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Kansas State freshmen bring depth to pitching staff

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, May 30, 2013, at 6:28 p.m.

— There will be a time soon when Kansas State freshmen Levi MaVorhis and Jake Matthys won’t have to clean out the bus after road trips. Where they won’t have to clean up the locker room after practices and games. Where they won’t have to be the last ones to get their food at team functions.

That their time on the bottom rungs of the Wildcats’ hierarchy has been marked by nothing but almost-unheard of success isn’t lost on any of their teammates. K-State won its first Big 12 title in 80 years and is hosting an NCAA regional for the first time.

“They’re freshmen, so they do what we have freshmen do,” said Kansas State second baseman Ross Kivett, the Big 12 player of the year. “Just like I did when I was a freshman, just like (first baseman Shane) Conlon did as a freshman. I don’t think they would want it any other way.

“The thing is, they sure don’t pitch like freshmen.”

No, they do not.

MaVorhis, who started the year off in the bullpen, has worked his way into K-State’s rotation and will start against Wichita State in Friday’s regional opener. A right-hander from Freeland, Wash., MaVorhis is 5-0 with a 3.51 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings. The All-Big 12 Freshman selection is making his sixth straight start after 16 relief outings.

“He earned his spot in the rotation,” Kivett said. “He gives us a chance to win every time he gets the ball.”

He gave up two hits and two earned runs in one inning of relief in K-State’s 7-6 win over Wichita State on April 9.

“(MaVorhis) has great composure for a young guy, nothing really fazes him,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “He got thrown in the fire right away coming out of the bullpen to stop big innings. He doesn’t get pressed, he does what he’s capable of. He throws the ball 84 mph. He doesn’t try to throw it 90.”

Matthys, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and an All-Big 12 selection, was the best closer in the league. The Spring, Lake Park, Minn., native pitched two innings of scoreless relief against Wichita State on April 9 and picked up the save against the Shockers in a 4-1 win on April 16.

“I think we might be the reason (MaVorhis) is the weekend starter and (Matthys) ended up with all the awards,” Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson said. “We’re very familiar with both of them.”

Matthys’ is 8-1 with no starts, seven saves and a 2.13 ERA in 50 2/3 innings.

“I think every inning that I get out there, it helps me grow a little bit as a pitcher and I feel more comfortable,” Matthys said. “With us hosting a regional, I just hope it’s packed when we get out there. I love the pressure, I love knowing the guys behind me are ready to make plays and that if I give up a run, these hitters will get it back for me.”

That’s been the case more than once — the Wildcats are one of the best offensive teams in the nation. Their .323 batting average is second in the nation and six hitters are in the top 10 in the Big 12 in batting average.

“Those freshmen have been huge for us,” K-State center fielder Jared King said. “Jake has done it all year and Levi has earned the right to be in the starting role on Friday night. I knew they had good stuff, but sometimes those freshman jitters get to you ... but these two handled it like veterans.”

Reach Tony Adame at tadame@wichitaeagle.com or 316-268-6284. Follow him on Twitter: @t_adame.

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