MANHATTAN, Kan. - Riding a season-long six-game winning streak, Kansas State will play its final non-conference weekend series as the Wildcats travel to face Iowa, Friday through Sunday. K-State and Iowa are playing for the first time since 1999, while it will be Kansas State’s first games in the Hawkeye State since 2000. Friday’s game, which begins at 3:05 p.m., and Saturday’s tilt, which is set for 1:05 p.m., will be played at Duane Bank Field in Iowa City. On Sunday, the Wildcats and Hawkeyes will play the second part of a doubleheader at Principal Park in Des Moines beginning at approximately 3:45 p.m., following a Triple A contest between the Iowa Cubs and the Albuquerque Isotopes.
All three games can be heard on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller and Ryan Lackey on the call, while free live audio is available at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com. The first two games of the series can also be seen at www.BTN.com.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE Kansas State enters the weekend series with a 24-10 overall record thanks to its six-game winning streak and victories in 12 of its last 14 games. The Wildcats, who are 6-3 in Big 12 play, are in second place in the league standings and will be idle from conference action this weekend as the team ahead of Kansas State, Oklahoma (7-2) and the team behind the Cats, Baylor (5-3), play this weekend in Waco, Texas.
The Wildcats, who are receiving votes in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches’ Top 25 and the NCBWA poll, are coming off an amazing comeback win Tuesday night against Wichita State. K-State trailed the Shockers, 6-1, entering the bottom of the eighth inning but plated five runs to tie the game and scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out passed ball. Kansas State’s offense, which took a while to get going against WSU, holds a .330 batting average to lead the Big 12 and rank third nationally. In fact, K-State leads the conference in seven offensive categories, while the Wildcats hold 42 individual top-10 rankings.
Kansas State has three players ranked in the top 10 of the Big 12 in batting average, including junior catcher Blair DeBord at .385 to rank fifth. The Manhattan product is riding a career-long 12-game hitting streak with eight multi-hit contests during that span. Ross Kivett ranks seventh at .381, while Tanner Witt is ninth at .358. Senior outfielder Jon Davis earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors after going 9-for-17 (.529) last week with a home run and eight RBI, including his first career grand slam in the first inning last Saturday against Texas Tech.
The Wildcats are expected to use their same rotation from last week in senior left-hander Joe Flattery on Friday, sophomore right-hander Matt Wivinis on Saturday and freshman right-hander Blake McFadden on Sunday. Flattery holds a 2-2 record and a 4.34 ERA and is looking to get back to the way he pitched in his five previous games before last week. Last week against Texas Tech, Flattery allowed four runs in only 4.2 innings, but the Fort Dodge, Iowa, product lasted at least five innings in his five previous starts. Wivinis has been perhaps K-State’s most consistent pitcher as he has wins in five of his last six starts, including last week against the Red Raiders when surrendered only an unearned run on six hits with no walks and four strikeouts in six innings. McFadden recorded his first-career weekend start against TTU and pitched five solid innings, allowing a run on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in a winning effort. DID YOU KNOW • Kansas State is 12-5 this year in games where its opponent scores first. • Kansas State is 14 games above .500 for the first time since sitting a 35-21 on May 25, 2011. • Kansas State leads the Big 12 in seven offensive categories, including batting average (.330), hits (383) and runs (235). • The Wildcats’ .330 batting average at this point in the season is their highest since 2010. • K-State entered the week ranked in the top 25 nationally in batting average (3rd), hits (4th), triples (9th), on-base percentage (10th), slugging percentage (12th), hit-by-pitch (16th), runs (18th), steals (20th) and sacrifice flies (25th). • K-State’s five-run comeback win 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 has registered a pair of walk-off wins in the last four contests, both of which completed multi-run rallies. Last Friday 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, 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 inning before scoring five in the frame 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 18-7 mark against non-league competition, the Wildcats are currently 223-86 (.722) under head coach Brad Hill, including a 114-48 (.704) mark over the last four-plus seasons. In regular season non-conference games, the Cats have been even tougher as they are 212-70 (.752) over the last nine-plus years and 106-37 (.741) from 2009-13.
IOWA AT A GLANCE Following an 8-3 Tuesday-night loss at home to Kansas, Iowa holds an 11-16 record this season, including a 2-7 mark in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes have dropped nine of their last 12 games, but were competitive against nationally-ranked Indiana as UI lost a 9-6 affair and a 6-4 contest in the final two games of the series. Iowa’s two conference victories this season were a 2-1 win at Northwestern on March 23 and a 6-5 triumph at home against Nebraska last Sunday.
Iowa, which is hitting .270 as a team, is led at the plate by two regular starters hitting above .300 in sophomores Kris Goodman and Jake Yacinich. Goodman is hitting .361 with one double, a triple and 11 RBI, while the outfielder is coming off a 3-for-4 performance against the Jayhawks. Yacinich is at .316 with two doubles and a team-leading 17 RBI. Juniors Trevor Kenyon and Keith Brand, along with freshman Blake Hickman, are tied for team-high honors in doubles with four, while Nick Day has the lone Iowa home run this season.
The Hawkeyes are expected to start a pair of seniors on Friday and Saturday in Matt Dermody and Andrew Hanse, respectively, while sophomore Sasha Kuebel will be on the hill for Sunday’s contest. Dermody, a left-hander, has nearly half of Iowa’s wins this year as he is 5-1 with a 4.03 ERA. The Norwalk, Iowa, product has allowed 23 earned runs in a team-high 51.1 innings with 12 walks and 34 strikeouts. Dermody is coming off a rough outing last week against Nebraska as he allowed eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits in a no decision.
Hanse, a right-hander, will be making his third start of the year and 12th appearance of his senior campaign as he holds a 2-1 record with a 3.12 ERA. A product of Marion, Iowa, Hanse earned the win in last week’s series finale against the Huskers by surrendering only three runs (two earned) on eight hits in 6.2 innings of work. Kuebel holds a 1-6 record and a 6.28 ERA in seven outings, including six starts. The left-hander started the series opener against NU, allowing eight runs on eight hits in five innings.
The Iowa bullpen is led by right-hander Nick Hibbing, who has a team-high two saves in eight outings. Another righty, Ricky Sandquist, holds the lowest ERA on the staff at 1.73 in nine games, including two starts.
THE IOWA SERIES Kansas State holds a slim 7-6 lead in the all-time series against Iowa, a series that will be played for the first time since 1999 and will be contested in the state of Iowa for the first time ever. The last meeting between the Wildcats and Hawkeyes came on February 19, 1999, when K-State swept a doubleheader, 9-4 and 5-4 (10), in Manhattan, which extended Kansas State’s current winning streak against UI to four games. Of the 13 games played in the series, 12 have been in Manhattan, while the Wildcats won a 9-6 decision in 1997 in Arlington, Texas, as part of the Arlington Morning News Tournament.
The Wildcats hold a 140-189 record against current members of the Big Ten Conference, but Kansas State is 34-26 against the league when taking out its conference series history against Nebraska. This season, the Wildcats hold a 3-1 mark against Big Ten foes with two wins against Nebraska and a split of a two-game series against Minnesota.
HIT FACTORY After hitting only .281 as a team last season, K-State has been red hot at the plate in 2013 as the Wildcats rank third nationally with a .330 batting average, moving up seven spots from last week. Kansas State leads the Big 12 by an astonishing 28 points thanks to 25 games with 10 or more hits. The Wildcats’ current average is currently the second-highest mark in school history and the highest at this point in a season since 2010 when the Wildcats were hitting .332. K-State only had 30 games with 10 or more hits over the 58-game 2012 season and 28 in 61 games during 2011. Even more impressive is the fact that the Wildcats entered the week with only one player (Ross Kivett, 55th) ranked in the top 60 individually in batting average despite sitting third as a team. Kivett ranks 12th nationally in hits, while Tanner Witt ranks 37th.
WHAT A SERIES K-State’s team average jumped nine points last weekend thanks to a .417 mark in the three-game series against Texas Tech. 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 the league’s first year of 1997. The Wildcats, which 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. UNLIKELY HOME RUN LEADERS With just one home run between the two entering 2013, Kansas State’s Shane Conlon and Jon Davis might have been the most unlikely duo to lead the team in home runs this season. Conlon leads the team with six home runs, just one ahead of Davis. In fact, five players on K-State’s roster had as many or more career home runs entering 2013 than Conlon and Davis combined, while Davis’ lone homer was in the final game of the 2012 season. Additionally, Conlon is hitting for the first time since 2011 as he was exclusively a pitcher last year prior to a season-ending injury. Conlon enters this weekend’s series tied for third in the Big 12 in home runs, while Davis is tied for fifth. TRIPLING AT A TORRID PACE K-State has already registered a Big 12-leading 17 triples this season and is on pace for 28 during the regular season, a mark that would rank third in school history. The 17 triples just over the halfway point of the year are the most at this point in the last 10 seasons, six more than the 2005 squad’s 11. Also, the Cats entered the week ranked ninth nationally in triples. Sophomores Austin Fisher and Mitch Meyer, who tripled last Sunday against Texas Tech, lead the team and are tied for third in the Big 12 with three. Shane Conlon, Tanner Witt, Jared King and Jon Davis each have two. 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 half of the Wildcats’ 24 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. KIVETT CATCHING FIRE Junior second baseman Ross Kivett is in the midst of perhaps his best stretch of games offensively as a Wildcat. The Broadview Heights, Ohio, product leads Kansas State and ranks third in the Big 12 with 51 hits, just two shy of league-leaders Matt Oberste (Oklahoma) and Nathan Orf (Baylor). Kivett, who has 10 multi-hit games in the last 14 contests, is on pace for 83 hits during the regular season, a mark that would sit just outside the top 10 in school history.
A product of Broadview Heights, Ohio, Kivett has seen his average rise 39 points since March 20 thanks to four games of three or more hits, including a career-high tying four base hits last Saturday against Texas Tech. Kivett also set a new career high with five RBI on March 26 against Nebraska.
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 1.86 ERA with two saves in a team-high 15 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 only one of his 12 inherited runners to score.
Matthys and Levi MaVorhis have been K-State’s top two relief pitchers this year despite being true freshman. The duo has combined for eight of K-State’s 24 wins as MaVorhis is 3-0 with a 3.24 ERA in 14 appearances.
SOLID STARTS BY WIVINIS Sophomore Matt Wivinis has put together outstanding performances this year as he has wins in five of his last six starts. In the series finale against No. 21 Cal Poly, the right-hander became the first Big 12 pitcher this year to toss a complete game against a ranked team, which began a four-game winning streak until a setback at Baylor. The right-hander, whose previous career-long outing was six innings, tossed the first complete game by a Wildcat since Joe Flattery did so on May 18, 2012, at Texas Tech. Additionally, he needed only 91 pitches to shut out the Mustangs, the fewest by a Wildcat in a nine-inning complete-game effort in the last 10 years.
Wivinis backed up his complete game with a winning effort against West Virginia in the Wildcats’ Big 12 opening series, while he worked a snow-shortened seven-inning complete game against Bethune-Cookman. His two complete games this year are the most since A.J. Morris had five in 2009. FIVE WILDCATS START 2013 IN TRIPLE A With the professional baseball season beginning last week, five former Kansas State players were assigned to their respective Triple A clubs. Pitcher Carlos Torres, who threw for Colorado last season, signed with the New York Met organization during the offseason and began the year pitching for the Las Vegas 51s. Torres played his senior campaign at K-State in 2004 and has seen time in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox. Infielder Jared Goedert, who was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2006, signed with Pittsburgh in the offseason and is playing for Indianapolis.
Infielders Carter Jurica (2008-10) and Nate Tenbrink (2006-08), as well as pitcher Evan Marshall (2009-11), made their first Triple A clubs this season. Jurica, a member of the San Francisco Giant organization, is playing for the Fresno Grizzlies, which opened up their season with a series against Tenbrink and the Tacoma Rainers, the Triple A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Marshall, a prospect in the Arizona Diamondback organization, is pitching for the Reno Aces.