MANHATTAN — For the first time in school history, Kansas State will host NCAA postseason play as the top-seeded Wildcats welcome No. 2-seeded Arkansas, No. 3 Bryant and No. 4 Wichita State to a regional today through Monday at TointonFamily Stadium.
The double-elimination event begins today, with Kansas State, the Big 12 champion, taking on Wichita State, the Missouri Valley champion, at 2. That game will be shown on ESPNU, ESPN3 and WatchESPN. The Razorbacks and Bulldogs play at 7.
Two more games will be played on both Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m., and, if necessary, a second championship game will be played at 7 p.m. on Monday.
• KANSAS STATE AT A GLANCE
The 2013 Big 12 champion Kansas State Wildcats enter NCAA regional play with a 41-17 record after going 2-1 in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship last week in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Wildcats, who went 16-8 in Big 12 play to win the regular-season title, earned a 4-3 win over Texas Tech to win the first game of the conference tournament a scored five ninth-inning runs the next day against Baylor en route to a 13-9 win. On Saturday, K-State came back late from another large deficit as it scored four runs in the ninth against Oklahoma to tie the game at 5-5, but K-State eventually fell in 11 innings, 7-6, to the Sooners, who went on to win the tournament.
One of the best offensive teams in the nation, Kansas State holds the second-best batting average in the NCAAat .323 thanks to eight of its nine starters hitting .314 or better. The batting average ranking is impressive considering the Wildcats do not have an individual ranked in the top 110 nationally. However, six K-State hitters rank in the top 10 of the Big 12 in average, including five All-Big 12 First Team honorees in Big 12 Player of the Year Ross Kivett (.365), Shane Conlon (.364), Austin Fisher (.356), Big 12 Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year Jared King (.337), RJSantigate (.337) and Tanner Witt (.329). Including batting average rankings, K-State leads the Big 12 in eight team offensive categories, while the Wildcats hold 44 individual offensive rankings.
K-State is expected to start freshman right-hander Levi MaVorhis against Wichita State. McFadden holds a 5-0 record and a 3.51 earned run averagein 21 appearances, including five starts. The Freeland, Wash., product has allowed 20 earned runs over 51 1/3 innings with 10 walks and 28 strikeouts. A relief pitcher his first 16 outings, MaVorhis has been solid as a starter despite allowing five runs (two earned) on four hits last week against Baylor. In his five starts, MaVorhis holds a 2-0 record and a 3.42 ERA The K-State bullpen is anchored by Big 12 Freshman of the Year Jake Matthys, who holds an 8-1 record and a 2.13 ERAwith seven saves. His eight victories are the most by a K-State freshman and the most by a Wildcat reliever in the Big 12 era, while his seven saves are also the most ever by a K-State freshman.
• 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 (.323), hits (644) and runs (368).
— 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 (2010).
— Head coach Brad Hill earned his second Big 12 Coach of the Year designation (2009) after guiding the Wildcats to their second-highest overall win total and the most conference victories in school history.
• CATS BREAK 80-YEAR DROUGHT
Kansas State claimed its first-ever Big 12 championship and first conference championship in over 80 years with a series-opening 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 conference 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 41 overall wins are second in school history.
• BACK IN THE TOURNAMENT
Following a one-year hiatus, Kansas State is back in the NCAATournament for the fourth time in school history with every appearance coming since 2009. The Wildcats will be looking to right the ship in regional play as they are 3-6 all-time. K-State won its first two NCAARegional games in 2009 with a 16-8 victory over Xavier and a 7-6 triumph over homestanding Rice. However, the Owls came back to claim the final two games and move on to the Super Regional round. K-State went 1-2 in the 2010 NCAAFayetteville Regional and 0-2 at the 2011 NCAAFullerton Regional.
• HIGH-OCTANE OFFENSE
Kansas 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 .323, and even more impressive is the fact that K-State does not have an individual ranked in the top 110 nationally as eight of the nine everyday starters are hitting over .314 or better. K-State’s average is also 38 points better than any other Big 12 team. The Wildcats rank 12th nationally in hits at 644, while they lead the Big 12 by 78 in that department. The Wildcats’ season total ranks fifth in school history thanks to the fact that they have had at least 10 hits in a game 40 times this year.
• WICHITA STATE AT A GLANCE
Missouri Valley Conference champion Wichita State enters NCAARegional play with a 39-26 record and finished in second place in the MVCregular-season standings at 15-6. The Shockers had to fight their way through the loser’s bracket to win the league’s automatic berth to the tournament by tallying five-straight wins, including two over regular-season league champion Illinois State. Hitting .294 as a team, WSU is paced offensively by four hitters at .300 or above in Garrett Bayliff (.389), Tyler Baker (.332), Tanner Deaman (.306) and Casey Gillaspie (.300). Gillaspie leads the Shockers in doubles (15), home runs (10) and RBI (42). Wichita State is expected to start right-hander Cale Elam. The junior is 7-4 this year with a 2.60 ERA in 16 starts. In 93.1 innings, Elam has allowed 27 earned runs with 29 walks and 74 strikeouts. Elam pitched 2.2 no-hit innings with a walk and two strikeouts in a relief outing against K-State last season.
• ARKANSAS AT A GLANCE
Boasting the nation’s top pitching staff in terms of both ERA(1.87) and hits allowed per game (6.78), Arkansas holds a 37-20 record, including an 18-11 mark in SEC play. U of A is coming off a 2-1 showing at the SECTournament with wins against Ole Miss and LSU. The Razorbacks are hitting .260 as a team and are led by sophomore Brian Anderson at .338. Anderson also paces the squad in doubles (12), triples (5) and home runs (4), but is the only hitter above .300 as senior Matt Vinson is second on the team with a .299 average. Tyler Spoon, who is hitting .288, leads Arkansas with 45 RBI. Arkansas has three starting pitchers with ERAs of under 2.00. Right-hander Ryne Stanek leads the charge as he is 9-2 with a 1.40 ERAin 15 starts. The junior has allowed only 14 earned runs in 90 innings while walking 35 and striking out 76. Left-hander Randall Fant is 5-1 with a 1.92 ERAin 13 starts, while righty Barrett Astin holds a 4-4 record and a 1.94 ERAin 17 outings, including 13 starts.
• BRYANT AT A GLANCE
The Northeast Conference regular-season and tournament champion, Bryant enters its first-ever NCAARegional with a 44-16-1 overall record and won the league going away with a 27-5 mark. The Bulldogs are hitting .289 as a team and have five players hitting above .300, including outfielder Kevin Brown at .368. The senior has 16 doubles, a team-leading six home runs and is one of two hitters with 40 or more RBI (46). Carl Anderson, who is hitting .340, leads the team with 47 RBI, while Jordan Mountford, a .320 hitter, and John Mullen, who is hitting .282, pace the squad with 17 doubles apiece. The Bulldogs have two starting pitchers with seven wins in 14 starts as Peter Kelich is 7-4 with a 2.53 ERA, while Kevin McAvoy is 7-2 with a 3.42 ERA. The Bryant bullpen is anchored by right-hander Salvatore Lisanti, who holds a 1.27 ERAand 10 saves with a 1-2 record.
• THE WICHITA STATE SERIES
With two victories against the Shockers this season, Kansas State is 33-51 all-time against Wichita State, including a 19-18 mark in Manhattan. The Wildcats have won 12 of the last 18 meetings between the in-state rival, including six of the last nine at Tointon Family Stadium. The Wildcats swept the home-and-home series in 2013 for the first time since 2010. On April 9, in Manhattan, K-State plated five eighth-inning runs to tie the game at six apiece and won in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out passed ball. A week later in Wichita, K-State no-hit the Shockers for 5.2 innings and Jared King hit a three-run homer in the first inning as part of a 4-1 victory. Catcher Blair DeBord has gone 4-for-7 with two RBI this year against WSU, while Austin Fisher and Jon Davis also have four hits and one RBI. Thanks to his homer in Wichita, King has a team-high four RBI against the Shockers this season. On the mound, right-handed reliever Jake Matthys did not allow a run over three innings with three strikeouts as he picked up both a win and a save.
• THE ARKANSAS SERIES
This weekend could mark the 48th all-time meeting between Kansas State and Arkansas, but the first since 2003. U of A holds a 29-18 mark against K-State and won the last three meetings against the Wildcats in the series. Of the 47 previous games, only one has been played in Manhattan, which was a 9-8 victory on March 7, 2003. Against current members of the Southeastern Conference, the Wildcats are 145-265-3, but K-State holds a 31-55-1 record against the conference when not factoring in series against previous Big 12 foes Missouri and Texas A&M. The last meeting against a SEC team outside of the Tigers and Aggies was in 2004 when the Cats won a 2-1 contest over Alabama in a neutral-site game in Shreveport, La.
• THE BRYANT SERIES
The potential matchup with Bryant would be the first in series history. Kansas State holds a 12-2 record against current Northeast Conference teams, including a three-game home sweep of Sacred Heart in 2012.
• PITCHING MOVE PAYING OFF
Prior to the series against TCU, Kansas State made a change to its starting rotation as Levi MaVorhis has earned five starts as the team’s No. 1 pitcher, while former starter Nate Williams has 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 3.48 ERA with 50 walks and 81 strikeouts in the last 16 games, holding an 12-4 record during that stretch. In his first five career starts, MaVorhis is 2-0 and has allowed only nine earned runs in 23.2 innings, which is good for a 3.42 ERA. Williams is 1-0 with a 0.61 ERA as he has allowed just one run in 14.2 innings with six walks and 12 strikeouts.
• TRIPLING AT A TORRID PACE
K-State has hit a Big 12-leading 28 triples this season, a mark that ranks 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 19-4 record and a 3.43 ERA. The 19 victories by the relievers this year are the most under head coach Brad Hill - three more than the 2011 squad - while the winning percentage of .826 is by far the best in the last 10 years as it is 144 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 13-1 record and a 3.38 ERAout of the bullpen while limiting opponents to just a .242 batting average. MaVorhis and McFadden are now in the starting rotation, giving Witcig more opportunities to pitch out of the bullpen.
• SOLID SOPHOMORE SEASON
Austin Fisher has taken a leap from his freshman season as he leads the team at .356, while he led the Big 12 with a conference-only batting average of .412. Fisher, who sat out the final two regular-season games, went hitless in his only at-bat in the Big 12 Championship to snap 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, while he was also named a semifinalist for the Gregg Olsen Breakout Player of the Year award. Fisher has provided game-changing hits throughout the entire season as he is second 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.
• 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 CSUBakersfield, 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, while his 16 two-out RBI this season lead the team.
• UNFAZED 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 an 8-1 record and a 2.13 ERAwith seven saves in a team-high 30 appearances. His eighth victory, which came when K-State clinched its first regular-season 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 and broke that mark last Thursday against Texas Tech. In addition, Matthys’ eight relief victories are the most by a K-State pitcher in the Big 12 era, while his 30 relief appearances the most 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’ 41 wins. Kansas State, which is 17-9 (.654) 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 121-160 (.431) when its opponent scores first, including a 69-70 (.496) mark since 2009.