MANHATTAN — When Levi MaVorhis is at his best, he is worth the price of admission.
Such was the case Friday night at Tointon Family Stadium when the Kansas State sophomore pitcher led the Wildcats to a 10-0 victory over Kansas. He was dominant, mowing down batter after batter on his way to a three-hit shutout.
It was a gem of an outing. MaVorhis had a perfect game going through five innings and didn’t allow a runner past second base. He was also efficient, working nine innings on 96 pitches.
The win boosted his record to 4-3 and spiked his confidence after two sub-par efforts. He looked better than he did the last time he flirted with perfection, going six scoreless innings in a two-hit shutout over Northern Colorado on March 14. The difference being that this came against an in-state rival with Big 12 play heating up.
"It’s easy to play when Levi is throwing like that," first baseman Shane Conlon said. "Levi is tough when he is throwing all of his pitches like that, you can see when guys are taking swinging like that. That’s how Levi has been his first two years here. When he is on he is a tough guy to hit."
Indeed, MaVorhis continues to grow into the "ace" role of K-State’s pitching staff. His ERA, which was 3.32 heading into the game, is down significantly from a year ago, 4.77. Against Kansas, he painted the corners with his fast ball and fooled hitters with his change up.
He is proving that he can give the Wildcats exactly what they want from their Friday starter: quality innings.
"The way our bullpen has been that is a pretty positive night for him," K-State coach Brad Hill said. "He has shown his ability to do that. As he continues to get more experience and get stronger and has his secondary pitch, the slider, as it continues to get better we hope to see even more of that."
With Jared Moore and Nate Griep throwing well behind him in the rotation, K-State (19-11, 3-4 Big 12) can head into the remainder of its conference series with confidence that it is going to get strong pitching. It might not always be as impressive as it was on Friday with MaVorhis, but it should usually be good. The Wildcats have already won five games by shutout this year, the most in a single season since 2008.
"It’s a lot easier to play well and get relaxed when Levi or any of our pitchers is throwing like that," Conlon said, who belted a solo home run in the fourth inning.
It helped that MaVorhis got all the help he could ask for against Kansas (18-11, 2-2).
The Wildcats pounded surprise KU starter Jordan Piche and led 5-0 after one inning. Tanner DeVinny got things going with a three-run homer in the first inning and K-State systematically added to its lead from there.
K-State’s defense was also impeccable. Conlon dove to make a nifty snag at first base to rob the Jayhawks of a hit, and K-State’s outfielders ran down every ball that was hit their way.
"You’ve got to love those guys," MaVorhis said. "It’s always easy when you pitch with a lead. You don’t let up, but you pound the zone knowing you don’t have to be perfect."
He didn’t have to be, but he nearly was.
"It was a lot of fun tonight," MaVorhis said. "It’s always fun playing at home in front of a great crowd. Any time you start off conference play it is a great feeling to start off like this."