MANHATTAN — Even on a day when the Kansas State offense exploded for more runs than its scored in any game this year, Ross Kivett found a way to stand out.
Because that’s just what the Big 12 player of the year is supposed to do.
“At first, I just wanted to get on base to try and spark a little offense,” said Kivett, a junior second baseman. “After we get down 0-2 in the first inning, we were just looking for anything. I butchered what should have been a double-play ball in the top of the first and needed to make up for that.”
Kivett was there for the Wildcats in the exact right spots on Friday in a 20-11 win over Wichita State in K-State’s NCAA regional opener, going 4 for 5 with 4 runs, 4 RBIs and two-run home runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
The Wildcats, now two wins away from the first Super Regional appearance in school history, play Bryant at 7 p.m. Saturday.
K-State trailed WSU 2-0 after the top of the first inning, but Kivett led off the bottom of the inning with a single and scored the Wildcats’ first run on a single by Jon Davis.
“What I really liked was that we didn’t have anybody trying for that big swing to get us back in the game,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “We just started stringing at-bats together and doing a good job of getting line drives through the middle of the field. Not trying to do too much.”
Kivett, who improved his batting average to .365, helped chase WSU starter Cale Elam in the first ining and connected for another single later in the inning and scored when reliever Albert Minnis walked Jared King walked with the bases loaded for an 8-2 lead — part of K-State’s 9-run first inning.
“We take pride in getting after good pitching and Elam is a really good arm,” Kivett said. “We knew we were up for a battle early on and the goal of our offense was to get to them early. So we get to Elam then we get to Minnis and there was a spark.”
The big inning left the Shockers reeling.
“We gave up a nine-spot in the first inning with two of our really, really good pitchers out there,” Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson said. “And then we didn’t go to our bullpen with any strength.”
Kivett, unhappy after striking out in the second inning against Zach Beringer, walked in the fourth and then homered off of Tobin Mateychick in the sixth inning and off of Austin Sanders in the seventh. Both shots went out of Tointon Stadium into the trees past the left-field fence.
“That’s the kind of game we love, with a lot of offense,” K-State left fielder Tanner Witt said. “We went up and down the lineup. Everybody contributed.”
Kivett entered the game with one home run this season — and his career — entering Friday’s game.
“Early in the game, I got beat inside on that strikeout and wanted to protect that,” Kivett said. “That was double my entire career today.”
Witt, catcher Blair DeBord and Hill all stifled laughter as Kivett talked about his home runs.
“Anybody got anything else to say?” Kivett asked, looking at the three. “No? Good.”