May 10, 2013
This feature was published in the K-State Sports Extra on May 10.
By Mark Janssen
Head coach Brad Hill is the first to admit that normally … that’s normally … one doesn’t count on freshmen at any position to be key factors in the Big 12 Conference. When it’s a freshman pitcher, he repeats, “You don’t go into a season counting on them.”
So here we are in the final six games of the Big 12 season with Kansas State in a tie for first place with Oklahoma and West Virginia with a weekend rotation of freshman Levi MaVorhis, sophomore Matt Wivinis and freshman Blake McFadden set to start this weekend at Kansas.
Oh yes, pivotal out of the bullpen is freshman Jake Matthys.
“We wouldn’t be where we are in the standings without our freshmen pitching,” said junior catcher Blair DeBord.
It’s not like Hill threw the freshmen out to the Big 12 wolves from the get-go, but after tinkering with experienced pitchers as weekend starters, it’s the rookies who shown to be the most reliable.
In the first six weekends to the Big 12 years, Hill went with Nate Williams, Joe Flattery and Wivinis; then it was Flattery, Williams and Wivinis against Baylor; then Flattery, Wivinis and McFadden against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State; and now MaVorhis, Wivinis and McFadden in the last three weekends against TCU, Texas and Kansas.
“We changed it up a couple times just because we weren’t consistent in any of the spots,” said Hill. “We thought we could build some confidence by changing the order and not asking as much out of some of them.”
MaVorhis is a 6-foot-1, 200 pound right-hander from Freeland, Wash., who is 4-0 with a 3.08 ERA.
“He throws strikes and he competes,” said Hill of his Friday night starter.
Catcher DeBord adds, “He was really consistent early out of the bullpen and did the same as a starter. He doesn’t put pressure on himself. He goes out and if he gets hit, he gets hit, but he’s very stable.”
Wivinis is a 5-foot-11, 185 right-hander from Downers Grove, Ill. He is 6-2 with a 4.39 ERA.
“We want Matt and Joe Flattery to come in and go as long as they can. Once they’re done, they’re done, and it’s time to give it to the next guy,” said DeBord. “We want them to get us through five or six innings and then pass it on to the next guy. That’s a big thing with this team. We trust the next guy and they’re not afraid to say they’re done and pass it along.”
Sunday, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound McFadden … another right-hander from Savannah, Mo. … takes his turn and has posted a 4-2 mark with a 3.97 ERA.
“He’s consistent and earned that spot,” said Hill.
DeBord adds, “Blake’s turning point was not letting his emotions get the best of him. If you make a bad pitch, it’s okay. Don’t show everyone in the stadium that you made a bad pitch with your actions. Just get the ball and pitch again.
“For those young guys to go out and do what they’ve done is pretty special,” said DeBord.
That’s not to mention a bullpen that now includes fixtures like Nate Williams (3-3, 3.53), Flattery (3-4, 4.29), Matthys (7-0, 1.73), Jared Moore (3-0, 2.52), Jake Doller (2-2, 2.95) and Tanner Witt (0-0, 6 saves and a 3.60). That group includes three seniors, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman
“We have five or six solid guys, but six or seven would make us even better,” said Hill.
THIS WEEKEND: Kansas State, Oklahoma and West Virginia enter the next to last weekend of the Big 12 season in a three-way tie for first place with records of 11-7.
This weekend the Wildcats play at 12-9 Kansas, while Oklahoma plays 9-8 Oklahoma State, and West Virginia entertains 8-10 TCU.
Next week K-State hosts the Sooners and West Virginia goes to Oklahoma State. Kansas, in fourth place and just one game back, ends the regular season by playing Utah.
Baylor, at 11-9, takes this weekend off before playing 7-14 Texas Tech next weekend.
At Kansas this weekend, K-State plays at 6 p.m. tonight, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.