OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - With the 2013 Big 12 regular-season championship in its back pocket, Kansas State is set for the second season as the Wildcats open postseason play in the 2013 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, Thursday through Sunday, at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, in Oklahoma City, Okla. The championship was to be played Wednesday through Sunday in double-elimination format, but has been changed due to the devastation in the community of Moore. The top-seeded Wildcats will open play against No. 8-seed Texas Tech Thursday afternoon at 12:30 p.m., while K-State will take on fifth-seeded Baylor on Friday and No. 4-seed Oklahoma Saturday with both games also beginning at 12:30 p.m. Pool two consists of No. 2-seed Oklahoma State, No. 3-seed West Virginia, No. 6-seed Kansas and No. 7-seed TCU, and the winners of each pool will play a one-game championship at 1 p.m., on Sunday.
Every game from the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship will be televised to a national audience on Fox College Sports, except for Sunday’s title game which will air on FSN. Chad McKee and Jay Payton comprise one broadcast team, while Bob Licht and Jack Lazorko will also cover games for FCS and FSN. Each Kansas State game during the postseason will air on the K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson, Brian Smoller and Matt Walters on the call. Free live audio is also available online at www.k-statesports.com.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE Kansas State enters play at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship with a 39-16 overall record and a 16-8 mark in conference action. K-State, led by Big 12 Coach of the Year Brad Hill, is ranked in every major college baseball poll, including a No. 15 spot in Baseball America. The conference championship was the first for the Wildcats in 80 years, while they made the biggest jump in the preseason poll by a conference champion in league history.
The Wildcats clinched the title after winning two-of-three against No. 19 Oklahoma. On Friday night against potential No. 1 draft pick Jonathan Gray, K-State trailed 4-0 but scored three in the sixth and one in both the seventh and eighth innings to take a 5-4 lead. OU tied the game in the ninth inning on a solo home run, but senior Tanner Witt scored the game-winning and Big 12-clinching run on a bases-loaded passed ball. The next day, the Wildcats looked to solidify their grip on a regional host spot with a 5-2 victory, while OU salvaged the finale with a 7-3 win.
Kansas State finished the regular season by leading the Big 12 in eight offensive categories, including batting average and hits, while the Wildcats rank second and seventh in those categories, respectively. The batting average ranking is impressive considering the Wildcats do not have an individual ranked in the top 110 nationally. However, five Wildcats are within the top 10 of the Big 12 in batting average, led 2013 Big 12 Player of the Year Ross Kivett at .359 to rank fourth. Other All-Big 12 First Team selections Austin Fisher (5th; .358), Jared King (6th; .342) and Shane Conlon (7th; .340) also rank in the top 10 in addition to RJ Santigate (8th; .339).
K-State is expected to start freshman right-hander Blake McFadden on against Texas Tech. McFadden holds a 5-2 record and a 3.93 ERA in 14 outings this season, but he has been even better as a starter by holding a 3.50 ERA. Thursday will be McFadden’s first start since May 12 at Kansas when he allowed two runs over five innings on three hits with two walks and a strikeout in a winning effort. McFadden was scheduled to start last Sunday against Oklahoma but was pulled from that start to get ready for the Big 12 Championship. McFadden’s first-career Big 12 start came against the Red Raiders on April 7 when he allowed only one run over five innings with three walks and a strikeout to earn his first-ever Big 12 victory.
The K-State bullpen is anchored by Big 12 Freshman of the Year Jake Matthys, who holds an 8-0 record and a 2.01 ERA with six saves. His eight victories are the most by a K-State freshman and the most by a Wildcat reliever in the Big 12 era. The Spring Lake Park, Minn., product, who was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week last week, also tied the K-State freshman record for saves. DID YOU KNOW • Kansas State captured its first conference regular-season title in 80 years and just the fourth in school history. • K-State leads the Big 12 in eight offensive categories, including batting average (.324), hits (609) and runs (345). • Second baseman Ross Kivett became K-State’s third-ever conference player of the year award winner, joining Big Eight Player of the Year Craig Wilson (1992) and Big 12 Player of the Year Nick Martini. • Head coach Brad Hill earned his second Big 12 Coach of the Year designation after guiding the Wildcats to their second-highest overall win total and the most conference victories in school history. • Austin Fisher is in the midst of a career-long and Big 12-leading 18-game hitting streak in which he is hitting 30-for-69 (.441) with five doubles, one home run, 10 RBI, 11 runs scored and a .506 on-base percentage.
CATS BREAK 80-YEAR DROUGHT Kansas State claimed its first-ever Big 12 Championship and first conference championship in over 80 years with last Friday’s win over No. 19 Oklahoma. The Wildcats, which won the Missouri Valley Conference in 1928 and the Big Six Conference in both 1930 and 1933, became the first school in conference history to place seventh or lower in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches’ Poll and win the league, while they tied for the biggest jump in terms on conference finish from one year to the next. K-State, which tied for eighth last season, matched the 2005 Nebraska squad that finished eighth in 2004 before tying for first in 2005.
In addition, Kansas State tied the Big 12 record with a nine-win improvement in league victories as K-State won only seven Big 12 games last year prior to 16 this season. The 16 conference victories broke the school record, while the 39 overall wins are second in school history. HIGH-OCTANE OFFENSE K-State is having one of its better years at the plate in terms of both batting average and total hits. The Wildcats rank second nationally in batting average at .324, and even more impressive is the fact that K-State does not have an individual ranked in the top 110 nationally as all nine of the Wildcats’ everyday starters are hitting over .300. K-State’s average is also 35 points better than any other Big 12 team. The Wildcats rank seventh nationally in hits at 609, while they lead the Big 12 by 77 in that department. The Wildcats’ season total ranks sixth in school history thanks to the fact that they have had at least 10 hits in a game 38 times this year. TEXAS TECH AT A GLANCE Texas Tech ended the regular-season by winning six of its final 10 games, including a series victory over Baylor, as the Red Raiders enter the Big 12 Championship at 25-28 overall and 9-15 in conference action. Tech is hitting .262 as a team and led by junior infielder Jake Barrios at .310 with eight doubles, four triples, three homers and a team-high 48 RBI. Fellow infielder Bryant Burleson leads the team with 12 doubles, while freshman Eric Gutierrez has a team-high six home runs.
The Red Raiders will start right-hander Trey Masek against the Wildcats on Thursday. Masek, who was injured and did not pitch against K-State during the regular season, is 5-1 with a 1.52 ERA in 10 starts this year. In 71 innings, the junior has allowed only 12 earned runs on 50 hits with 19 walks and 63 strikeouts. Last week against Baylor, Masek worked seven innings and allowed only two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts in a winning effort.
OKLAHOMA AT A GLANCE Sitting at 36-19 overall and 13-11 in Big 12 play after losing two-of-three at Kansas State last weekend, No. 4 seed Oklahoma ended the season losing nine of its last 12. The Sooners are now hitting .284 as a team and are led by first baseman Matt Oberste’s .389 batting average. The junior leads the team in doubles (18), triples (4), home runs (10) and RBI (51), but is the only OU hitter above .300 as outfielder Max White is second on the team at .299.
Oklahoma’s pitching staff is led by a pair of potential first-round draft picks in Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton. Gray is 8-2 with a 1.69 ERA in 14 starts, while Overton holds the same record and a 3.08 ERA in 13 outings, including 11 starts. Last Friday, Gray allowed four runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings. The Sooner bullpen is led by freshman left-hander Jacob Evans, who is 6-2 with a 1.38 ERA and nine saves. BAYLOR AT A GLANCE Fifth-seeded Baylor enters the conference championship with a 27-25 record overall and a 12-11 mark in Big 12 play. The Bears, who dropped two-of-three last week at Texas Tech, have lost five of their last seven games to end the regular season following a sweep of Texas two weeks ago. Hitting .271 as a team, Baylor is paced offensively by senior Nathan Orf at .380. The outfielder also leads the team with 13 doubles. Another senior, Cal Towey, is hitting .302 and paces the squad with five triples, four home runs and 43 RBI.
Right-hander Dillon Newman is the top starting pitcher for BU as the junior is 3-3 with a 2.99 ERA in 11 starts. Crayton Bare is the bullpen ace for Baylor, holding a 6-2 record with a 2.84 ERA and fie saves in 26 outings.
THE TEXAS TECH SERIES Kansas State swept the regular-season series from Texas Tech in Manhattan at the beginning of April. In game one, K-State scored two ninth-inning runs and won the game, 6-5, on a Austin Fisher walk-off single. The next two days, the Wildcat offense came out on fire by out-scoring the Red Raiders, 27-4, en route to the sweep. Kansas State scored nine first-inning runs in game two, while the Cats plated six in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie in the finale. The Wildcats trail the all-time series against Texas Tech, 24-28-1, while Wednesday will be the third meeting between the teams in the Big 12 Championship. Each of the previous two meetings came in Arlington, Texas, in 2002 when K-State lost a one-run game, 5-4, in the opener before returning the favor in its third game in a 7-6 victory.
THE OKLAHOMA SERIES The Wildcats won the first two games of the regular-season series last week over Oklahoma as K-State clinched its first regular-season title in 80 years. Last Friday, Kansas State trailed OU and potential top draft pick Jonathan Gray, 4-0, but scored three runs in the seventh and one in both the eighth and ninth innings for a 5-4 walk-off victory. The final run scored on a bases-loaded passed ball. On Saturday, Joe Flattery pitched 5.1 scoreless innings en route to a 5-2 victory, while the Sooners salvaged the final game with a 7-3 win. K-State, which now trails the all-time series against the Sooners, 74-185-1, is 2-3 against Oklahoma in conference-championship action. In 2011, the Wildcats won the opening game, 5-4, also edged the Sooners, 4-3, in an elimination game two days later. THE BAYLOR SERIES Baylor came back to win the regular-season series, two games to one, in late March after the Wildcats won the first game. K-State received four shutout innings from Levi MaVorhis and Jake Matthys to edge the Bears in game one, 3-2. The Wildcats also led in game two, but Grayson Porter hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to tie the game and another in the 13th as BU won, 10-8. The Bears also edged K-State, 7-6, to claim the series. Baylor leads the overall series, 42-17, but the series is tied, 3-3, in Big 12 Championship history. K-State held a 3-1 lead in the series, but Baylor scored wins of 11-1 and 11-2 last season. PITCHING MOVE PAYING OFF Prior to the series against TCU, Kansas State made a change to its starting rotation as Levi MaVorhis has earned the last four Friday starts while former starters Nate Williams and Joe Flattery had worked exclusively out of the bullpen. So far, the returns of that decision have been positive for the entire pitching staff as the Wildcats have held a 3.26 ERA with 35 walks and 66 strikeouts in the last 13 games, holding an 10-3 record during that stretch. In his first four career starts, MaVorhis is 2-0 and has allowed only seven earned runs in 21.0 innings, which is good for a 3.00 ERA. Williams is 1-0 and has not allowed a run over 10.1 innings with four walks and 11 strikeouts. Flattery held a 1-0 record and a 1.86 ERA with two walks and seven strikeouts in five relief outings before tossing 5.1 scoreless innings in a start last week at No. 19 Oklahoma. TRIPLING AT A TORRID PACE K-State has hit a Big 12-leading 28 triples this season, a mark that is tied for third in school history and is the most since the 1997 squad had 30. Eight Wildcats have two or more triples this year, led by Mitch Meyer with five. Ross Kivett, who has 10 career triples to tie for 10th in school history, has four this season thanks to three over a two-game stretch at Creighton and Texas. His two-triple performance in Omaha was the first by a Wildcat since Josh Cavender against Howard on April 15, 2001. STOUT BULLPEN Kansas State’s bullpen has been outstanding this season as it holds a 18-3 record and a 3.45 ERA. The 18 victories by the relievers this year are the most under head coach Brad Hill - two more than the 2011 squad - while the winning percentage of .857 is by far the best in the last 10 years as it is 176 points better than the 2007 and 2010 clubs that held a .682 winning percentage (15-7).
The bullpen has been led by a bevy of freshmen as Jake Matthys, Jordan Witcig, Levi MaVorhis, Hayden Nixon, Landon Busch and Blake McFadden have combined for a 13-0 record and a 3.44 ERA out of the bullpen while limiting opponents to just a .241 batting average. MaVorhis and McFadden are now in the regular rotation, giving Witcig more opportunities to pitch out of the bullpen. SOLID SOPHOMORE SEASON Shortstop Austin Fisher has taken a leap from his freshman season as he is second on the team at .358, while he led the Big 12 with a conference-only batting average of .412. Fisher, who sat out the final two regular-season games, enters the Big 12 Championship with a career-long 18-game hitting streak. Fisher is the lone player from the Big 12 and one of 14 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 has provided game-changing hits throughout the entire season as he leads the team in two-out RBI (15) and is second in game-winning RBI in the fifth inning or later. His latest came in the second game at Kansas when he hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to break a 6-6 tie as the Wildcats scored nine answered runs to win, 9-6. A FLAIR FOR THE DRAMATIC The 2013 Big 12 Player of the Year Ross Kivett has come through time and time again in crucial situations for K-State throughout his career. Kivett’s two-run triple into the right-field corner in the opener at Texas was Kivett’s sixth-career game-winning hit in the eighth inning or later. It also marked his second game-winning two-run triple as he began the 2012 season with a shot into the right-center field gap as K-State won at CSU Bakersfield, 7-5, in 11 innings.
Kivett’s clutch hitting began during his freshman season of 2011 when he hit a walk-off single against Kansas before a game-winning single five days later vs. No. 12 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship. In addition, Kivett has two other game-winning hits when the Wildcats are either tied or trailing entering the fifth inning or later. UNPHASED FRESHMAN Freshman right-hander Jake Matthys, the 2013 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, has been nothing short of spectacular out of the Wildcat bullpen this season. The Spring Lake Park, Minn., product holds a 8-0 record and a 2.01 ERA with six saves in a team-high 28 appearances. His eighth victory, which came last Friday when K-State clinched its first conference title in 80 years, broke the K-State freshman record for wins, while he tied the school’s freshman record for saves the next day. In addition, Matthys’ eight relief victories are the most by a K-State pitcher in the Big 12 era, while his 28 relief appearances are tied for first among freshmen.
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 a third of the Wildcats’ 39 wins. Kansas State, which is 16-8 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 120-159 (.430) when its opponent scores first, including a 68-69 (.496) mark since 2009.