MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State will host its final non-conference weekend series of the 2013 season with a three-game set against Bethune-Cookman, Friday and Saturday, at Tointon Family Stadium. The series marks the first for the Wildcats against a program that has advanced to seven-straight NCAA Regionals. The weekend schedule has been adjusted due to expected precipitation throughout the weekend as the series will now begin with a doubleheader on Friday at 1 p.m., while the second game will begin approximately 40 minutes following the conclusion of game one. The teams will attempt to conclude the series at 2 p.m., on Saturday, but if that game is unable to be played, the series finale will be at 1 p.m., Sunday.
A pregame tailgate will be held in the southwest lawn area of the stadium grounds beginning at 12 p.m., on Friday and 1 p.m., on Saturday (weather permitting), while Saturday is a Team/Camper Day. Fans can order tickets online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets, by phone at 1-800-221-CATS or at the Tointon Family Stadium box office beginning 60 minutes prior to first pitch.
K-StateHD.TV will show all three games, while the first game of Friday’s doubleheader can be heard exclusively online at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com. SportsRadio 1350 KMAN will join the second game of Friday’s twin bill in progress following coverage of the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament game against La Salle. The entirety of Saturday’s game can be heard on KMAN.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE K-State, which is 13-8 on the year, is coming off a midweek series split against Minnesota. The Gophers used a pair of four-run innings - including the sixth inning in which all four runs were unearned - to take an 8-3 contest Tuesday evening. Minnesota looked to sweep the midweek series as it jumped ahead, 3-0, through the top of the fifth on Wednesday. The Wildcats then scored two runs in the bottom half before Shane Conlon tied the game in the seventh on his fourth home run of the year. K-State put a runner on third base in the bottom of the eighth before Ross Kivett delivered a RBI single to plate the go-ahead run, while Tanner Witt worked around a leadoff double in the ninth inning to pick up his fourth save of the year.
Kansas State, which ranks in the top four of the Big 12 in 11 offensive categories, is second in the league in batting average (.309), on-base percentage (.396) and slugging percentage (.436). Sophomore first baseman Shane Conlon continues to lead the team with a .380 batting average, one of six Wildcats hitting .300 or better. Conlon and junior outfielder Jon Davis are tied for the team lead and tied for second in the Big 12 with four home runs. Junior second baseman Ross Kivett, who is second on the team with a .351 batting average, leads the squad and ranks fourth in the Big 12 with seven doubles. Catcher Blair DeBord is currently the hottest Wildcat at the plate as he has raised his average 83 points over the last four games and is riding a three-game streak of multi-hit contests. The Manhattan product tied his career high with three hits, including a double, Wednesday against Minnesota.
The Wildcats will use their regular weekend rotation of right-hander Nate Williams in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader and left-hander Joe Flattery in game two. Righty Matt Wivinis, K-State’s best starting pitcher over the last two weeks, will start the series finale. Williams is looking to right the ship has he has worked 4.1 innings in each of his last two starts, both of which have resulted in losses. He began the year by allowing just three earned runs in his first 20 innings pitched, but he has allowed five earned runs against both No. 21 Cal Poly and West Virginia. Flattery has been consistent throughout the year and kept the Wildcats in the second game of last Friday’s doubleheader against the Mountaineers as he allowed just four runs despite giving up 11 hits.
Wivinis is coming off consecutive winning efforts against Cal Poly and West Virginia. Two weeks ago against the 21st-ranked Mustangs, Wivinis worked his first career complete game, spreading out four runs over his nine innings with no walks and five strikeouts. After giving up three runs in the first inning last week against WVU, Wivinis tossed six shutout frames and allowed just three hits over that span. DID YOU KNOW • Kansas State is 66-12 in non-conference home games since 2009. • The Wildcats are 7-4 this year in games where their opponent scores first. • Each of K-State’s last three wins have been decided by one run. • Kansas State entered the week ranked in the top 25 nationally in triples (8th; 11), batting average (18th; .313) and steals (18th; 40). • Jon Davis has reached base safely in each of the last 19 games despite recording a hit in only 11 of those contests. • Jake Matthys ranks second in the Big 12 among freshmen relievers in combined wins and saves (4). • Brad Hill became the second coach in program history to register 300 wins at K-State earlier this season. • Hill entered the 2013 season seventh in the nation among active coaches with a .692 career winning percentage.
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 seven of the Wildcats’ 13 wins. Kansas State, which is 7-4 in games where its opponent scores first, have already matched 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 when its opponent scores first just twice as the 2009 squad went 18-10 (.643) and the 2010 team was 13-13 (.500). In addition, the Wildcats are on pace for 19 regular-season wins when its opponent scores the game’s first run. CLOSE CALLS 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 games to take the series, while each of its last three victories have been decided by one run after a 4-3 win Wednesday against Minnesota. 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.
BETHUNE-COOKMAN AT A GLANCE Coming off a 6-2 midweek win at South Florida on Tuesday, Bethune-Cookman enters the weekend series one game above .500 at 12-11. The Wildcats have already played nine Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference games, holding a 6-3 mark in league play.
B-CU, which is hitting .254 as a team, is led by a pair of outfielders hitting over .300 in Josh Johnson and Eros Modena. Johnson is hitting .354 with three doubles and 10 RBI, while Modena has a team-high 29 hits, holding a .337 average with seven doubles, one triple and 12 RBI. Modena is also the team leader in steals with seven in 12 attempts. Junior infielder Matt Noble, who is hitting .256, leads the team in both doubles (9) and RBI (19), while he has one of the team’s four home runs. Another outfielder, David Lee, is only hitting .250 but has worked 18 walks and been hit by six pitches to hold a team-best .453 on-base percentage.
Bethune-Cookman is expected to start right-hander Montana Durapau and left-hander Ali Simpson in the first and second game of Friday’s doubleheader, respectively, while righty Scott Garner will take the mound in game three of the series. Durapau holds a 3-1 record and a 3.25 ERA, allowing 17 runs on 33 hits with 13 walks and 27 strikeouts in 44.1 innings. The junior has worked three complete games in his six starts, a mark that led the nation entering the week. Durapau will be looking to bounce back from his first loss of the season last week at North Carolina A&T in which he allowed nine runs on 11 hits in five innings.
Simpson is 1-3 with a 6.84 ERA in six appearances, including five starts. He picked up his first win of the season last week in a predetermined pitch-count start against NC A&T after allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and four walks in 4.1 innings. Garner is 2-2 with a 7.39 ERA in six starts with one complete game. In a no decision last week against the Aggies, Garner lasted five innings and allowed four runs (two earned) on nine hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
Senior right-hander Jordan Dailey is Bethune-Cookman’s top bullpen arm, entering the weekend with a 2-0 record and a 1.64 ERA with four saves. Dailey has seen action in 13 games, working 22 innings with a 20-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
THE BETHUNE-COOKMAN SERIES This weekend’s series marks the first on the diamond between K-State and B-CU, a program that has made 15 NCAA Regional appearances, including a current streak of seven-straight appearances. Kansas State holds a 7-1 record all-time against current members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, with all those games coming against Howard between 1998 and 2000. Additionally, the series will mark the first Big 12 team that Bethune-Cookman will face since dropping two games to Texas Tech in Lubbock three years ago.
THE FRIENDLY CONFINES After consecutive trips to South Carolina to open the season, K-State’s 19-game homestand to open the month of March is coming to a close. The 19-consecutive home games are tied for the second most in school history and are the most since 1982. During the homestand, the Wildcats faced four first-time opponents, including Big 12 newcomer West Virginia last weekend and Bethune-Cookman this weekend. The Wildcats will be back on the road for the first time since February 24, when they travel to Baylor for a three-game series next Thursday-Saturday.
TOUGH AGAINST NON-CON With 17 newcomers and 19-straight home games in the month of March, it is important for the Wildcats to get off to a quick start this season as 16 of their final 22 games are on the road. Fortunately for K-State, history is on its side as the Cats are currently 216-86 (.715) in non-conference games under head coach Brad Hill, including a 107-48 (.690) mark over the last four-plus seasons. In regular season non-conference games, the Cats have been even tougher as they are 205-70 (.745) over the last nine-plus years and 99-37 (.728) from 2009-13.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE Kansas State is looking to turn Tointon Family Stadium into a home field advantage yet again this year. The Wildcats, who are 10-5 at home over the first 15 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 95-38 (.714) at home over the last four-plus years, while its record is even more impressive in non-conference games as the Cats are 66-12 (.846) since 2009 in those contests. 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 35 steals in the last 15 games, including a season-high seven in contests against Niagara on March 5 and 6. K-State, which entered this week ranked 18th nationally in with 40 steals, currently ranks second in the Big 12 at 42. 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 a Big 12-leading 11 stolen bases, including a pair of three-steal games. THE HITS KEEP ON COMING K-State is off to one of its better starts in the hit department, recording 216 in the first 21 games thanks to 14 contests with at least 10 hits. Of the 216 hits, 151 have come in the first 15 home games with the Wildcats hitting the 10-hit mark on all but five occasions. Kansas State currently ranks second in the Big 12 with a .309 batting average, while it entered the week ranked 18th nationally. YOUNG TOUGHNESS Freshman right-hander Jake Matthys, who is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA and one save, has been one of the top Big 12 freshmen relief pitchers making an impact on the outcome of games as he has the second-most combined wins and saves (Oklahoma’s Jacob Evans has six by going 3-0 with three saves) in the league this season.
Matthys was an integral part to the Wildcats’ series win over West Virginia last weekend 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 Saturday’s rubber match, Matthys was called upon 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.
DAVIS DOING HIS JOB Senior outfielder Jon Davis has been a mainstay in the K-State lineup by starting all 21 games this season. The Juneau, Alaska, product is tied for the team lead and is tied for second in the Big 12 with four home runs, but the fact that he has consistently reached base is the reason why he stays in the lineup. Davis has reached base in 20 of the team’s 21 games this season and is currently riding a team-best 19-game streak of reaching base safely. His current streak includes only 11 games with a hit as he has worked 10 walks and been hit by 10 pitches during that span. He already sits just two away from entering the school’s top-10 for hit-by-pitch in a season, while his career total of 23 is tied for ninth.
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 last year came in the Big 12 Championship in May. 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, who are tied for second in the Big 12 in home runs, also rank third and ninth in the league in slugging percentage, respectively.
SOLID STARTS BY WIVINIS Sophomore Matt Wivinis has put together outstanding performances over his last two starts. 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 last week as K-State clinched its Big 12 opening series. Wivinis allowed three early runs again, but followed that with six shutout innings and allowed only three hits during that span.