MANHATTAN, Kan. - Coming off a pair of midweek victories, Kansas State hosts Texas Tech in an important three-game Big 12 series, Friday through Sunday, at Tointon Family Stadium. The Wildcats are looking to win their third-straight series over the Red Raiders overall and their fifth in the last six series played in Manhattan. The three-game set begins with a 6:30 p.m., first pitch Friday night prior to a 2 p.m., contest on Saturday and a 1 p.m., tilt Sunday. All three games can be seen nationally on Fox College Sports as Brian Smoller (play-by-play) and Mike Clark (analyst) will have the call for K-StateHD.TV on Fox Sports. Friday's game can be heard across the K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson and Matt Walters calling the action, while the duo will broadcast the final two games on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN. Free live audio of the series is also available at www.k-statesports.com.
Plenty of exciting promotional activities surround this weekend's series as Friday's game serves as Pack the Park Night with $1 general admission bench tickets and hot dogs available (while supplies last) as well as postgame fireworks presented by the K-State Student Union Program Council. A pregame tailgate on the southwest lawn area of the stadium grounds will be held beginning 60 minutes prior to first pitch on both Friday and Saturday. Saturday's game is Junior Wildcat Day, while Sunday is a Family Day with four general admission bench tickets and four concession vouchers available for $30, as well as Bring Your Dog to the Park Day.
Fans can purchase tickets online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets, by phone at 1-800-221-CATS or at the Tointon Family Stadium box office beginning one hour prior to first pitch.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE Kansas State enters the weekend with a 20-10 overall record and a 3-3 mark in Big 12 play to sit in a three-way tie for fourth place in the league standings. Following a series loss last weekend at Baylor in which the Wildcats won the first game but dropped the final two, K-State was able to bounce back with a pair of midweek victories on Tuesday and Wednesday over Nebraska and Omaha, respectively. Highlighted by Tanner Witt's 5-for-5 performance, the Wildcats earned a 9-1 victory over the Huskers, while they held on for a 3-2 win over the Mavericks the next night as K-State forced UNO to leave the bases loaded in the ninth inning.
The Cats, who are receiving votes in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches' Top 25 for the second-straight week, continue to lead the Big 12 by a wide margin in several offensive statistics. K-State is hitting .322 as a team, 21 points better than second-place West Virginia, while the Wildcats are also atop of the conference in on-base percentage (.405), slugging percentage (.440), runs (195), hits (327), triples (15) and RBI (171).
Thanks to a 7-for-8 start to the week and a 13-for-19 mark over the last four games, Witt's batting average has risen 60 points since last Friday to its current average of .361. Witt recorded just the seventh five-plus hit game by a Wildcat under head coach Brad Hill, including the second this season. During the contest, Witt registered his third career home run, but his first since hitting homers in back-to-back games during his freshman season of 2010. Witt broke a 140-game, 473-at bat homerless drought.
Witt, who ranks eighth in the league in batting average, is one of a Big 12-leading three K-State hitters in the top 10. Ross Kivett, who is hitting .371, ranks fifth, while RJ Santigate's .351 batting average ranks ninth. In all, the Wildcats have 35 top-10 rankings in the Big 12 individual statistics when taking into account Witt's Big 12-leading six sacrifice flies and the 13 times Jon Davis has been hit by a pitch.
Kansas State will make a change to the starting rotation this weekend as left-hander Joe Flattery will start Friday followed by right-handers Matt Wivinis and Blake McFadden on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Flattery, a senior, has been a model of consistency over his last six starts, holding a 3.00 ERA during that span after allowing five earned runs in two innings in his first outing of the year. Wivinis held a four-game winning streak until suffering the loss last week at Baylor, but he is tied for the league lead with two complete games.
McFadden will make his first Big 12 start on Sunday after four midweek starts to begin his career. A highly-regarded recruit out of the state of Missouri, McFadden is coming off a win Tuesday night in a predetermined pitch-count start, while he was outstanding out of the bullpen at Baylor by tossing four quality innings. DID YOU KNOW • Kansas State is 11-5 this year in games where its opponent scores first. • The Wildcats are 10-5 in their last 15 home games against Texas Tech. • Kansas State leads the Big 12 in seven offensive categories, including batting average (.322), hits (327) and runs (195). • K-State entered the week ranked in the top 25 nationally in triples (9th), batting average (10th), hits (11th), on-base percentage (17th), steals (22nd) and slugging percentage (25th). • The Wildcats are receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches' Poll for a second-straight week. Last week's consideration was the first in any poll since prior to the 2012 season (Collegiate Baseball and NCBWA) and the first from the coaches since April 25, 2011.
AHEAD OF PACE Kansas State picked up win No. 20 Wednesday night against Omaha. The 20th win in game No. 30 is the quickest since 2010 when the Wildcats sat at 20-3 on March 30. Last season, K-State did not capture win No. 20 until its 47th game on May 4, which was also against Omaha. During K-State's last NCAA Regional run in 2011, win No. 20 was on April 17 at Nebraska in the Wildcats 34th game of the year. 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 16-5 at home over the first 21 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 101-38 (.727) 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. The Wildcats began home conference play on the right foot three weeks ago with a series win over West Virginia.
TEXAS TECH AT A GLANCE Guided by first-year head coach Tim Tadlock, Texas Tech enters the three-game set with a 17-14 overall record, including a 4-5 mark in Big 12 play. The Red Raiders have a completely different look from last year as 23 of the 33 players listed on their roster are new to the program.
After dropping the first two games of last weekend's series to TCU, 4-1 and 7-3, the Red Raiders battled back to salvage the final game of the series with an 8-7 win on Sunday. On Tuesday, TTU fell at New Mexico, 10-3.
Hitting .245 as a team, Texas Tech is paced offensively by freshman catcher Jarrard Poteete, who is hitting .264 with a team-leading seven doubles, one home run and 14 RBI. Right behind Poteete at .263 is sophomore infielder Bryant Burleson, while Jake Barrios and Devon Conley are tied for third at .261. Barrios leads the team with 23 RBI and is one of two Red Raiders with a team-high two home runs (Tim Proudfoot). Sophomore transfer Brett Bell, who is hitting .229, leads the Big 12 with 19 steals.
Texas Tech will start left-handers Dominic Moreno on Friday and Jonny Drozd on Saturday, while the Red Raiders have not announced a starter for Sunday’s contest. Moreno is 2-2 with a 3.69 ERA, allowing 13 runs on 35 hits in 31.2 innings. The sophomore transfer from Howard College has made six starts, but Friday will be his first start since March 22 at West Virginia when he suffered the loss after allowing two runs on seven hits in four innings. Drozd, a junior, is 3-2 with a 2.78 ERA in eight appearances, including five starts. The transfer from Grayson County CC took the loss last week against TCU, allowing four runs on eight hits in five innings.The Red Raiders' best pitcher, right-hander Trey Masek, holds a 3-0 record and has only allowed one earned run in 40 innings (0.22 ERA), but he has not thrown since March 16 at Texas.
Right-hander Jerad McCrummen leads the Texas Tech bullpen with 15 appearances and a 2.13 ERA. He has three of the eight Red Raider saves, tying with Johnathon Tripp for team-high honors. Left-hander Andre Wheeler is second on the team in appearances with 13 as he holds a 3-0 record and a 3.27 ERA.
THE TEXAS TECH SERIES Texas Tech holds a 28-21-1 record all-time against K-State, but the Wildcats hold the upper hand in Manhattan with an 11-10 mark. Additionally, K-State has taken six of the last seven meetings and 11 of the last 17 dating back to 2007. After salvaging the final game of the 2010 series, 10-6, K-State swept the three-game set in 2011 in Manhattan by scores of 2-1, 4-3 and 4-1. Last season, the Wildcats won the first two games, 7-5 and 5-1, en route to claiming the final spot in the Big 12 Championship and a program best six-game winning streak over Texas Tech. The Red Raiders captured the final game of last year's series, 8-2.
Junior Jared King has the best returning career batting average against Texas Tech at .381 thanks to a 5-for-12 mark with one double, a home run and three RBI in last year's series. Jon Davis went 6-for-12 with a double in 2012, while Blair DeBord went 3-for-7 with a home run and RJ Santigate collected three doubles. Joe Flattery propelled K-State into the Big 12 Championship by tossing a complete game in the second game of last year's series, allowing a run on six hits with five strikeouts. Nate Williams earned his K-State freshman record sixth save of the year in the first game last year.
HIT FACTORY After hitting only .281 as a team last season, K-State has been red hot at the plate through the first half of 2013. The Wildcats, who entered the week ranked 10th nationally in batting average, lead the Big 12 by 21 points thanks to 21 games with 10 or more hits. Kansas State's current batting average through the first 30 games is its highest mark since college baseball adopted BBCOR bats as the Wildcats were hitting .294 at this point last season and .265 through 30 games in 2011. 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 the week with only one player (Ross Kivett, 48th) ranked in the top 50 individually despite sitting in the top 10 as a team.
TWICE AS NICE Coming into the 2013 campaign with only five five-plus hit games under head coach Brad Hill, the Wildcats have tallied two this year to mark the first time in the last 10 years K-State has recorded more than one in a season. Shane Conlon went 5-for-5 with a home run and two RBI on February 21 against No. 8 Kentucky, while Tanner Witt had a career night at the plate Tuesday against Nebraska by going 5-for-5 with a double, a homer and four RBI.
After recording just four five-plus hit games in Hill's first eight seasons, K-State has had three in the last two years alone as former Wildcat Jake Brown tied the school record with six hits against Hartford last season. 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' 20 wins. Kansas State, which is 11-5 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). Since 2004, Kansas State has gone 115-156 (.424) when its opponent scores first, including a 63-66 (.488) mark since 2009. TRIPLING AT A TORRID PACE Thanks to four triples in four games last week, K-State has already registered a Big 12-leading 15 three-baggers this season and is on pace for 29 during the regular season, a mark that would rank third in school history. The 15 triples just over the halfway point of the year are the most at this point in the last 10 seasons, six more than the 2005 squad's nine. Also, the Cats entered the week ranked ninth nationally in triples.
Sophomore Austin Fisher, who tripled last Friday at Baylor, leads the team and is tied for second in the Big 12 with three. Shane Conlon, Tanner Witt, Jon Davis and Mitch Meyer each have two. Witt also tripled last Friday, while Davis hit a RBI triple in last Thursday's series opener. CLOSE CALLS After falling by 11 in the series opener to West Virginia, K-State was able to battle back and earn 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. THROWN INTO THE FIRE Right-handers Jake Matthys and Levi MaVorhis have been outstanding out of the bullpen for K-State through the first half of their freshmen seasons. Both hurlers are 3-0, while Matthys has two saves, and the duo has combined for a 2.80 ERA despite being inserted into games in pressure situations. MaVorhis and Matthys have inherited 21 runners between the two, allowing only four to score.
Matthys was an integral part to the Wildcats' series win over West Virginia as he tossed three perfect innings with six strikeouts. In the series finale, Matthys came into the game with a runner on third base and no outs in the eighth inning as K-State led, 4-3, and he recorded a short fly ball, a line out and a strikeout to preserve the one-run lead before a perfect ninth inning. MaVorhis came into last Thursday's game at Baylor in a similar situation as he faced runners on the corners and no outs in a 2-2 game before collecting two strikeouts and a ground out to keep the game tied.
FIVE WILDCATS START 2013 IN TRIPLE A With the professional baseball season beginning this week, five former Kansas State players have been assigned to their respective Triple A clubs. Pitcher Carlos Torres, who threw for Colorado last season, signed with the New York Met organization during the offseason and will begin the year pitching for the Las Vegas 51s. Torres played his senior campaign at K-State in 2004 and has seen time in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox. Infielder Jared Goedert, who was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2006, signed with Pittsburgh in the offseason and will begin 2013 in Indianapolis.
Infielders Carter Jurica (2008-10) and Nate Tenbrink (2006-08), as well as pitcher Evan Marshall (2009-11), will see their first-career action in Triple A. Jurica, a member of the San Francisco Giant organization, will play for the Fresno Grizzlies, which opened up its season against Tenbrink and the Tacoma Rainers, the Triple A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Marshall, a prospect in the Arizona Diamondback organization, will pitch for the Reno Aces.