Kansas State University

Kansas State middle relievers come to the rescue

The failure of Kansas State’s starting pitchers didn’t lead to losses for the Wildcats in three regional victories over Wichita State, Bryant and Arkansas last weekend in Manhattan.

K-State might not be so lucky if they run into the same problems against Oregon State starting Saturday in a best-of-three super regional in Corvallis, Ore.

“Our pitching overall has been better, our starting pitching has not,” K-State coach Brad Hill said. “The thing that’s kind of faltered has been our starting pitching, but we’ve seen some other pitchers, particularly in a relief role, that have been outstanding. As a coaching staff, you have to be really smart in not letting that really big inning happen. We allowed three (runs) in the first (against Arkansas). We can’t allow someone to get up and get a five-spot on us.”

Of the three starters the Wildcats rolled out in the regional, only Joe Flattery was crediting with a victory, going five innings against Bryant while giving up seven hits, one earned run and one walk. Flattery, who took a line drive off his leg early, struck out three.

Freshman Levi MaVorhis, who moved up to No. 1 in the rotation late in the season, lasted two innings against WSU while giving up four hits, four earned runs and walking three. Freshman Blake McFadden also struggled in his start against Arkansas, giving up five hits and all three runs the Razorbacks scored in 1 2/3 innings.

But the Wildcats relief pitchers were sharp, and that made the difference.

“Those guys struggled, sure, but we’re going to need them again pretty quickly,” said K-State’s Jake Matthys, who picked up saves against Bryant and Arkansas. “We know they’ll bounce back.”

Hill used five pitchers against the Shockers, with Jared Moore picking up the win in 2 1/2 innings while Jordan Witcig and Matt Wivinis both pitched solid innings.

The biggest hero in the bullpen over the weekend was Gerardo Esquivel, who inherited a 3-0 deficit against Arkansas and went 4 1/3 innings for the win, giving up one hit, no earned runs and no walks. Esquivel’s outing earned him a spot on the all-regional team.

“We never gave up and never gave in,” Esquivel said. “I knew if I came out and competed like (Hill) said, we’d have a chance to win.”

Hill hasn’t said who will start the first game against Oregon State. The Beavers have five players hitting better than .300 in their lineup.

“We’re in TBA mode right now,” Hill said. “I’m going to sleep and dream and see a vision of something that’s going to happen this weekend.”

But it’s Matthys, named a Freshman All-American on Wednesday, who is he Wildcats’ ace in the hole if a game is close late.

“Hopefully I can get the ball and shut it down at the end,” Matthys said. “That’s what I’m here for.”

Oregon State has a pair of pitchers that could both be considered their No. 1 in freshman right-hander Andrew Moore (13-1, 1.22 ERA) and senior left-hander Matt Boyd (10-3, 2.20 ERA).

Moore, a semifinalist for national pitcher of the year, uses a fastball that tops out in the low 90s and a slider to keep hitters off-balance. Boyd was picked by the Cincinnati Reds in the 13th round of last year’s Major League Baseball draft.

“They’ve got a lefty and a righty that can pound the zone,” K-State second baseman Ross Kivett said. “They’ve both got pretty good off-speed stuff, too.”

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