MANHATTAN, Kan. - Winners of eight of its last nine, Kansas State continues an eight-game road trip with a 6:30 p.m., contest Tuesday night against Wichita State at Eck Stadium. The Wildcats are looking to win their first game in Wichita since 2010 and sweep the season series for the third time in the last five years. The game will be shown to a statewide audience as part of the Wichita State television package on Cox Communications’ Kansas 22 as well as MetroSports in the Kansas City area with Brian Petrotta and Shane Dennis calling the action. Listeners in the Manhattan area can hear the game on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller and Matt Walters on the call, while free live audio is available at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE Kansas State enters the midweek contest with a 26-11 record after winning two-of-three last weekend at Iowa. The Wildcats fell in the first contest, 6-1, on Friday but came back with a vengeance on Saturday with an 11-4 victory before winning the rubber match on Sunday, 5-3. The Wildcats finished the series hitting .358 (38-for-106) with 13 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases. Additionally, the bullpen was nearly untouchable as it finished with a 1.42 ERA by allowing two runs in 12.2 innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.
The Wildcats, who are receiving votes in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches’ Top 25 and the NCBWA poll, have taken over the top batting average mark nationally at .333, five points ahead of second-place Georgia State. The Wildcats, who also rank third nationally with 421 hits, lead the Big 12 in batting average by an amazing 38 points over second-place Oklahoma State. The Wildcats’ 421 hits are 51 more than any other team in the league, while they are the most nationally among BCS conference schools. In addition, K-State leads the Big 12 in nine offensive categories and ranks second in three other areas.
Kansas State boasts four of the top-10 hitters in the Big 12 as Ross Kivett is fifth at .384 and Blair DeBord is seventh at .374, while Jared King and Tanner Witt round out the top 10 at .361 and .358, respectively. In fact, all eight Wildcats that have started virtually every day are hitting .313 or better. A Wildcat also ranks in the top three of the Big 12 in nine of the other 11 offensive categories as Kansas State has totaled 42 individual top-10 rankings through play on Sunday.
First baseman Shane Conlon, who is hitting .333 on the season, leads the team with seven home runs, including one last weekend in Iowa City. Jon Davis is second on the team with five homers, while King hit his fourth of the year on Sunday as part of a 4-for-5 outing. Austin Fisher, who is hitting .313, leads the conference with 14 doubles, while King paces K-State with 28 RBI.
K-State is expected to start right-hander Jake Doller Tuesday night in Wichita. The senior holds a 2-2 record with a 2.27 ERA in nine outings, but he has been solid in six starts as he is 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in those contests. Doller, who gave up two runs in four innings last week against the Shockers, is in search of his first win in over a month when he gave up just one hit in seven innings against Northern Colorado on March 12. Walks have hurt the Lake Waukomis, Mo., product lately as he has 12 in his last four outings, including three in each of his last two starts. DID YOU KNOW • K-State is 15 games above .500 for the first time since finishing the 2010 season at 37-22. • The Wildcats can equal last year’s win total of 27 with a win Tuesday night. • Kansas State leads the Big 12 in nine offensive categories, including batting average (.333), hits (421) and runs (252). • The Wildcats’ .333 batting average at this point in the season is their highest in the Big 12 era (1997). The 2010 club, which finished third in school history in average, was hitting .329 at this point. The 2009 team, which set the school record for wins (43) was hitting .321. • Kansas State is 12-5 this year in games where its opponent scores first. • K-State’s five-run comeback win last Tuesday was the largest deficit overcome entering the eighth inning or later under head coach Brad Hill. • Freshman hurlers Jake Matthys and Levi MaVorhis are a combined 8-0 with two saves.
COMEBACK KIDS K-State registered a pair of walk-off wins during its recent six-game winning streak, both of which completed multi-run rallies. In the first game against Texas Tech, the Wildcats scored twice in the ninth on two-out RBI singles by Jon Davis and Austin Fisher to earn a 6-5 victory en route to a series sweep of the Red Raiders. However, last Tuesday’s comeback against Wichita State might have been the most impressive under head coach Brad Hill. The Wildcats trailed the Shockers, 6-1, entering the bottom of the eighth before scoring five in the inning to tie the game and winning on a passed ball in the ninth.
The five-run comeback victory was K-State’s highest entering its half of eighth inning or later since Hill’s first season of 2004. The previous record was a four-run rally against Oklahoma State on March 26, 2010. In that contest, the Wildcats trailed 11-7 entering the bottom of the eighth but scored seven times on their way to a 14-11 victory. The Cats also had three wins after trailing by three runs entering their half of the eighth inning.
NON-CON DOMINANCE Kansas State has continued its outstanding recent success in non-conference games this season as, thanks to an 20-8 mark against non-league competition, the Wildcats are currently 225-87 (.721) under head coach Brad Hill, including a 116-49 (.703) mark over the last four-plus seasons. In regular season non-conference games, the Cats have been even tougher as they are 214-71 (.751) over the last nine-plus years and 108-39 (.735) from 2009-13.
WICHITA STATE AT A GLANCE Coming off a weekend sweep of Bradley in Peoria, Ill., Wichita State holds a 21-16 overall record and a 7-2 mark in Missouri Valley Conference play. The Shockers shut out the Braves, 4-0, Friday before edging BU, 10-6, in 10 innings on Saturday. WSU completed the sweep with an 18-8 run-rule victory in eight innings on Sunday.
The Shockers, who collected 40 hits over the weekend, are now hitting .292 as a team and are led by junior outfielder Garrett Bayliff at .336. Another junior outfielder, Micah Green, has seen his average rise to .329 after going 8-for-14 last weekend against Bradley, including a four-hit, four-RBI performance in the series finale. Catcher Tyler Baker is right behind Green at .328 with 26 RBI, the second-best mark on the team. Sophomore Casey Gillaspie, who is hitting .325, leads the team in doubles (12), home runs (7) and RBI (27) as he holds a team-best .603 slugging percentage.
Wichita State is expected to start left-hander Kris Gardner Tuesday evening. Gardner holds a 1-4 record with a 4.80 ERA in six starts this season, allowing 16 runs on 37 hits in 30 innings with five walks and 10 strikeouts. The sophomore will be making his first appearance since April 6 against Indiana State when he allowed two runs on seven hits in four innings of an 11-4 Shocker victory. Gardner was unable to register the win as he lasted only the four innings despite being given a 5-2 lead.
The Shocker bullpen continues to be led by juniors Aaron LaBrie and Brandon Peterson, each of whom pitched against K-State last Tuesday. LaBrie, who suffered the loss against the Wildcats, is 2-1 with a 1.31 ERA and three saves, while Peterson is 1-0 with a 1.66 ERA and three saves.
THE WICHITA STATE SERIES Wichita State leads the all-time series, 51-32, after K-State snapped a three-game losing streak to the Shockers with last week’s 7-6 victory. The Cats, who have not won at Eck Stadium since 2010, are 13-30 against the Shockers in Wichita with five of those wins coming since 2005. With last week’s victory, K-State is looking for their seventh season sweep of WSU in series history, including their third in the last five years.
After being swept by Wichita State last year, K-State looked as if its losing streak to the Shockers would reach four games as Wichita State carried a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. However, the Wildcats were able to score five times in the frame to tie the contest and scored the game-winning run in the ninth on a two-out passed ball. The five-run come-from-behind victory was the largest under head coach Brad Hill entering the eighth inning or later. Blair DeBord and Jared King were both solid against the Shockers last week as each had three hits, while DeBord had two RBI and King had one. Freshman Jake Matthys, who was exposed to the rivalry for the first time in his career, earned the win with two innings of shutout relief.
HIT PARADE Kansas State is having one of its better years at the plate in terms of both batting average and total hits. The Wildcats lead the nation with a .333 batting average, five points better than second-place Georgia State. Even more impressive is the fact that the Wildcats do not have an individual ranked in the top 60 nationally as all eight of the Wildcats’ everyday starters are hitting between .313 and .384. Kansas State’s average is also an astonishing 38 points better than any other Big 12 team.
The Wildcats rank third nationally in hits with 421 and lead the Big 12 by 51 in that department. At its current run of 11.4 hits per game, Kansas State is on pace for 649 hits during the regular season, a mark that would rank fourth in school history. In 37 games this season, the Wildcats have reached the 10-hit mark on 27 occasions and sit just three shy of last year’s season total and two shy of the 2011 squad.
WHAT A SERIES K-State hit .417 in its three-game series against Texas Tech to produce one of its better offensive weekends in Big 12 play. The Wildcats registered 45 hits in the series, the second-highest in a three-game Big 12 series in school history and the most since 1997. The Wildcats, who topped out at 33 runs for the weekend, collected the fifth-most in a Big 12 series in program history. Three of Kansas State’s five highest-scoring Big 12 series have come within the last four years. Additionally, K-State registered 15 two-out RBI against the Red Raiders, the most in a Big 12 series under Brad Hill.
TRIPLING AT A TORRID PACE K-State has already registered a Big 12-leading 20 triples this season and is on pace for 31 during the regular season, a mark that would rank second in school history to the 1982 team (38). The 20 triples at this point in the season are by far the most under head coach Brad Hill, eight more than the 2009 team. Additionally, K-State has as many or more triples so far this year than 33 teams bating back to 1971.
BULLPEN STEPS UP Kansas State’s bullpen has been outstanding over the last 17 games in which the Wildcats have earned a 14-3 record. The K-State relievers are 7-1 with a 2.89 ERA during that stretch, allowing 23 earned runs over 71.2 innings while holding a stellar 53-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Leading the charge during that stretch is freshman Jake Matthys and a pair of juniors in Gerardo Esquivel and Jared Moore. Matthys has three of his five wins and one of his two saves during the last 17 games, holding a 0.79 ERA during that span. Esquivel has surrendered only one earned run in 8.2 innings over the last 17 games, while Moore is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA.
The bullpen was nearly untouchable last weekend at Iowa as it put together a 1.42 ERA by allowing only two runs on 14 hits in 12.2 innings while striking out seven without issuing a walk.
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 nearly half of the Wildcats’ 26 wins. Kansas State, which is 12-5 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 116-156 (.426) when its opponent scores first, including a 64-66 (.492) mark since 2009.
KING BEGINS TO HEAT UP Battling injuries through the first part of his junior campaign, outfielder Jared King has been one of K-State’s hottest hitters since the calendar turned to April. During that stretch in which K-State is 8-1, King is hitting .536 (15-for-28) with three doubles, one triple, two home runs and nine RBI. King, who missed one of those games due to an injury, holds a .929 slugging percentage and a .629 on-base percentage in his last eight games, while he is 6-for-7 in stolen-base attempts during that stretch.
King’s career day on Sunday at Iowa capped a 7-for-13 series as he tied his career high with four hits and drove in two runs on a fifth-inning homer. The Dublin, Ohio, product also set a career high with three stolen bases and finished his weekend perfect in five stolen-base attempts.
UNLIKELY HOME RUN LEADER Redshirt sophomore Shane Conlon entered the 2013 season with just nine hits to his credit, only one of which went for extra bases. After being used as both a first baseman and pitcher in 2011 and exclusively as a pitcher in 2012 before an injury cut his season short, no one would have expected the Naperville, Ill., product to lead Kansas State in home runs. But Conlon has proved his doubters wrong as he leads the team and is tied for third in the Big 12 with seven. Conlon, who has hit three home runs in the last six games, also ranks second in the Big 12 in total bases (76) and sixth in slugging percentage (.535).
Conlon leads a team that has 20 home runs this season, the highest mark through 37 games since the 2009 squad hit 33. This year’s team is on pace for 31 home runs during the regular season.
MATTHYS MUSCLES UP Freshman right-hander Jake Matthys has been nothing short of spectacular out of the Wildcat bullpen this season. The Spring Lake Park, Minn., product holds a 5-0 record and a 1.69 ERA with two saves in a team-high 16 appearances. His five victories are tied for the most by a K-State relief pitcher in the Big 12 era, while he is one of just two freshmen to accomplish the feat (Thomas Rooke, 2008). Matthys, who is two wins away from tying the Kansas State freshman record for wins, has surrendered earned runs in only two outings (March 8 vs. Cal Poly and March 30 at Baylor), while he has allowed just three of his 14 inherited runners to score.
Matthys and Levi MaVorhis have been K-State’s top two relief pitchers this year despite being true freshmen. The duo has combined for eight of K-State’s 26 wins as MaVorhis is 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 15 appearances.
FIVE WILDCATS START 2013 IN TRIPLE-A Five former Kansas State players began 2013 in Triple-A as veterans Carlos Torres (2004) and Jared Goedert (2005-06) are back at the highest minor-league level, while Carter Jurica (2008-10), Nate Tenbrink (2006-08) and Evan Marshall (2009-11) are seeing their first-career Triple-A action this season. Torres, who threw for the Colorado Rockies last season, signed with the New York Met organization during the offseason and has begun the year with a 0-1 record in two starts for the Las Vegas 51s. Goedert, who was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2006, signed with Pittsburgh in the offseason and is playing for Indianapolis, going 9-for-28 (.321) with five doubles, one home run and four RBI in his first nine games.
Jurica has begun the season on fire playing for the Fresno Grizzlies (San Francisco) as he enters play Monday hitting .375 (12-for-32) with five doubles, a home run and four RBI. Tenbrink, playing for the Tacoma Rainers (Seattle) is hitting .222 (8-for-36). Marshall, a relief pitcher for the Reno Aces (Arizona), is 0-1 with a save.