After five good innings from starting pitcher Colton Kalmus, Kansas State coach Brad Hill decided to roll the dice on closer Jake Matthys in the sixth inning on Tuesday night.
Although the sophomore got into some trouble, he battled through it and completed a rare four-inning save as the Wildcats defeated Wichita State, 3-2, at Tointon Family Stadium.
Matthys entered the game with a 3-2 lead and no outs with one on in the sixth inning and avoided the trouble heading into the seventh. That’s where things got a little dicey.
With a runner on first, K-State second baseman Lance Miles misfired badly on a mid-range throw to first, putting runners at second and third with one out. After intentionally walking the bases loaded, Matthys struck out Chase Simpson and got Garrett Bayliff to groundout to Miles to get out unscathed.
Matthys would put two runners on with one out in the eighth inning before striking Tanner Kirk out and getting Tanner Dearman to fly out.
It got really close in the ninth. Matthys struck the first batter of the inning and than allowed Casey Gillaspie to rip a single right through the middle. He struck out Simpson for the first out, and then got a big play from first baseman Shane Conlon.
Conlon scooped up a groundball to first and threw it home, catching Daniel Kihle in a rundown between third and home to record the second out.
Wichita State hit a ground ball to third, and RJ Santigate tagged out Gillaspie to end the game.
“That was really good to see,” Hill said. “Really good stuff tonight, great pitches in crucial situations. Jake was really good.”
It was just the third save of the season for Matthys, who threw 73 pitches — just shy of his career high of 75 — and allowed no runs on five hits and two walks, with five strikeouts.
Matthys said it felt like a step in the right direction after some struggles in the first half of the season.
“It’s good to actually have some confidence in myself and get out there and have the coaches have confidence in me, sending me back out there instead of going to the bullpen right away,” he said. “I try not to think about what happened in the past. My blown saves, the eight runs against Oklahoma — I just think about next pitch, don’t worry about what happened, (worry) what’s in front of me.”
Matthys’ 2014 campaign got off to a bad start in the summer of 2013. After taking two weeks off following the end of the season, he went to New York for summer ball and suffered an injury after making a start two days into his trip.
He didn’t start throwing off the mound again until winter break.
“It’s just been the ups and downs,” he said. “I have a couple good outings and then I blow a save in Omaha. It’s just a lot of highs and lows right now and I’m trying to get that steady.”
Kalmus had a solid night for the Wildcats as well, allowing two runs on two hits and three walks with three strikeouts. Only one of the runs was earned, as Bayliff hit a home run in the fourth inning.
“Colton Kalmus did a good job,” Hill said. “One pitch, one mistake he makes and they hit it, and other than that we kind of gave them the other run. Our pitching pretty much carried us.”
Ross Kivett opened the game with a single up the middle, and Conlon followed by getting hit by a pitch. Both advanced a base on a wild pitch before Santigate popped a single into the outfield to score two runs.
Wichita State answered in the bottom of the second on a double from Micah Green that brought Tyler Baker around for a play at the plate. K-State catcher Blair DeBord applied the tag with the ball in his hand, but it slipped away on the collision and the run scored for the Shockers.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 3-1 in the third inning on a single from designated hitter Tyler Stover that brought Conlon around from second base.
Bayliff hit a home run on the second pitch of the top of the fourth to help the Shockers cut the lead to 3-2.
The Wildcats will be on the road tonight for a game at Nebraska.