Baseball team set for home opener this weekend

file photo K-State pitcher Jake Doller launches the ball toward home plate and a ready Northern Colorado batter during the Wildcats' game against Northern Colorado Tuesday evening at Tointon Family Stadium.

While the K-State baseball team is disappointed regarding their slow start to the season, which began with five straight losses, they have nothing but confidence that this season will be a successful one.

Last weekend was supposed to be the team’s home opener, but winter weather forced them south to Abilene, Tex, where they won all three games. Now sitting at 4-7, they welcome the Iowa Hawkeyes (9-1) to town for the long awaited first home series of the 2014 campaign.

“We’re excited to be at home,” head coach Brad Hill said. “It looks like the weather is going to be good at least two of the three days, and I know the guys are excited to be home. Hopefully we’ll play good baseball.”

After a rough stretch from the offense and some pitching problems in the first couple weeks of the season, K-State saw the pieces come together last weekend as the pitching staff was exceptional and the offense was every bit as good.

“We’re a work in progress, we obviously didn’t play very good baseball in the first couple weeks. Now we’re just trying to repair ourselves, put ourselves back together. Last week was step in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of things we have to get better at and continue to do.”

Senior Ross Kivett’s weekend garnered him Big 12 Player of the Week awards after he went 6-for-12 in three games, including three hits on Sunday. He was especially effective with runners in scoring position, batting 4-for-5. Kivett also started in center field for the first time in his Wildcat career after serving as the team’s primary second baseman for the past three seasons. Last year’s Big 12 player of the year is expected to play in center again this weekend.

This season has also seen K-State’s three starting pitchers step up big, especially in last weekend’s wins. Senior Jared Moore and sophomores Levi MaVorhis and Landon Busch combined for a 2.70 ERA last weekend, while all pitched at least seven innings.

“They were around the [strike] zone, they competed. I thought Moore competed well, Levi made a couple of in-game adjustments, and Busch was really outstanding. He really had his game together,” Hill said of his starters. “We haven’t had three starts like that in a weekend in a long time .”

MaVorhis is expected to start the home opener today, one week after striking out eight in 7.1 innings, while Moore will likely throw tomorrow. The lefty has stepped up big as the only senior on the pitching staff and is handling the transition from the bullpen to the rotation exceptionally. Sunday’s starter could likely be Busch, who tossed a complete game last weekend.

Iowa has enjoyed a good start to the season, thanks to a soaring offense and stellar starting pitching so far. The three starters K-State can expect to see on the mound this weekend all have ERAs below three: Calvin Matthews (2.12), Tyler Peyton (2.70), and Andrew Hedrick (2.87).

Shortstop Jake Yacinich leads the team with a .412 average at the plate, while Jake Mangler is not far behind, hitting .405 and playing next to Yacinich at second base. As a team, the Hawkeyes have a .308 average, while six players who have started at least six games are hitting above the .300 mark.

Today and Saturday’s games will begin at 3 p.m., while Sunday’s series finale will start at 1 p.m.