MANHATTAN, Kan. - Following an eight-game road swing, Kansas State returns home for the first time in nearly three weeks as the Wildcats host Big 12 newcomer TCU, Friday through Sunday, at Tointon Family Stadium. This weekend's series serves as the first meeting between the two programs since 1987, while it is the first of two remaining home series in 2013. The weekend set gets underway Friday night with a 6:30 p.m., contest, while Saturday's game is slated for 4 p.m., following the Purple/White Spring Game. The series concludes Sunday with an 11 a.m., first pitch.
The series opener on Friday can be seen exclusively on K-StateHD.TV and heard across the K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson, Matt Walters and Brian Smoller on the call. Saturday's game will be shown state-wide on Cox Communications' Kansas 22 and in the Kansas City area on MetroSports, while the finale will be shown nationally on Fox College Sports. Smoller will be joined by former K-State coach Mike Clark on the television broadcasts. The final two games of the series can be heard on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN, while free live audio of the entire series is available online at www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com
MULTIPLE PROMOTIONS ON TAP THIS WEEKEND In addition to regular promotions, K-State Athletics has announced a change to its concessions menu at Tointon Family Stadium as it will introduce a test program of beer sales at this season's remaining Wildcat baseball games. Budweiser, Coors, Miller and Tallgrass Ale products will be available for purchase at the main concessions stands and the tailgate area in the grassy area near the main entrance of the stadium from the time gates open through the end of the sixth inning. Fans ages 21 and over must present their ID to make a purchase. Fans may consume their purchased product in all of the stadium's seating areas and are encouraged to drink responsibly. Any fan exhibiting unruly or disruptive behavior will be subject to ejection and appropriate legal action.
Friday night is Military Appreciation Night as several exciting pregame festivities will take place, and those with a valid military ID can purchase $3 general admission bench tickets. The same discounted tickets are available to season ticket holders on Saturday, while a pregame tailgate will be held 60 minutes prior to first pitch on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday is a Family Day as fans can purchase a Wildcat 4 Pack that includes four general admission bench tickets and four concession vouchers for $30, while all kids can run the bases after the game.
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 60 minutes prior to first pitch.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE Kansas State, which enters the weekend series with a 29-13 overall record and a 7-5 mark in Big 12 play, is coming off a wild victory Wednesday night at Nebraska. The Wildcats jumped out to an 8-1 lead after scoring five times in the second inning, but the Huskers responded with eight unanswered runs to take a 9-8 lead. With momentum clearly on the side of Nebraska, K-State was able to swing back with five-straight runs and the bullpen did its job late as K-State earned a season sweep of NU with a 13-10 victory.
The Wildcats, who continue to receive votes in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches' Top 25 and the NCBWA polls, are still the national leader in batting average with a .333 mark, while K-State is third in hits at 483. K-State, which leads the Big 12 in seven offensive categories, pace the league in average by 38 points and hits by 68 hits.
K-State's batting average is high due to the fact that each of the eight regular starters in the lineup are hitting between .329 and .365. Five Wildcats rank in the top-10 of the Big 12 as Tanner Witt is fifth (.365), Jared King is sixth (.364), Ross Kivett is seventh (.361), Blair DeBord is eighth (.361) and Jon Davis is 10th (.350). The Wildcats also hold a league-best .340 batting average in conference play and have the top five individual hitters.
Kansas State will make one change to its rotation this weekend as freshman right-hander Levi MaVorhis will earn his first-career start, while right-handers Matt Wivinis and Blake McFadden will thrown on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. MaVorhis, who is 3-0 with a 3.58 ERA in 16 appearances, is making the start due to the fact that he has walked only five batters in 27.2 innings this year, three of which came in his first-career outing. Wivinis, who is 5-1 with a 4.74 ERA, is looking to rebound from two-straight starts in which he has not lasted five innings, including last week at Oklahoma State when the sophomore allowed five runs (three earned) in 4.2 innings. McFadden, another freshman, has been one of the more consistent starters as of late, lasting at least five innings in his first two weekend starts - which resulted in wins - and battling for 4.2 innings last week at Oklahoma State when he allowed two runs on four hits with three strikeouts in a game K-State eventually won, 3-2. DID YOU KNOW Kansas State leads the Big 12 in seven offensive categories, including batting average (.333), hits (483) and runs (280). The Wildcats' win on Wednesday night put the program record at an even .500 (1,689-1,689-10). A win Friday night or a series win will put the program above .500 for the first time since April 10, 1992. The Wildcats' .333 batting average at this point in the season is their second-highest by a Brad Hill-coached team. The 2010 club, which finished third in school history in average, was hitting .338 through 42 games. Jared King is in the midst of a career-long 15-game hitting streak, the longest active streak in the Big 12. Freshman hurlers Jake Matthys and Levi MaVorhis are a combined 9-0 with three saves.
GOOD STRETCH OF BASEBALL K-State is playing perhaps 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, the Cats hit .310, scored 6.3 runs per game and held a 4.11 team ERA. During that stretch, the bullpen held a 3-1 record despite a somewhat high 4.87 ERA.
Fast forward 22 games later as K-State has gone 17-5 thanks in part to a batting average that is 42 points higher (.352), a runs-per-game average that is over a half run better (7.0) and a lower ERA (3.85). The team ERA during the last 22 games has been helped out in large part by the bullpen, which holds a 10-2 record and a 3.21 ERA over that stretch. TCU AT A GLANCE TCU enters the weekend set with a 19-21 overall record and a 7-8 mark in its first season in the Big 12, but the Horned Frogs have won each of their last three conference series. The Horned Frogs won a tightly-contested series last weekend against Baylor, one that featured three one-run games. After falling last Friday, 3-2, TCU won a 2-1 contest in 15 innings the next day and used that momentum to capture the series with a 5-4 victory in the finale. The series against Baylor was the last time TCU has played after being off during the week.
The Horned Frogs, hitting .239 as a team, are led by freshman Boomer White's .306 batting average. White is tied with Jantzen Witte (.274) for team-high honors in doubles with nine, while he has one homer and 16 RBI. Infielder Paul Hendrix is second on the team with an even .300 batting average, seven doubles, one triple and a team-high tying three home runs. Witte is also tied for the team lead in homers, while he paces the squad with 24 RBI. Infielder Derek Odell, who is hitting .213, is second on the squad in RBI with 23 despite only two extra-base hits.
TCU, which ranks second in the Big 12 in team ERA at 2.78, boasts one of the best one-two punches in the conference in terms of starting pitchers. The Horned Frogs will send right-hander Preston Morrison to the hill Friday night and left-hander Brandon Finnegan on Saturday, while righty Andrew Mitchell will start the series finale. Morrison holds a 6-1 record and ranks second in the Big 12 with a 1.06 ERA, allowing only nine earned runs in 76.2 innings with 13 walks and 45 strikeouts. Additionally, opponents are only hitting .207 off the right-hander. Last Friday against Baylor, the sophomore took a no decision despite allowing only two runs (one earned) on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts in eight innings.
Finnegan is 0-5 this year despite a solid 2.26 ERA, which ranks sixth in the conference. The sophomore allowed only one run on seven hits in 6.2 innings with two walks and seven strikeouts last Saturday against the Bears. Mitchell, who has seen action in 14 games with five starts, is 0-1 with a 3.69 ERA. He surrendered four third-inning runs last Sunday, but only allowed four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
The TCU bullpen is anchored by left-hander Alex Young and right-hander Justin Scharf. Young, who is 5-4 with a 2.63 ERA in 16 appearances, leads the team with two saves. Scharf has worked 19 games out of the bullpen and holds a 0-2 record and a 2.66 ERA.
THE TCU SERIES This weekend's series against TCU marks the first meeting between the two programs in over 26 years and the first overall in Manhattan. The Horned Frogs hold a 5-3 advantage in the all-time series with every game being played in Fort Worth. The last time K-State and TCU met was March 8, 1987, when the teams split a pair of one-run games in a doubleheader as the Horned Frogs won the first game, 4-3, before K-State earned a 7-6 victory.
The weekend set marks the second time this season the Cats will face a first-time Big 12 foe as K-State won two-of-three at home against West Virginia in the middle of March. Since 1997 when the Big 12 played its first season of baseball, K-State is 5-10 against first-time league opponents as the Cats won the 1997 series at Texas, won one of three against Texas A&M and were swept by both Texas Tech and Baylor.
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, six 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 100 nationally as all eight of the Wildcats' everyday starters are hitting .329 or better. Kansas State's average is also an astonishing 38 points better than any other Big 12 team.
The Wildcats rank third nationally in hits at 483 and lead the Big 12 by 73 in that department. At its current pace of 11.5 hits per game, Kansas State is on pace for 633 during the regular season, a mark that would rank fifth in school history. In 42 games this season, the Wildcats have reached the 10-hit mark on 31 occasions, which is already one more than last year.
FINISHING OFF INNINGS The Wildcats have been outstanding when it comes to hits and getting men on base, but Kansas State is still searching for clutch base hits on a more consistent basis. K-State has averaged 8.7 runners left on base this season, including 17 games stranding 10 or more runners. The Wildcats left 11 runners on base last Tuesday against Wichita State, 10 in each of the first two games at Oklahoma State and 14 this past Tuesday at Nebraska. Even further, the Wildcats rank just 30th nationally in runs scored (280) despite ranking first in the nation in batting average, third in hits and ninth in on-base percentage. BULLPEN STEPS UP Kansas State's bullpen has been outstanding over the last 22 games in which the Wildcats have earned a 17-5 record. The K-State relievers are 10-2 with a 3.21 ERA during that stretch, allowing 35 earned runs over 98.0 innings while holding nearly a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (70 strikeouts, 24 walks). Leading the charge during that stretch is freshman Jake Matthys and a pair of juniors in Gerardo Esquivel and Jared Moore. Matthys has four of his six wins and two of his three saves during the last 22 games, holding a 0.54 ERA during that span. Esquivel has surrendered only five earned runs in 13 innings, while Moore is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA. 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 6-0 record and a 1.35 ERA with three saves in a team-high 18 appearances. His six victories are the most by a K-State relief pitcher in the Big 12 era, while he is one win away from tying the overall Kansas State freshman record for wins.
Matthys, who has surrendered runs in only two outings (March 8 vs. Cal Poly and March 30 at Baylor), is the reigning Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after a save and a win. Following a save last Tuesday night at Wichita State, the right-hander tossed a career-long 4.1 scoreless innings with no walks and three strikeouts in a 3-2 victory at No. 27 Oklahoma State last Sunday. KING HEATING UP After 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 11-3, King is hitting .469 (23-for-49) with four doubles, one triple, four home runs and 18 RBI. King, who missed one of those games due to an injury, holds an .837 slugging percentage and a .542 on-base percentage in his last 13 games, while he is 6-for-8 in stolen-base attempts during that stretch. King, who set a career high with three steals in the series finale at Iowa, has been on a home-run tear lately with three in his last six games. SOLID SOPHOMORE SEASON Shortstop Austin Fisher has taken a leap from his freshman season as he is hitting .345 overall, including a .422 mark in Big 12 play to rank fourth in the conference. Fisher, who is second in the league with 14 doubles this year, was the lone player from the Big 12 and one of 25 nationally named to the Brooks Wallace Award watch list, which honors the nation's top shortstop. Fisher is the third Wildcat since 2009 to be up for the award, following in the footsteps of Drew Biery (2009) and Carter Jurica (2010).
Fisher leads the team with 13 two-out RBI, a mark that is exactly half of his season total. His RBI total is impressive considering he hit ninth in the batting order over the first 13 games. In fact, Fisher held a streak of seven-straight games with a RBI from March 2 to March 8, which ranked fourth overall and was the top mark by a No. 9 hitter in the last 10 years.
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 also ranks second in the Big 12 in total bases (87) and sixth in slugging percentage (.534).
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 on April 2 against Nebraska by going 5-for-5 with a double, a homer and four RBI. Overall, Kansas State has produced 139 multi-hit games this season and are on pace for 186 during the regular season, a number that would be the second-best mark in the last 10 years.
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' 29 wins. Kansas State, which is 12-6 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 116-157 (.425) when its opponent scores first, including a 64-67 (.489) mark since 2009.
FIVE FORMER WILDCATS START 2013 IN TRIPLE-A Five former K-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 holds a 0-1 record with a 4.61 ERA in four 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 10-for-48 (.208) with five doubles, one home run and five RBI in his first 17 games.
Jurica is on fire for the Fresno Grizzlies (San Francisco) as he enters play Thursday hitting .354 (23-for-65) with six doubles, a home run and eight RBI. Playing for the Tacoma Rainers (Seattle), Tenbrink is hitting .250 (17-for-68), while Marshall, a relief pitcher for the Reno Aces (Arizona), is 1-1 with a save.