Tointon Family Stadium to host Sunflower Showdown this weekend

Parker Robb | The Collegian Senior third baseman RJ Santigate slides back into first base before being tagged out by Iowa first baseman Tyler Peyton after attempting to steal second in the fifth inning of the Wildcats' 3-2 defeat of Iowa in the first game of the series Friday.

After a 2-2 road trip to Omaha in the last week, the Wildcat baseball team (17-11, 1-2 Big 12) returns to Manhattan to resume Big 12 play against Kansas (19-10, 3-3 Big 12) this weekend.

As college baseball nears the halfway point of its season, K-State dives into conference play head first, with every weekend series from here on out against a Big 12 foe.

Head coach Brad Hill says that the best word to describe his team’s performance so far this season is inconsistency.

“We’ve shown flashes of not being very good, we’ve shown flashes of being pretty competitive,” Hill said. “Now, it’s can we sustain it for more than a couple games at a time? That’s been the nemesis. We need to get this thing going and more consistent play.”

After a rough 1-7 start to the season on a West Coast road trip, the team has fought to get their record not only just above .500, but well above that mark.

“It’s been a grind,” senior catcher Blair DeBord said of the season so far. “We didn’t get off to the start we exactly wanted. We got back on it when we got back to Manhattan, we had some road woes.”

There may be no better place to start the most important stretch of the 2014 season than at home in Manhattan and there may not be better incentive to win than against the Jayhawks.

“I’ve been a K-State fan my whole life, so I’ve always not really liked KU,” DeBord said of the rivalry. “It obviously means a little more, this series, when we play them and teams like Wichita State. You grow up your whole life playing against some of those guys so it means a little bit more when you’re able to beat them. For sure this weekend means a little bit more to us.”

K-State has received some quality innings from their starting pitching this season, which was a position that often struggled last season, and Hill is pleased with the way they have delivered on the mound so far this season.

“Those guys have done a good job,” Hill said of his team. “Levi [MaVorhis] has been very consistent. Jared [Moore] got off to a good start, I’d like to see him have a bounce back on Saturday, and be a little more consistent for us and get us deeper into the game, and Nate [Griep] had obviously some pretty solid outings.”

MaVorhis, a sophomore, has served as the team’s number one starter this season pitching on Friday nights, and has stepped up as a big leader for the pitching staff. With a 3-3 record and a 3.32 ERA in seven starts, he has done a good job of keeping the Wildcats in the game week in and week out.

Now in his senior campaign, Moore will start on Saturday, and despite getting roughed up last weekend against Creighton where he gave up five runs in five innings, he has delivered several quality starts this season, with a 5-1 record and a 4.15 ERA.

As solid as MaVorhis and Moore have been so far, the story of the rotation, and maybe even the team, has been Griep. After losing last season to Tommy John surgery, the redshirt freshman has excelled on the mound to the tune of a 3-0 record and 1.67 ERA. The righty has held batters to a .186 average and surrendered just four extra base hits all year in 32 1/3 innings.

Offensively, the Wildcats are starting to find a groove, hitting .306 as a team. Senior third baseman R.J. Santigate and junior shortstop Austin Fisher lead the squad with .362 averages at the plate, while senior center fielder Ross Kivett is right behind them at .355.

Tonight’s game starts at 6:30 p.m., followed by a 2 p.m. first pitch tomorrow, and Sunday’s series finale will begin at 1 p.m.