A decision to start freshman pitcher Blake McFadden by Kansas State coach Brad Hill in Game 2 of an NCAA super regional led to early disaster for the Wildcats on Sunday in what’s becoming a familiar pattern for McFadden.
McFadden, fresh off struggling against Arkansas in the final game of the NCAA regional in Manhattan, gave up back-to-back home runs to Michael Conforto and Dylan Davis in the first inning, plus another earned run to put K-State in a 3-0 hole. Both shots went out almost directly above the Beavers’ 2007 national championship sign in center field.
Arkansas also put McFadden and K-State in a 3-0 hole against Arkansas, although the Wildcats were able to rally for a 4-3 win and a clinch a spot in the super regional.
McFadden’s struggles as of late — in particular in the NCAA Tournament — have led to a stat line to make any pitcher cringe. In this year’s tournament alone, McFadden has a 23.14 ERA with nine hits and six earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. McFadden entered Sunday’s start with a 6-2 record and 4.40 ERA.
Conforto keeps crushing — Conforto’s home run was his 15th season and kept up a torrid hitting pace for the sophomore left fielder and Pac-12 player of the year against K-State. After adding a double in the fourth inning after his home in the first, Conforto is 4 for 10 with four runs, five RBIs and three home runs. Conforto also played against the Wildcats his freshman year in a 13-5, early-season win in San Diego in February 2012.
Come here often? — The gap between appearances by a team from Kansas or Missouri in the College World Series has stretched to a decade.
The last team from either state to make it to Omaha was Missouri State in 2003 under Keith Guttin. The last team from Kansas to make it was Wichita State in 1996. The Shockers remain the only team from either state to ever win a CWS title, winning in 1989 with coach Gene Stephenson. Kansas made its only CWS appearance in 1993, with WSU joining them there.
Missouri hasn’t been to the CWS since 1964, the last of six appearances made by the Tigers in a 12-year span, all coming under legendary coach Hi Simmons.
Super sophomore — K-State sophomore shortstop Austin Fisher is having a breakout season that has gone largely unheralded because the man to his left — junior second baseman Ross Kivett — is the Big 12 player of the year.
Fisher leads the Wildcats with a .365 batting average, is an All-Big 12 selection and is also the only player from the Big 12 nominated for the Brooks Wallace Award, which goes to the nation’s top shortstop. Fisher, from Lenexa, is also nominated for the Gregg Olsen breakout player of the year award.
As a freshman, Fisher hit .295 and started eight games.
Something in common — In college baseball, schools from outside of the South — with the exception of California -- are commonly referred to as “northern” schools, which includes K-State and Oregon State.
That begin said, the Wildcats and the Beavers have some past success in common, being the only northern teams to earn bids to NCAA regionals in 2009, 2010 and 2011.