After a 1-7 start to the season, the Wildcat baseball team was no doubt excited to play in front of a friendly crowd at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan this weekend.
However, an impending winter storm forced K-State to head south to Abilene, Texas for four more away games in the Bourland-Ardoin Classic hosted by Abilene Christian.
The team’s first two games will be against Grand Canyon, today at 1 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m., followed by Missouri State Saturday at 7 p.m., while the final game will be against Abilene Christian on Sunday at 3 p.m.
This will be the first time K-State has played Grand Canyon (4-4). The Antelopes are in their first season as a Division I team since 1998.
The ‘Lopes are expected to start junior Jorge Perez on Friday and sophomore Andrew Naderer on Saturday. Perez is 1-1 with a 1.12 ERA this season in two starts, striking out 13 compared to two walks issued, while Naderer is also 1-1,with a 4.38 ERA.
Sophomore Levi MaVorhis will take the mound for K-State Friday while Saturday will see senior Jared Moore get the start. MaVorhis is 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA so far this year as the team’s number one starter, but the righty has issued just one walk and is holding opposing hitters to a .190 batting average.
Saturday’s first game will be a lefty-on-lefty matchup as Moore takes on Naderer. Moore has proven to be a senior leader on the mound so far this season, with a 3.48 ERA and and a 1-1 record.
The second half of Saturday’s double header will pit the Wildcats against Missouri State, who the Wildcats last played in 2012, when the Bears beat K-State 3-0 in Springfield, Mo.
K-State will send lefty sophomore Landon Busch to the mound to take on fellow lefty sophomore Matt Hall at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Busch has an overall ERA of 5.62 this season, but has been very effective as a starter, with a 2.35 ERA in two starts.
On Sunday, K-State head coach Brad Hill will send freshman Nate Griep to the mound for his first career start as a Wildcat against Abilene Christian. Griep has a team-low 1.93 ERA this season in 4.2 innings in three relief appearances.
K-State’s offense has struggled to keep the team in many games this year, but the pieces are in place for a high-paced offense. Junior Austin Fisher leads the team in both batting average (.423) and on-base percentage (.559). Fisher has also reached base safely in all eight games this season, and has done so at least twice in seven of them.
Reigning Big 12 Player of the Year senior Ross Kivett has suffered a slow start to the season with a .185 batting average, but he is still doing his part as the leadoff man, with a .371 on-base percentage. The second baseman is looking for a breakout weekend to get K-State on track, and this tournament might be it.