GAME PROMOTIONS Pregame Tailgate; Team/Camper Night
SERIES INFORMATION NEBRASKA at K-STATE Overall: Nebraska leads, 166-106 In Manhattan: Nebraska leads, 75-67 Last Season: Nebraska swept a three-game series, 9-6 (March 6), 6-3 (March 27) and 6-0 (April 3)
COACHES K-STATE:Brad Hill Alma Mater: Emporia State Career Record: 727-323-3 (19th season) Record at K-State: 309-232-3 (10th season)
NEBRASKA: Darin Erstad Alma Mater: Nebraska Career Record: 43-37 (2nd season) Record at Nebraska: Same
TV INFORMATION Fox College Sports Brian Smoller (pxp) and Mike Clark (color) K-State Gameday begins at 6 p.m., on K-StateHD.TV with Chris Powell and former All-American Craig Wilson
RADIO INFORMATION SportsRadio 1350 KMAN Matt Walters and Wyatt Thompson
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Winners of six of its last seven, Kansas State concludes its season-long 19-game homestand Tuesday night with a 6:30 p.m., contest against former Big 12 foe Nebraska at Tointon Family Stadium. The Wildcats are looking to snap a four-game losing streak to the Huskers and enter their second Big 12 series of the 2013 campaign on a winning note. Tuesday’s game will be shown to a national audience as K-StateHD.TV on Fox Sports will air the game on Fox College Sports with Brian Smoller handling play-by-play duties and former K-State head coach Mike Clark offering analysis. Additionally, K-State Gameday - a pregame show hosted by Chris Powell and former Wildcat All-American Craig Wilson, will air on K-StateHD.TV beginning at 6 p.m. Listeners in the Manhattan area can hear the game on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Matt Walters and Wyatt Thompson on the call. Free live audio is also available online at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
A pregame tailgate featuring multiple food and beverage items will be held in the southwest lawn area of the stadium grounds beginning at 5:30 p.m., while the contest also serves as Social Media Night. Fans can purchase tickets 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 at 5:30 p.m.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE Sitting at 16-8, Kansas State enters an important week of competition riding high both offensively and on the mound. The Wildcats swept a three-game series from perennial NCAA Regional participant Bethune-Cookman by averaging nine runs on 12.7 hits in the three-game set while holding B-CU to only five total runs on 12 hits. Following the weekend sweep and a four-win week, Kansas State is receiving votes in this week’s USA TODAY Sports Coaches’ Top 25 for the first time since April 25, 2011.
The Wildcats enter the week ranked in the top four of the Big 12 in 14 offensive categories, including top marks in batting average (.319), on-base percentage (.407) and triples (11), and second-place rankings in slugging percentage (.442), hits (254), fewest strikeouts (125) and steals (51). K-State has eight regular starters hitting above .300, the most through the first 24 games of a season since 2010. Junior second baseman Ross Kivett paces the squad and ranks sixth in the Big 12 with a .378 average, thanks to a 16-for-34 (.471) mark over the last nine games to raise his batting average 57 points. The Broadview Heights, Ohio, product also ranks second in the conference in steals (13), fourth in hits (34), fifth in both runs scored (21) and doubles (8), and sixth in on-base percentage (.467).
Right behind Kivett with a .375 average is first baseman Shane Conlon. The sophomore is tied for the team lead with four home runs and is second in steals (9) and third in RBI (14). Senior Tanner Witt earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors after going 8-for-16 with a double and six RBI, including four sacrifice flies, last week. Juniors Blair DeBord and RJ Santigate have also found recent success as DeBord has four multi-hit games in his last six contests, while Santigate had six hits against Bethune-Cookman and leads the team with 18 RBI this season.
For a fourth-straight week, senior right-hander Jake Doller will start a Tuesday contest on the mound for K-State. Doller, who made 52 career relief appearances prior to his first-career start on March 5 against Niagara, is 2-1 as a starting pitcher and has not allowed an earned runs over his previous 19 innings pitched. His best start came two weeks ago against Northern Colorado when he surrendered only one hit and one walk over seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts. The Lake Waukomis, Mo., product is looking to bounce back from a loss last week against Minnesota when he allowed four unearned runs in the sixth inning to suffer his first loss of the season.
The entire K-State bullpen should be available as only one reliever, freshman left-hander Landon Busch, pitched last weekend. Jake Matthys leads a bevy of freshmen relievers as he is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA and one save. The right-hander has given the Wildcats seven scoreless outings in his eight appearances, while limiting opponents to only four hits over those games. Since giving up three runs on four hits to No. 21 Cal Poly on March 8, Matthys has picked up two wins and a save in four scoreless frames over his last three appearances. DID YOU KNOW • Kansas State is 69-12 in non-conference home games since 2009. • The Wildcats are 8-4 this year in games where their opponent scores first. • Kansas State ranks in the top four of the Big 12 in 14 offensive categories, including first- or second-place marks in seven areas. • K-State entered last week ranked in the top 25 nationally in triples (8th; 11), batting average (18th; .313) and steals (18th; 40). • 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. • Jake Doller is riding a streak of 19-straight innings without allowing an earned run. • 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.
TOUGH AGAINST NON-CON With 17 newcomers and 19-straight home games in the month of March, it has been important for the Wildcats to get off to a quick start as 16 of their final 22 games are on the road. Fortunately for K-State, the Wildcats have continued their outstanding recent success in non-conference games as they are currently 219-86 (.718) under head coach Brad Hill, including a 110-48 (.696) mark over the last four-plus seasons. In regular season non-conference games, the Cats have been even tougher as they are 208-70 (.748) over the last nine-plus years and 102-37 (.745) 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 13-5 at home over the first 18 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 98-38 (.721) at home over the last four-plus years, while its record is even more impressive in non-conference games as the Cats are 69-12 (.852) since 2009 in those contests.
NEBRASKA AT A GLANCE As Kansas State concludes its 19-game homestand, Tuesday’s game serves as the final of 12-straight road games for Nebraska. The Huskers, who enter the game with an 8-14 record, are riding high after winning two-of-three at Illinois last weekend. NU’s season record could be misconceiving as it has already played 10 games against ranked foes, going 1-9. Three of those losses came against another Big 12 team in Texas as the Huskers were swept in Austin, Texas, by scores of 8-2, 4-3 and 2-0. Nebraska will also take on another former league mate in Oklahoma State in a doubleheader on April 27 as part of the TD Ameritrade Classic in Omaha, Neb.
Although the record may not indicate so, the Huskers’ have been competitive against ranked competition as five of their losses have been one- or two-run defeats.
Hitting .251 as a team, Nebraska is led by three regular starters hitting over .300 in senior Chad Christensen and sophomores Pat Kelly and Austin Darby. Christensen, an outfielder, is hitting .366 with a team-leading two home runs and 10 RBI. He also paces the squad in triples (2), steals (7), slugging percentage (.524) and on-base percentage (.430). Kelly sits at .318 with three doubles and nine RBI, while Darby is at .306 with two doubles, one triple, a homer and 12 RBI. Senior Josh Scheffert leads the squad in doubles with four and RBI with 14.
Nebraska is expected to start right-hander Tyler Niederklein on Tuesday. The senior will be making his first start and fourth appearance of the year as he holds an 11.25 ERA, allowing five runs on four hits with six walks in four innings. Niederklein is no stranger to K-State as he has pitched four times against the Cats, including one start. The Omaha, Neb., product holds a 2.19 career ERA against K-State and has struck out seven. Last year, he worked out of the bullpen in two contests, allowing a run on five hits with three walks and a strikeout in 4.2 innings.
Senior right-hander Dylan Vogt is the top bullpen arm for the Huskers as he is 1-2 with a 2.08 ERA and four saves in 11 outings. The Omaha, Neb., product has surrendered only four runs despite giving up 16 hits and seven walks in 17.1 innings.
THE NEBRASKA SERIES Nebraska holds a 166-106 all-time record against K-State, including a 3-1 mark in non-conference play over the last two years and a 75-67 mark in Manhattan. The Wildcats will be looking to win their first game against the Huskers since April 17, 2011, a 3-2 victory in Lincoln, while K-State has not defeated Nebraska at Tointon Family Stadium since a 6-5 non-conference win on March 16, 2011. Last season, the Wildcats dropped a pair of three-run games in Lincoln by scores of 9-6 on March 6 and 6-3 on March 27. A week later, Nebraska shutout K-State, 6-0, in Manhattan.
Catcher Blair DeBord holds a career .409 (9-for-22) batting average against Nebraska with two doubles and four RBI. Two of DeBord’s hits against the Huskers have come against Tuesday’s starting pitcher, Tyler Niederklein. Senior Tanner Witt is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with two RBI against NU, while junior Ross Kivett is .280 (7-for-25) with two RBI. K-State’s starting pitcher on Tuesday, Jake Doller, is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in four relief appearances against Nebraska, allowing one run on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts in seven innings.
THE FRIENDLY CONFINES Tuesday’s contest against Nebraska marks the final game of a season-long 19-game homestand to open the month of March. The 19-consecutive home games are tied for the second most in school history and are the most since 1982. That season, K-State went 20-6-1 (.759) in a 27-game homestand, while the Wildcats are 13-5 (.722) during the current string of home games. During the homestand, the Wildcats faced four first-time opponents, including Big 12 newcomer West Virginia (2-1) and Bethune-Cookman (3-0). 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, Thursday-Saturday.
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 half of the Wildcats’ 16 wins. Kansas State, which is 8-4 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 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 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.
DOLLER HAS BEEN MONEY Senior Jake Doller, who had 52 career relief appearances under his belt, has started each of the last three Tuesday games for K-State and been nothing short of spectacular. The right-hander has gone 2-1, surrendering five unearned run with three walks and 18 strikeouts. Additionally, Doller has allowed just 10 hits in 64 at-bats, good for a .156 opponent batting average. The Lake Waukomis, Mo., product is currently riding a streak of 19-straight innings without allowing an earned run.
Doller will be looking to shake off a tough-luck loss last week against Minnesota. The right-hander was cruising until a two-out error in the sixth inning opened the door for four unearned runs as K-State lost, 8-3.
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 44 steals in the last 18 games, including a season-high seven in two contests against Niagara (March 5 and 6). K-State, which entered last week ranked 18th 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.
THROWN INTO THE FIRE Freshman right-hander Jake Matthys, who is 3-0 with a 2.45 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.
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 late last year in the Big 12 Championship. 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 third in the Big 12 in home runs, also rank third and ninth in the league in slugging percentage, respectively.
KING HEATING UP Following an injury that sidelined him for a week, junior outfielder Jared King has begun to catch fire over the last eight games with four 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. Since the injury pulled him from the lineup on March 8, King has raised his average 45 points to a current .316 mark.