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May 31, 2013

Cats throttle Shockers in NCAA opener

As one of the top offenses in the nation, the Kansas State baseball team never panics when it falls behind early in games. After a 20-11 victory over Wichita State in the NCAA Manhattan Regional opener, it's easy to see why.

The 'BatCats' lived up to their name with a record-breaking offensive clinic after falling behind 2-0 in the first inning Friday afternoon at Tointon Family Stadium.

"It helps when we know we're going to score," K-State outfielder Tanner Witt said. "Levi gave up two runs, but he knows we're going to have his back. Everybody in the lineup keeps calm and believes we're going to score runs."

Top-seeded K-State fell behind as Wildcat starter Levi MaVoris struggled with his nerves and command early on, giving up a pair of runs after two straight walks to begin the game.

It did not take long for the deficit to disappear.

Jon Davis hit a two-run single in the bottom of the frame to tie the game, with Jared King giving K-State the lead on an infield single by Mitch Meyer.

"Our pitchers looked nervous and I didn't like the way we looked at all," Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson said. "You can't play the way we did and expect to survive."

And the inning was just beginning.

K-State scored a total of nine runs in the frame as 15 Wildcats came to the plate. Witt and Ross Kivett each singled twice in the frame and Wichita State starter Cale Elam was pulled after recording just one out. He was charged with six runs.

Elam entered the game with a 7-4 record and 2.60 ERA.

"We take pride in getting after good pitching," Kivett said. "Elam has a good arm and we knew we would be in for a battle. As an offense, our goal was to get to him early, and we did."

The Wildcats got some help, as Wichita State pitchers walked three batters and hit two more in the first inning alone. K-State proved to be dangerous when granted that many free bases.

"It's virtually impossible to handle that offense when you help them that much," Stephenson said.

The nine runs scored marked a K-State record for one inning in an NCAA Tournament game and came two runs short of tying the NCAA record for first inning production.

After the 49-minute marathon ended, the other eight inning seemed to be played as more of a formality. K-State's bullpen held the Shockers in check, for the most part, as the Wildcat offense scored at least once in every inning except the second.

MaVorhis was pulled in the third in an effort to use him again later in the weekend if necessary.

"It was tough on Levi," K-State coach Brad Hill said. "Today he looked nervous. Last week he looked tired. Hopefully, the third time is the charm when he throws again for us. He'll bounce back and he'll be fine."

The Shockers scored a pair of runs in the third and fifth innings, respectively, but K-State answered back on both occasions to hold WSU at arm's length.

Four Wildcat pitchers combined for seven innings of relief, giving up five earned runs.

Wichita State used a total of seven pitchers on the day. None of them found success against the second-ranked offense in the country. All but one K-State starter recorded at least one hit and one run.

"It was an ugly game, but we won, and that's the big thing," Hill said. "The offense did an outstanding job of covering us today."

Big 12 Player of the Year Ross Kivett eliminated any chance of a comeback with a two-run homer to left in the sixth. For good measure, he added another two-run shot in the very next inning. He finished the day 4-of-5 with four runs scored and four RBIs.

"I just wanted to protect the plate and get some good swings," said Kivett, who entered the game with just one home run all season. "I happened to do so twice."

Austin Fisher returned to the K-State lineup from a back injury and went 2-for-3 with three RBIs. Davis and Meyer each drove in three runs of their own as well. Witt scored three runs on a 4-for-4 day at the plate.

"Don't get me wrong, I love seeing 20 runs on the board," Hill said. "I'm just concerned with the 11 runs we gave up."

K-State advanced to 42-17 on the season and moved to 4-7 all time in NCAA Regional games. The Wildcats take on the winner of No. 2 Arkansas and No. 3 Bryant Saturday night at 7 p.m. Wichita State will face the loser in an elimination game at 2 p.m.



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