MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State centerfielder Jared King made a diving catch to save a pair of runs in the fifth and promptly hit a two-RBI double the next half-inning to break a 1-1 tie and spark the Wildcats to a 7-1 victory over Bryant Saturday in the winner’s bracket of the 2013 NCAA Manhattan Regional at Tointon Family Stadium.
The top-seeded Wildcats, who tied their single-season record for wins as they improved to 43-17, move to the championship round of the Manhattan Regional Sunday night at 7 p.m., and will face the winner of the Bryant vs. Arkansas game, which will be played at 2 p.m., Sunday afternoon. With the loss, the Bulldogs fell to 45-17-1.
With the game tied and two on and two out in the bottom of the fifth, Joe Flattery (5-4) threw a first-pitch fastball to Kevin Brown who hit a sinking line drive into the right-center field gap. King laid out for the ball and caught it a foot from the ground to end the inning and strand the two runners.
The effort ignited a Wildcat offense that had troubles against Bryant starting pitcher Craig Schlitter (10-4), who had retired 15 of the previous 16 batters. After Ross Kivett reached on a leadoff error and was sacrificed over to second base, Shane Conlon singled to left field to put runners on the corners and knock Schlitter out of the game.
A switch hitter, King flipped around to bat right handed against left-hander John Heally and shot a 2-2 pitch into the same gap he robbed a pair of Bulldog runs to give the Cats a 3-1 advantage. K-State added two more on a passed ball and a two-out error to take a four-run lead at 5-1.
“I thought it was another tough game again tonight,” head coach Brad Hill said. “It was a great pitching matchup. Both guys got settled in after that first inning and it was just a well-pitched ballgame that came down to just a tremendous play that Jared made that swung momentum our way, which we carried right into our offense. We scored some runs right after that inning, which was a huge swing in momentum right there and that was pretty much the game.”
Flattery allowed just one run while working around seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts in his first appearance since May 18 against Oklahoma. After allowing a run on a ground out by John Mullen in the first, the left-hander stranded two runners in the second and pitched consecutive 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth before benefitting from King’s defensive work in the fifth.
“Before that pitch, Coach (Hill) had me in the other gap. He saw a couple swings from the batter, and he made the adjustment the pitch before for me to shade over to the other side,” King said about his catch. “I was just lucky that I caught it, I guess. I tried to track it as much as I could and I gave my best effort to try to catch it. The catch was a big momentum swing for our team and to be able to tack on those runs in the inning (after the catch) was big.”
Jake Matthys, who entered with runners on first and second in the seventh inning, needed just 26 pitches to record the final seven outs of the game and pick up his eighth save of the year. Matthys’ outing was his 31st this year, tying the single-season school record for relief appearances, while his eight saves extended his hold on the K-State freshman record and are tied for sixth overall in school history.
Nate Williams also threw 1.2 scoreless innings as the K-State pitching staff allowed just three hits for the final seven innings.
Kivett registered his second-straight multi-hit game of the NCAA Tournament by going 2-for-5 with a RBI and two runs scored. The Big 12 Player of the Year scored in the first inning on a RBI single off the bat of Tanner Witt, while Kivett produced a RBI ground out in the ninth inning. Blair DeBord added another run in the ninth when he scored on a wild pitch.
Conlon also registered his 24th multi-hit game of the year by going 2-for-4 with a run. Austin Fisher doubled in the fourth inning to push his season total to 20, which is tied for fourth in school history in a single season. He was also hit by a pitch and scored in the sixth inning.
Schlitter allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts in 5.1 innings. All six of the right-hander’s strikeouts came during his stretch of retiring 15 of 16 hitters. Catcher Jonathan Scott was the only Bulldog with a multi-hit game as he went 2-for-2 with a walk.
Television selections for Sunday’s NCAA Tournament games will announced later Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Fans can hear the game on the K-State Sports Network and online at www.k-statesports.com. A limited number of tickets for Sundays’ sessions are available online at www.k-statesports.com and at the Tointon Family Stadium box office.