CORVALLIS, Ore. — Kansas State coach Brad Hill pulled off the surprise move of the Wildcats’ super regional against Oregon State by deciding to start freshman Jake Matthys against the Beavers in the deciding game three on Monday night.
Surprising not because Matthys hadn’t earned the right to be out there, but surprising because it was the first start of the year for the Big 12 freshman of the year and All-Big 12 relief pitcher, who had been closing out games for the Wildcats all season.
Hill’s move was a direct response to Oregon State’s early onslaught in a 12-4 win over K-State in game two on Sunday in which the Wildcats’ pitching staff was shelled and put the team in a 7-0 hole.
Matthys, the winning pitcher in Saturday’s game , lasted 4 1/3 innings while giving up three hits, two earned runs and striking out five. Matthys gave up a two-run home run to Danny Hayes in the second inning — the fourth home run given up by K-State pitchers in three games — but bounced back by striking out the side for Oregon State in the third inning.
The Beavers’ final run against Matthys, who gave way to Gerardo Esquivel in the fifth, was set up by third baseman RJ Santigate’s team-leading 15th error on a ground ball from Bryan Barnes that allowed Barnes to reach second. Barnes scored on a double by Kavin Keyes.
Get there early -- Several hundred fans were waiting in line outside of Goss Stadium all three days of the super regional waiting for tickets that became available. With sold-out record crowds for the games, fans were arriving as early as 10 a.m. for games with start times of 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Something to see -- Oregon State sophomore left fielder Michael Conforto, the Pac-12 player of the year, drew a crowd to the Beavers’ batting practice on Monday. Conforto, who already had two home runs against K-State in two super regional games, sent balls out of the park each time his turn came up in the batting cage, including several booming shots that cleared the scoreboard in right-center field and bounced across the railroad tracks that cut through campus.
Not a bad No. 3 -- Oregon State’s Monday starter, lefty Ben Wetzler (8-1, 1.98 ERA), was the third straight All-Pac 12 starter the Beavers and coach Pat Casey trotted out against K-State. Wetzler, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft, had won eight consecutive games over nine appearances headed into Monday.
Wetzler was the Beavers’ No. 1 starter last season, but took somewhat of a backseat this season with the emergence of freshman Andrew Moore, who got the win over K-State on Sunday, and is a national pitcher of the year semifinalist. Mike Boyd, who pitched the super regional opener, is Oregon State’s other weekend starter.