SERIES INFORMATION Overall: Oklahoma State leads, 153-57 In Stillwater: Oklahoma State leads, 89-14 Last Season: Oklahoma State swept regular-season series, 5-0, 13-3 and 9-5, April 27-29, in Manhattan, Kan. K-State won, 11-5, at Big 12 Championship, May 24, in Oklahoma City, Okla.
COACHES K-STATE:Brad Hill Alma Mater: Emporia State, '84 Career Record: 738-326-3 (19th season) Record at K-State: 320-235-3 (10th season)
OKLAHOMA STATE: Josh Holliday Alma Mater: Oklahoma State, '04 Career Record: 25-10 (1st season) Record at OSU: Same
TV INFORMATION Fox College Sports (Sunday) Daron Sutton and Preston Wilson
RADIO INFORMATION SportsRadio 1350 KMAN Matt Walters and Ryan Lackey
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State will travel to face a Big 12 foe for the second time this year as the Wildcats take on Oklahoma State, Friday through Sunday, at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium in Stillwater, Okla. K-State, which has won 15 of its last 18 games, is looking to win its first regular-season contest against the Cowboys since a series sweep in 2010. The three-game set begins with a 7 p.m., contest Friday night and continues Saturday with a 3 p.m., first pitch. Sunday’s game starts at 1 p.m., and will be televised by Fox College Sports with Daron Sutton and former Major Leaguer Preston Wilson on the call. The entire series can be heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Matt Walters and Ryan Lackey calling the action, while free live audio is also available online at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE Sitting at 27-11 following a 4-1 victory Tuesday night at Wichita State, Kansas State returns to Big 12 play for the first time since sweeping Texas Tech in Manhattan two weeks ago. The Wildcats, who have won nine of their last 10, received a three-run homer from Jared King in the first inning Tuesday night and used stellar pitching performances from a group of four hurlers to limit the Shockers to only one run on two hits.
K-State, which is receiving votes in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches’ Top 25 and the NCBWA poll, continues to swing a hot bat as the Wildcats enter the weekend with the nation’s top batting-average at .333, a mark that leads the Big by 39 points. K-State, which also ranks third nationally with 434 hits, is the only Big 12 team with more than 400 base hits as the Wildcats have 56 more than the team in second place. In addition, K-State leads the Big 12 in seven other team offensive categories and ranks second in three areas. However, Kansas State has had trouble leaving men on base, averaging 8.6 per game.
Although it ranks seventh in the Big 12 in ERA at 3.76, the K-State pitching staff has been effective, especially the bullpen. In the last 10 games, the Wildcat hurlers have compiled a 2.76 ERA and limited opponents to a .235 batting average. The bullpen has led the charge as Wildcat relievers have a 1.58 ERA and yielded a .237 batting average during that span.
All eight of the K-State regular starters are hitting .322 or better, including four that rank in the top 10 of the Big 12. Ross Kivett ranks sixth in the conference at .384, while Blair DeBord is seventh at .370. Jared King and Jon Davis round out the top 10 at .357 and .355, respectively. A Wildcat also ranks in the top three of the Big 12 in 10 of the other 11 offensive categories as Kansas State has totaled 45 individual top-10 rankings through play on Wednesday.
Kansas State is expected to stay with the rotation of left-hander Joe Flattery on Friday and right-handers Matt Wivinis and Blake McFadden on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Flattery, a senior who is 2-3 with a 4.68 ERA, will be looking for his first win since a complete game against Bethune-Cookman on March 22. Flattery took a no decision at Baylor despite allowing only one earned run in five innings, while he allowed four runs in 4.2 innings against Texas Tech. Wivinis, who holds a 5-1 record and a 4.64 ERA, is trying to get back on track following last weekend’s outing at Iowa in which he was given a 7-0 lead but allowed four runs and was lifted after two batters in the fourth inning.
McFadden, a freshman, has been outstanding in his first two weekend starts as he won both contests, including a career-long six-inning effort with a career-best five strikeouts last weekend. The weekend prior in his first-career Big 12 start, McFadden allowed only one run on five hits in five innings. In 10 outings this year, including six starts, McFadden is 4-1 with a 3.71 ERA. DID YOU KNOW • K-State is 16 games above .500 for the first time since a win at the 2010 NCAA Regional put the Wildcats at 37-21. • The Wildcats’ win on Tuesday night put the program record at an even .500 (1,687-1,687-10). The last time the Wildcats were .500 or better in program history was April 11, 1992, at 1,096-1,096-7. • Kansas State leads the Big 12 in nine offensive categories, including batting average (.333), hits (434) and runs (256). • 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 .332 at this point. The 2009 team, which set the school record for wins (43) was hitting .321. • Freshman hurlers Jake Matthys and Levi MaVorhis are a combined 8-0 with three saves.
GOOD STRETCH OF BASEBALL Kansas State is playing its best baseball in some time as the Wildcats are in a groove both at the plate and on the mound. During the first 20 games of the year in which K-State went 12-8, Kansas State hit .310, scored 6.3 runs per game and held a 4.11 team ERA. During that stretch, the Wildcat bullpen held a 3-1 record despite a somewhat inflated 4.87 ERA.
Fast forward 18 games later as K-State has won 15-of-18 thanks in part to a batting average that is 46 points higher (.356), a runs-per-game average that is a full run better (7.3) and a much lower ERA (3.38). The team ERA during the last 18 games has been helped out in large part by the bullpen, which holds an 8-1 record and a 2.78 ERA. AHEAD OF THE CURVE K-State holds a 6-3 mark in Big 12 play through three series to sit second in the conference behind league-leader Oklahoma. The Wildcats, who equaled last year’s season total for wins on Tuesday night at Wichita State, have the chance to equal and even surpass last year’s Big 12 win total of seven this weekend. In fact, K-State’s 6-3 start to Big 12 play is better than the 2-7 record the 2011 squad put together through nine conference games before going to a NCAA Regional. Last year, the Cats were 3-6 in their first nine conference games.
Something K-State will need to do this year is learn to win on the road in Big 12 play as the Cats won just four of their 12 league road games last year. K-State lost its only road Big 12 series to this point (Baylor) and has conference road trips to Texas and Kansas remaining in 2013.
OKLAHOMA STATE AT A GLANCE After dropping two-of-three last week at TCU to fall to 5-6 in Big 12 play, Oklahoma State received a much-needed boost Tuesday night with a quality 6-4 road win at Missouri State. The victory pushed the Cowboy record to 25-10 on the year and snapped a stretch in which OSU had dropped four of its previous seven games.
Hitting .294 as a team to rank second in the Big 12, Oklahoma State is led at the plate by junior first baseman Tanner Krietemeier’s .358 average. A transfer from Iowa Western CC, Krietemeier has 10 doubles, one triple, three home runs and a team-leading 30 RBI. His RBI total ranks fourth in the Big 12. Freshman infielder Donnie Walton, the son of pitching coach Rob Walton, is second on the team at .320 with five doubles and 11 RBI. Outfielder Zach Fish, who is hitting .300, leads the squad in doubles (12) and home runs (5). Senior Randy McCurry, who also pitches, is also hitting above .300 at .318.
Oklahoma State is slated to start a pair of right-handers in Jason Hursh and Mark Robinette on Friday and Saturday, respectively, while left-hander Tyler Nurdin will take the mound Sunday. A sophomore, Hursh holds a 3-3 record and a 2.63 ERA, allowing 18 earned runs on 55 hits in 61.2 innings with 15 walks and 49 strikeouts. Hursh, who has started all nine games he has pitched in this year, suffered a tough-luck loss last Friday at TCU when he allowed just two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings of work as OSU was blanked, 2-0.
A transfer from Northeast Texas CC, Robinette will be making his 11th appearance and seventh start Saturday afternoon. The junior holds a 3.31 ERA in 32.2 innings. By pitching five innings and allowing only one run with seven strikeouts last Saturday against the Horned Frogs, Robinette improved his record to a perfect 3-0. Nurdin, another community-college transfer, will be making his eighth start of the year Sunday as he holds a 0-1 record despite an ERA that ranks in the top-10 of the Big 12 at 1.96. The sophomore has surrendered only eight earned runs in 36.2 innings and holds a 37-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The Oklahoma State bullpen is anchored by right-handed junior Vince Wheeland, who is 7-0 with a 1.80 ERA. The California product has allowed only 10 earned runs in 50.0 innings and has struck out 48 batters. Junior Brendan McCurry, the younger brother of Randy McCurry, leads the team with six saves and holds a 3-2 record with a 2.30 ERA.
THE OKLAHOMA STATE SERIES Oklahoma State leads the all-time series against the Wildcats, 57-153, including an 89-14 mark in Stillwater. Thanks to last year’s regular-season sweep, the Cowboys hold a 29-15 edge in the series since Big 12 play began in 1997, while the Wildcats will be looking to win their first regular-season matchup against OSU since sweeping the 2010 series. OSU swept the last meeting in Stillwater during the 2011 season with wins of 9-2 and 8-2 before the finale was rained out. The Wildcats have not won at Reynolds Stadium since sweeping a doubleheader on May 1, 2009, by scores of 5-3 and 3-2.
Last year, OSU swept a three-game set in Manhattan by counts of 5-0, 13-3 and 9-5. However, it was a different script when K-State and Oklahoma State met in an elimination game at the Big 12 Championship on May 24 as K-State won an 11-5 contest to advance in the tournament. Ross Kivett is K-State’s top returning hitter against the Cowboys as he went 8-for-19 with a double, two triples and two RBI in four games last year. Friday’s starting pitcher Joe Flattery will be looking to right the ship against OSU as he allowed seven runs in eight innings over two starts last year, suffering a loss during the regular season.
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 entering the weekend with a .333 batting average, three points better than second-place Delaware. Even more impressive is the fact that the Wildcats do not have an individual ranked in the top 85 nationally as all eight of the Wildcats’ everyday starters are hitting between .322 and .371. Kansas State’s average is also an astonishing 39 points better than any other Big 12 team.
The Wildcats rank third nationally in hits entering the weekend at 434 and lead the Big 12 by 56 in that department. At its current run of 11.4 hits per game, Kansas State is on pace for 649 during the regular season, a mark that would rank fourth in school history. In 38 games this season, the Wildcats have reached the 10-hit mark on 28 occasions and sit just two shy of last year’s season total.
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. BULLPEN STEPS UP Kansas State’s bullpen has been outstanding over the last 18 games in which the Wildcats have earned a 15-3 record. The K-State relievers are 8-1 with a 2.78 ERA during that stretch, allowing 24 earned runs over 77.2 innings while holding a stellar 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (56 strikeouts, 17 walks). 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 two of his three saves during the last 18 games, holding a 0.73 ERA during that span. Esquivel has surrendered only two earned runs in 11 innings, 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. TRIPLING AT A TORRID PACE K-State has already hit a Big 12-leading 20 triples this season and is on pace for 30 during the regular season, a mark that would tie for second in school history behind 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. Four Wildcats - Tanner Witt, Jon Davis, Austin Fisher and Mitch Meyer - lead the team and are tied for third in the Big 12 with three triples apiece. Jared King is second on the squad with two, while four other Wildcats have tripled once this season. KING HEATING 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 9-1, King is hitting .500 (16-for-32) with three doubles, one triple, three home runs and 12 RBI. King, who missed one of those games due to an injury, holds a .938 slugging percentage and a .600 on-base percentage in his last nine games, while he is 6-for-7 in stolen-base attempts during that stretch.
King’s career day last 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. On Tuesday, King hit his second home run in as many games, a three-run shot in the first inning, becoming the second Wildcat in the last 10 days to homer in consecutive games (Shane Conlon). 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 ranks third in the Big 12 with seven. Conlon, who has hit three home runs in the last seven games, also ranks second in the Big 12 in total bases (78) and seventh in slugging percentage (.531). Conlon leads a team that has 21 home runs this season, the highest mark through 38 games since the 2009 squad hit 33. This year’s team is on pace for 30 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 1.61 ERA with three saves in a team-high 17 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 overall Kansas State freshman record for wins, has surrendered 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 27 wins as MaVorhis is 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 15 appearances.
FIVE FORMER 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. Torres, who threw for the Colorado Rockies last season, signed with the New York Mets during the offseason and has begun the year with a 0-1 record in three 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-39 (.231) with five doubles, one home run and four RBI in his first 12 games.
Jurica has begun the season on fire playing for the Fresno Grizzlies (San Francisco) as he enters play Thursday hitting .386 (17-for-44) with six doubles, a home run and five RBI. Playing for the Tacoma Rainers (Seattle), Tenbrink is hitting .196 (9-for-46), while Marshall, a relief pitcher for the Reno Aces (Arizona), is 1-1 with a save.