshall next weekend, WVU will host its first Big 12 series as it takes on Texas Tech in Charleston, W.Va.
Hitting .303 as a team, the Mountaineers are led by a pair of outfielders hitting over .400 in Bobby Boyd and Jacob Rice at .409 and .403, respectively. Boyd ranks sixth in the Big 12 in hitting while Rice ranks seventh. Boyd leads WVU with nine steals in 14 attempts, while Rice's six doubles are second on the team to Ryan McBroom's eight. Left fielder Matt Frazer, who is hitting .327, leads the squad and is tied for third in the conference three home runs, while his team-leading 16 RBI rank fourth in the Big 12. The junior is coming off a 4-for-5 game at Pittsburgh when he drove in five on two homers.
WVU is expected to start a pair of sophomore left-handers in Harrison Musgrave and John Means in the first game on Friday and on Saturday, respectively, while junior right-hander Corey Walter will start the second game of Friday's twin bill. Musgrave holds a 1-1 record and 5.79 ERA in four starts, allowing 15 earned runs over 23.1 innings with six walks and 11 strikeouts. The left-hander suffered the loss last Friday against Central Michigan in Port Charlotte, Fla., when he allowed four runs on seven hits in 5.1 innings. His win this season came at Wake Forest on Feb. 23 when he tossed eight innings, allowing two runs with no walks and four strikeouts.
Walter, who is 1-2 with a 4.02 ERA, picked up his first victory of the year last week against Bowling Green. The right-hander, who has allowed seven earned runs in 15.2 innings over three starts, lasted six innings against the Falcons and gave up just two runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Means appears to be the best of the three starting pitchers as he holds a 2-0 record and a 0.49 ERA in three starts. The left-hander has allowed just one earned run on 12 hits in 20.0 innings of work, while opponents are only hitting .179 off the sophomore. In last week's loss to Maine, Means took a no decision after surrendering an unearned run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts in eight innings of work.
Freshman right-hander Corey Hostrander leads the Mountaineer relievers with seven appearances, holding a 1-0 record and allowing two unearned runs in 10.1 innings. Pascal Paul, a junior right-hander, has two of West Virginia's three saves and holds a 1-3 record with a 4.50 ERA in 14 innings pitched.
THE WEST VIRGINIA SERIES This weekend's series against West Virginia marks the first on the diamond between K-State and the Mountaineers. It will be the first time since the Big 12's first year in 1997 that the Wildcats will face a first-time conference opponent. In 1997, the Wildcats began play against first-time league foes with a series win at Texas, while they won one of three against Texas A&M before being swept by both Texas Tech and Baylor.
THE FRIENDLY CONFINES After consecutive trips to South Carolina to open the season, K-State is in the middle of a 19-game homestand to begin the month of March. The 19-consecutive home games are tied for the second most in school history and are the most since 1982. During the long homestand, the Wildcats will face eight different opponents, including 21st-ranked Cal Poly last weekend, and a pair of Big Ten foes in Minnesota and Nebraska. Additionally, the homestand serves as the beginning of conference play as Kansas State hosts West Virginia in the Mountaineers' first ever Big 12 series this weekend.
THE NEED FOR SPEED After recording only seven stolen bases in the first six games, Kansas State has improved its running game since returning home by tallying 32 steals in the last 10 games, including a season-high seven in contests against Niagara on March 5 and 6. K-State, which entered the week ranked 11th nationally in steals per game at 2.5, ranks second in the Big 12 with its 39 total steals. Ross Kivett leads the way for the Wildcats with a Big 12-leading 11 stolen bases, including a pair of three-steal games against Cal Poly (March 9) and Northern Colorado (March 12).
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. Through the first 16 games of 2013, K-State is on pace for 136 steals during the regular season, which would rank third in school history. THE HITS KEEP ON COMING K-State is off to one of its better starts in the hit department, recording 173 in the first 16 games thanks to 12 contests with at least 10 hits. Of the 173 hits, 108 have come in the first 10 home games with the Wildcats hitting the 10-hit mark on all but two occasions. Kansas State currently ranks second in the Big 12 with a .312 batting average, a mark that has fallen since entering the week ranked 10th nationally at .321. YOUNG GUNS With 10 freshmen pitchers on the staff, it is imperative that younger arms step up for K-State during the 2013 season. So far, six freshmen hurlers in Landon Busch, Hayden Nixon, Jake Matthys, Levi MaVorhis, Blake McFadden and Josh Smith have found success. Out of the bullpen, the group has combined to go 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA while walking 13 and striking out 22. In addition, the group has allowed just 33 hits in 127 at-bats, good for a .260 opponent batting average.
WIVINIS GOES THE DISTANCE Sophomore Matt Wivinis pitched the best game of his young career last Saturday against No. 21 Cal Poly as he became the first Big 12 pitcher this year to toss a complete game against a ranked team. 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. Wivinis gave up four runs in the contest but only surrendered one after the second inning. After allowing a run in the second, Wivinis proceeded to retire 12-straight retired batters, while he faced the minimum from the end of the second inning until a one-out double in the seventh inning.
Wivinis did not issue a walk and gave away just one free pass - a hit-by-pitch to leadoff the game - while striking out five batters. Additionally, Wivinis 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. CONLON'S HOT START Sophomore Shane Conlon, who ranks third in the Big 12 with a .422 batting average, saw his 15-game hitting streak to begin the 2013 campaign come to an end on Wednesday. The streak was tied for the longest to start a season in the Brad Hill era, tying Carter Jurica (2010) for the top mark. It was also the second-longest active streak in the Big 12 during its time, while it was two games shy of entering the K-State top 10. The start by Conlon to the season is impressive considering he is hitting for the first time since 2011. Last season, Conlon was exclusively a pitcher before an injury cut his season short.
Conlon is a big reason why K-State has been able to knock off a pair of ranked opponents. Against No. 8 Kentucky on February 21, Conlon went 5-for-5 with a two-run homer. His five hits against a talented Kentucky pitching staff are the most in the Big 12 this year and the most by a Wildcat against a top-10 team since at least 1999. Last Saturday against No. 21 Cal Poly, Conlon was 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored hitting as the No. 3 man in the lineup for the first time in his career.
FISHER BECOMES STAPLE AT SHORT After a battle during the offseason, sophomore Austin Fisher has taken a hold of the starting job at shortstop with his play to begin the 2013 campaign. The Lenexa, Kan., product ranks fourth on the team in batting average at .327 with three doubles, two triples, one homer and 13 RBI. His RBI total is impressive as he has hit ninth in the batting order in 13 of the 16 games. In fact, Fisher held a streak of seven-straight games with a RBI from March 2 to March 8, which ranked fourth overall and was the top mark by a No. 9 hitter in the last 10 years. He has also continually delivered the big hit for the Wildcats, leading the team with six two-out RBI.