K-State’s bullpen shines in Big 12 tourney win

By The Mercury

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kansas State relievers Nate Williams and Jake Matthys combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings to bolster a solid start by freshman Blake McFadden as the Wildcats edged Texas Tech, 4-3, Thursday in the opening round of the Big 12 Championship at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

K-State improved to 40-16 on the season, reaching the 40-win mark for just the second time in school history. The Red Raiders dropped to 25-29.

Williams, who entered the game in the sixth inning with one out and the Wildcats on top 4-2, allowed a two-out RBI double to cut the lead to one. But the sophomore right-hander retired the next four batters before handing the game over the Matthys in the eighth.

Matthys, who broke the K-State freshman record for saves with seven, retired all six batters he faced with four strikeouts to finish the game.

“It was just a really clean, good ballgame,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said. “Both sides pitched very well. We were fortunate enough to come out on top. Fortunately, some things went our way.”

Matthys, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, needed only 19 pitches in his two scoreless innings and threw only four pitches out of the strike zone. He moved into a tie for third place in school history with his 29th appearance, which is the most by a freshman in school history.

McFadden (6-2) pitched out of tough situations in the first three innings by forcing Texas Tech to leave two on base in the second inning, while a caught stealing helped the right-hander face the minimum in the third. But in the fourth, Tech’s Eric Gutierrez hit two-run homer off the left-field foul pole to give the Red Raiders a 2-1 lead before McFadden settled down to get three consecutive outs and end the threat.

The Wildcats offense had to grind it out against one of the nation’s top pitchers, Trey Masek (5-2). K-State manufactured a run in the second inning without recording a hit when Jared King walked and stole second base before a pair of groundouts — the latter by Jon Davis — scored the game’s first run.

Tanner Witt led off the fourth with a double down the left-field line and Shane Conlon followed with a single to put runners on the corners. King drove home Witt with a sacrifice fly before pinch-hitter and Manhattan High product Kyle Speer doubled to the right-field wall, moving Conlon to third. Davis hit another sacrifice fly to produce the second run of the inning and Lance Miles, who pinch ran for Speer, scored on a wild pitch to build the lead to 4-2.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to (Masek),” Conlon said. “He pitched great and kept us off balance. We had the one big inning that basically won us the ballgame. Our pitching staff threw great today and kept us in the game.”

Conlon finished with two hits and scored a run, while Davis registered his ninth multi-RBI game of the year. Gutierrez led Texas Tech by going 1 for 2 with two RBIs and hit his fourth home run in as many games.

Top-seeded Kansas State was to continue play in Pool One Friday with a 12:30 p.m. contest against No. 5-seed Baylor. The Wildcats will also play Oklahoma on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

The results from Friday’s game will be posted on today.

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