MANHATTAN, Kan. – With Big 12 play right around the corner, Kansas State will host Northern Colorado in a two-game midweek series, Tuesday and Wednesday, at Tointon Family Stadium. The Wildcats are looking to keep an unblemished record against the Bears as they lead the series history, 12-0, while the midweek games serve as a final tune-up prior to conference play, which begins this weekend against West Virginia. First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., while the series will conclude with a 3 p.m., contest on Wednesday.
K-State fans can take part in a 2-for-1 Tuesday ticket promotion as two adult general admission bench tickets are on sale for the price of one. Additionally, the series opener serves as the first T-Shirt Tuesday as the first 100 fans at Tointon Family Stadium will receive a free t-shirt. Wednesday’s game is K-State Faculty/Staff Night with $1 general admission bench tickets available to faculty and staff with a valid ID. Fans can purchase tickets through the K-State Athletics Ticket office online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets, by phone at 1-800-221-CATS or in person either at the ticket office inside Bramlage Coliseum or the Tointon Family Stadium box office prior to the game.
Both games against Northern Colorado can be seen world-wide on K-StateHD.TV and can be heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Rob Voelker and Matt Walters on the call. Free live audio is also available online at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE
Standing at 9-5, K-State will look to bounce back from a series loss last weekend to 21st-ranked Cal Poly. The Wildcats dropped both games of a Friday doubleheader, falling by scores of 13-10 and 6-2, before salvaging the final game of the series with an impressive 10-4 victory. In the series finale, the Wildcats received a complete-game performance from right-hander Matt Wivinis, who struck out five batters, while the Wildcats registered double-digit runs and hits in the same contest for the fifth time in eight homes games.
K-State first baseman Shane Conlon leads the Big 12 with his .455 batting average as the sophomore has recorded a hit in each of the first 14 games this year. His current hitting streak is the second-longest to begin a season under head coach Brad Hill and stands as the second-longest active streak in the Big 12 (Matt Oberste, Oklahoma, 16). A product of Naperville, Ill., Conlon also ranks highly in the conference in six other categories as he is second in hits (25) and total bases (36), third in on-base percentage (.500) and slugging percentage (.655), sixth in steals (7) and seventh in home runs (2).
Behind Conlon at .357 is third baseman RJ Santigate, who has two doubles, one triple and a team-leading 12 RBI. Santigate had a great series against Cal Poly by going 6-for-11 with four RBI. Shortstop Austin Fisher is third on the squad at .340 with three doubles, two triples and 11 RBI. Fisher, who batted in the No. 9 spot the first 13 games of the year, held a streak of seven-straight games with a RBI, the fourth longest since 2004.
Kansas State is expected to start a pair of right-handers in senior Jake Doller and freshman Blake McFadden on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Doller, who made 52 career relief appearances until last Tuesday, was dominant against Niagara by working five innings and surrendering only an unearned run. McFadden, who came to K-State with high credentials, gave up one run in five innings against the Purple Eagles last Wednesday. The Savannah, Mo., product was named a First Team High School All-American by Collegiate Baseball in 2011, along with being named the Prep Baseball Report Missouri Pitcher of the Year and the Gatorade Missouri Baseball Player of the Year after going 10-0 with a 0.13 ERA.
DID YOU KNOW…
• Kansas State is 64-10 in non-conference home games since 2009.
• The Wildcats have been true on 29 of their last 35 stolen-base attempts dating back to the Oakland series.
• Kansas State has 10 triples in 14 games this season, the most in the first 11 games in the last 10 years. The Wildcats are on pace for 40 triples, which would break the school record of 38 in 1982.
• Brad Hill became the second coach in program history to register 300 wins at K-State with the Wildcats’ win last Tuesday against Niagara.
• Hill entered the 2013 season seventh in the nation among active coaches with a .692 career winning percentage.
• Shane Conlon has opened up 2013 with a 14-game hitting streak, a mark that is the second-longest in Hill’s 10 years in Manhattan and the second-longest active streak in the Big 12.
• Austin Fisher held a streak of seven-straight games with a RBI, the fourth-longest streak overall in the last 10 years, but the longest by a No. 9 hitter.
• Jon Davis has reached base safely in each of the last 12 games despite recording a hit in only seven of those games.
Kansas State is looking to turn Tointon Family Stadium into a home field advantage yet again this year. The Wildcats, who are 6-2 at home over the first eight games of 2013, have been difficult to defeat at home over the last few years as they have won at least 20 home games in five of the last eight seasons. K-State is 91-35 (.722) at home over the last four-plus years while its record is even more impressive in non-conference games as the Cats are 64-10 (.865) since 2009 in those contests.
With 17 newcomers and 19-straight home games in the month of March, it is important for the Wildcats to get off to a quick start this season as 16 of their final 22 games are on the road. Fortunately for K-State, history is on its side as the Cats are currently 214-84 (.718) in non-conference games under head coach Brad Hill, including a 105-46 (.695) mark over the last four-plus seasons. In regular season non-conference games, the Cats have been even tougher as they are 203-68 (.749) over the last nine-plus years and 97-35 (.735) from 2009-13.
NORTHERN COLORADO AT A GLANCE
Northern Colorado, which enters the midweek series with a 3-6 record, will be playing its first game in nearly a week after dropping both games of a doubleheader last Wednesday at Nebraska, 10-5 and 5-1. The Bears opened the month of March at Santa Clara, dropping the first two games by counts of 7-1 and 6-1 before recording a 3-2 victory to salvage the final game of the series.
The Bears are hitting .206 as a team and are led by junior infielder Nick Miller, who holds a .313 (10-for-32) average with a triple and three RBI. Miller, who is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game on the mound, is the only Northern Colorado hitter above .300 as senior outfielder Dylan Banach is second on the squad at .278 (10-for-26). Banach leads the Bears with four RBI. Four Northern Colorado hitters - Ben Netzel, Colby Harrison, Bryan Tibbitts and Jensen Park - are tied for the team lead in doubles with two apiece. Miller is the only listed starter on the mound for the Bears during the midweek series as Northern Colorado is undecided for Wednesday’s game. The left-hander has two of the three wins and holds a team-best 2.13 ERA after allowing only three runs on 12 hits in 12.2 innings over two starts. Miller has also struck out 10 batters as opposed to just three walks.
Miller’s last start came in the Bears’ victory at Santa Clara on March 3. The Loveland, Colo., product lasted six innings, allowing just one run on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts. His first start this year was against Northern Illinois at the Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic in Lubbock, Texas, when he allowed two runs on seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts in 6.2 innings. Northern Colorado has five other pitchers that have started at least one game this season, including former Wildcat pitcher Robert Hawkins. The left-hander played at K-State during the 2010 season before transferring to Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo., and redshirting last year at Northern Colorado. Hawkins has appeared in two games this year with one start, holding a 0-1 record and a 20.25 ERA by surrendering nine earned runs on 10 hits in four innings.
Senior right-hander Kevin Willman is the most-used reliever in the Bear bullpen, registering two saves in four outings while holding a 1.23 ERA. Willman has allowed just one run in 7.1 innings while walking three and striking out seven.
THE NORTHERN COLORADO SERIES
K-State and Northern Colorado will meet for the 13th and 14th times overall, while it will be the fifth and sixth meetings since 2011. The Wildcats are looking to maintain a perfect record against the Bears, a mark that currently stands at 12-0, while K-State is 25-1 against current members of the Great West Conference. In 2011, Kansas State swept the two-game series by scores of 6-3 and 16-3, while the Wildcats gutted out a pair of close ballgames last year by sweeping the two-game set, 4-3 and 7-5.
Against the Bears in 2012, the Wildcats needed a RBI double by Ross Kivett in the bottom of the ninth inning to win game one, Kivett’s second game-winning RBI of the season. Right-hander Jake Doller, K-State’s starting pitcher on Tuesday, earned the win despite allowing two Northern Colorado runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 3-3. Doller pitched two innings, allowing two runs on four hits. Game two featured a three-hit performance by Jon Davis and a three-RBI game by Jared King.
THE FRIENDLY CONFINES
After consecutive trips to South Carolina to open the season, K-State is in the middle of a 19-game homestand to begin the month of March. The 19-consecutive home games are tied for the second most in school history and are the most since 1982. During the long homestand, the Wildcats will face eight different opponents, including 21st-ranked Cal Poly last weekend, and a pair of Big Ten foes in Minnesota and Nebraska. Additionally, the homestand serves as the beginning of conference play as Kansas State hosts West Virginia in the Mountaineers’ first ever Big 12 series this coming weekend.
Senior Jake Doller and freshman Blake McFadden each made their first-career starts memorable last week against Niagara. Doller, who had 52 career relief appearances under his belt prior to the start, lasted a career-long five innings and surrendered only an unearned run on four hits with no walks and a career-best six strikeouts. The Lake Waukomis, Mo., product threw 94 pitches, topping his previous career high by 30. McFadden, one of the top recruits out of the state of Missouri last year, nearly duplicated Doller’s outing the next day as he allowed just one earned run on three hits with no walks and three strikeouts in five innings.
With 10 freshmen pitchers on the staff, it is imperative that younger arms step up for K-State during the 2013 season. So far, six freshmen hurlers in Landon Busch, Hayden Nixon, Jake Matthys, Levi MaVorhis, Blake McFadden and Josh Smith have found success. The group has combined to go 3-0 with a 3.67 ERA while walking 15 and striking out 22. Smith and Busch have yet to allow a run in one and 3.2 innings, respectively. McFadden has surrendered only one earned run in seven innings, which came in his first career start last week, while MaVorhis has allowed two earned runs in eight innings pitched.
CONLON’S HOT START
Sophomore Shane Conlon is off to one of the better starts offensively in the Brad Hill era at K-State as he has hit in each of the first 14 games, a mark that ranks second. The start by Conlon, who leads the Big 12 with a .455 (20-for-55) average, is impressive considering he is hitting for the first time since 2011. Last season, Conlon was exclusively a pitcher before an injury cut his season short.
Conlon is a big reason why K-State has been able to knock off a pair of ranked opponents. Against No. 8 Kentucky on February 21, Conlon went 5-for-5 with a two-run homer. His five hits against a talented Kentucky pitching staff are the most in the Big 12 this year and the most by a Wildcat against a top-10 team since at least 1999. Last Saturday against No. 21 Cal Poly, Conlon was 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored hitting as the No. 3 man in the lineup for the first time in his career.
FISHER BECOMES STAPLE AT SHORT
After a battle during the offseason, sophomore Austin Fisher has taken a hold of the starting job at shortstop with his play to begin the 2013 campaign. The Lenexa, Kan., product ranks third on the team in batting average at .340 with three doubles, two triples, one homer and 11 RBI. His RBI total is impressive as he has hit ninth in the batting order in 13 of the 14 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. He has also continually delivered the big hit for the Wildcats, leading the team with five two-out RBI.
WIVINIS GOES THE DISTANCE
Sophomore Matt Wivinis pitched the best game of his young career Saturday against No. 21 Cal Poly as he became the first Big 12 pitcher this year to toss a complete game against a ranked team. 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. Wivinis gave up four runs in the contest but only surrendered one after the second inning. After allowing a run in the second, Wivinis proceeded to retire 12-straight retired batters, while he faced the minimum from the end of the second inning until a one-out double in the seventh inning. Wivinis did not issue a walk and gave away just one free pass – a hit-by-pitch to leadoff the contest – while striking out five batters. Additionally, Wivinis 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.
KING PULLS IN HONORS
A season after leading the Big 12 during the regular season with a .378 batting average, junior Jared King gained national attention entering the 2013 season. The outfielder was named a preseason All-American by both Baseball America and Perfect Game, and the accolade from Baseball America was especially impressive considering the fact that the teams were voted on by Major League Baseball scouting directors. Baseball America also slotted King as the 39th best prospect nationally among juniors. Other honors for King prior to the 2013 season included being named the Big 12’s best player by College Baseball Today and Perfect Game as well as the conference player of the year, best pure hitter, best athlete and best defensive outfielder by Baseball America. Additionally, Perfect Game lists King as the fifth-best prospect, but tops among position players, in the Big 12 among players eligible for this year’s draft.
HILL PICKS UP MILESTONE VICTORY
In his 10th year at Kansas State, Brad Hill became the second coach in program history with 300 victories as he picked up the milestone win last Tuesday against Niagara. His now 302 wins at K-State rank second to the program’s all-time winningest coach Mike Clark, who registered 435 wins from 1987-2003. Additionally, Hill’s .568 winning percentage at Kansas State ranks fourth in program history among coaches that have been at the helm for at least 100 games. Mike Ahearn holds the top mark at .734 (93-33-2) from 1904-10. In the doubleheader against Oakland on March 3, Hill registered his 800th career win as a collegiate head coach when taking into account his 83 wins as the skipper at Hutchinson Community College from 1988-90 (Hill’s official career win total stands at 720 as the NCAA only takes into account records at four-year institutions).