MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State entered the NCAA Tournament with the second-best batting average in the country (.323).
The Wildcats showed off their power in the Manhattan (Kan.) Regional opener.
Kansas State beat up No. 4 Wichita State at Tointon Family Stadium on Friday afternoon, rolling to a 20-11 win to move into today’s winner’s bracket game. The Wildcats gave up two runs in the top of the first inning, but shrugged it off by scoring nine of their own off three different pitchers in the bottom of the inning.
“We were playing against a very good hitting team,” Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson said. “They had no weaknesses in their lineup. We knew that already. You’re going to have to pitch well and you’re going to have to play great defense.”
The Shockers didn’t help their cause. Wichita State’s pitchers combined to issue nine walks and hit six batters in its NCAA Tournament opener. Kansas State took advantage of the free base runners, getting 19 hits as well. It included two home runs from leadoff hitter Ross Kivett, who is the Big 12 Player of the Year.
Kansas State chased starter Cale Elam could only record one out before being lifted by Stephenson. He was replaced by Albert Minnis, who also lasted 1/3 of an inning.
“We take pride in getting after good pitching,” said Kivett, who finished 4-for-5 with 4 RBIs and 4 runs. “As an offense, our goal was to get to (Elam) early and we did. When we got Minnis out of there too, that kind of sparked it.
“We knew it was going to be a boat race.”
Kansas State’s previous season-high for runs came in a 15-2 win against Texas Tech on April 6. The 20 runs also were the most Wichita State, which returned to a regional for the first time since 2009, have ever allowed in the NCAA Tournament.
It may be difficult to put up 20 runs again, but Kansas State outfielder Tanner Witt said the Wildcats’ confidence at the plate will continue this weekend.
“Having that plate discipline and quality at-bats up and down the lineup is who we are and why we are here,” Witt said. “All we need to do is keep those at-bats going and hopefully we’ve proven to some people that we can hit on the national stage.”
Small Ball Mistakes
Arkansas had a chance to break a 1-1 tie after Tyler Spoon and Brian Anderson reached to open the sixth inning. But a small ball mistake wiped out the chance.
Dominic Ficociello, who flew out to deep center field in his first at bat and hit a double to the wall in his second, tried to bunt the runners over. But he popped it back to Bryant catcher Jonathan Scott, who then threw Spoon out at second.
It happened again in the seventh inning when Brett McAfee was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Jake Wise popped out trying to move McAfee to second.
Arkansas failed to score in both innings.
Farris Back in Lineup
Freshman Jordan Farris returned to the lineup after not starting the final two games of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said earlier this week he planned to play Farris to have his best defensive lineup on the synthetic turf at Kansas State.
Farris sat down last week after struggling at the plate. He entered the regional 4-for-37 (.108) in his previous 11 games, which dropped his batting average from .305 to .229. But Farris said his confidence wasn’t shaken earlier this week.
“I was kind of in my head a little bit and it gave me time to relax and just calm down out there and slow the game down and get back in it,” Farris said. “I think I was putting too much pressure on myself, thinking too much up there. It was time to get in the cages and work on what I need to work and quit thinking.”
Farris didn’t have a good night Friday. He struck out his first three at-bats and also committed an error in the sixth inning, which led to Bryant’s game-tying run.
Kansas State and Wichita State provided plenty of fireworks in the first inning of the regional opener, combining to score 11 runs. The first between Arkansas and Bryant went much quicker in the nightcap.
Arkansas starter Barrett Astin allowed two singles, but didn’t give up a run. Bryant starter Peter Kelich retired the Razorbacks in order.
The quick play prompted the official scorer at Tointon Family Stadium to announce the first inning was 32 minutes shorter than the start to the opening game.
Kansas State enjoyed a win in its NCAA Tournament opener, but coach Brad Hill didn’t exactly like what he saw in the 20-11 win.
“That was kind of ugly,” Hill said. “It wasn’t a good game either way. Ugly. We won. That’s the big thing about it. Offensively we did a tremendous job of covering us (Friday). I don’t think either team wanted to be out there that long or play that way.”
Kansas State starter Levi MaVorhis only last two innings, allowing four runs on four hits. The Wildcats had to use five pitchers to get through the game that spanned 3 hours, 33 minutes.
“Do not get me wrong, I am an offensive guy,” Hill said. “I love 20 runs. I just hate giving up 11.”