In the early years of the Big 12, baseball teams couldn’t wait to get to the part of their schedule that said Kansas State.
Times have definitely changed.
The Wildcats surged to their first conference championship since 1933 – a span of 80 years – and hopes to earn a spot hosing an NCAA Regional when bids are announced Monday thanks mostly to an offense that had no weak spots anywhere in the lineup.
As balanced as it was, however, the tone was set at the top with leadoff hitter Ross Kivett.
The junior from Broadview Heights, Ohio, hit .376 and got on base at a .439 clip in 24 Big 12 games during the regular season. His exploits lifted the Wildcats to a .318 average as a team, 44 points better than second-place Baylor, and made him the choice as the Tribune-Herald Big 12 Player of the Year.
Kansas State also raked in Coach of the Year honors for Brad Hill, and relief pitcher Jake Matthys earned the nod as Freshman of the Year.
In a league known for being pitching-dominated this year, West Virginia left-hander Harrison Musgrave was flawless during league play to bring home the Pitcher of the Year award, while Kansas’ Jordan Piche’ had a knack for closing out games and garnered Newcomer of the Year status.
“Tenacity and passion for the game,” said Hill of Kivett’s best attributes. “He’s a competitor but his passion for playing just rubs off on everybody. He loves to play baseball, and he sets the tone for our whole ballclub. He’s grown as a leader and doing the things we’ve needed him to do. He’s matured a bunch, and obviously he’s a very good player on top of all of those intangibles.”
To the victors go the spoils, and Kansas State slotted five players on the Trib’s first team, the most of any school.
The Wildcats were eliminated from the conference’s tournament championship with a heartbreaking 7-6 loss to Oklahoma in 11 innings in the final game of pool play Saturday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
That was one of the things that didn’t go right for the Wildcats, who won the league by three games with a 16-8 mark and will head into the NCAAs with a 41-17 mark. They’ve come a long way since the early days of the Big 12.
“The commitment to the program the past few years has been tremendous and gave us the opportunity to be where we are,” Hill said. “But you always start with the foundation, and that’s the guys that came before us. We’re happy to win that thing for them. They’ve taken a lot of pride. I can’t believe how many emails and phone calls we’re getting from baseball alumni because they’re taking pride in what we’re doing.”
In addition to his stellar work as a leadoff man, Kivett made huge strides at second base. He made only five errors there this season, and the same quickness he uses to get down the line as a baserunner serves him well as a fielder.
“People have really talked more about that, his range at second base and how he’s really improved his fielding,” Hill said. “He’s a leader on the field, too, because he’ll come in and talk to the pitcher when he needs to, and he talks to everybody in the outfield. He’s a general on the field.”
Matthys came in and made an immediate impact for the Wildcats at the back end of the bullpen. He was 5-0 in Big 12 games and 8-0 overall in his rookie season.
In a league that boasts possibly the top pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft in Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray, it was Musgrave who shined the most in the conference. The sophomore won all five of the decisions he earned in the Mountaineers’ inaugural season Big 12 action and boasted a 1.02 ERA in those contests. He was the conference pitcher of the week four times.
Piche’, a transfer from Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, grabbed five saves for the Jayhawks in Big 12 play and finished with a 3-3 mark in such games.
ALL-BIG 12 BASEBALL TEAM
Pos Player School Class BA HR RBI Notable
C Blair DeBord Kansas State Jr .318 0 32 5-for-5 on stolen-base tries
1B Matt Oberste Oklahoma Jr .382 10 53 League-best 83 hits, 139 total bases
2B Ross Kivett Kansas State Jr .349 1 32 38 hits tops in league play
3B Cal Towey Baylor Sr .291 4 45 3rd in Big 12 play with .349 average
SS Austin Fisher Kansas State So .356 2 34 Team-high 18 doubles
OF Jared King Kansas State Jr .347 6 48 Tied for 5th in Big 12 with 46 runs
OF Craig Aikin Oklahoma Fr .290 0 22 Team-best 29 walks, 14 stolen bases
OF Mark Payton Texas Jr .393 0 25 League-high 8 triples
DH Nathan Orf Baylor Sr .377 1 34 .474 on-base percentage 2nd in league
UTIL Tanner Witt Kansas State Sr .325 1 29 7 saves on mound
Player School Class W-L IP SO ERA Notable
Jonathan Gray Oklahoma Jr 8-2 110.0 127 1.55 .181 batting average against
Jake Matthys Kansas State Fr 8-0 46.2 35 1.93 5 Big 12 wins tied for top spot
Preston Morrison TCU So 7-3 107.0 64 1.51 2nd with 58.1 Big 12 innings pitched
Harrison Musgrave West Virginia So 9-1 95.1 81 2.17 5-0, .145 average against in Big 12
Vince Wheeland Oklahoma State Jr 8-2 69.0 62 2.09 .221 batting average against
Player of the Year: Ross Kivett, Kansas State Pitcher: Harrison Musgrave, West Virginia
Newcomer: Jordan Piche’, Kansas Freshman Jake Matthys, Kansas State
Coach: Brad Hill, Kansas State
Pos. Player School Cl BA HR RBI Notable
C Victor Moreno Oklahoma St. Sr .293 4 26 Team best .425 on-base percentage
1B Shane Conlon Kansas State So .341 7 27 16-for-19 on stolen-base attempts
2B Lawton Langford Baylor Jr .278 0 18 Tied for league lead with 21 runs
3B Jake Barrios Texas Tech Jr .302 3 48 Hit .337 in Big 12 play
SS Jake Miller Baylor Sr .286 1 31 21 RBIs in Big 12 play tied for 3rd
OF Zach Fish Oklahoma St. So .281 7 41 Led team with 101 total bases
OF Michael Suiter Kansas So .311 0 25 Team-best 17 stolen bases
OF Max White Oklahoma Sr .305 3 28 47 runs scored
DH Ryan McBroom West Virgina Jr .264 11 46 Team-high 108 total bases
UTIL Randy McCurry Oklahoma St. Sr 312 2 36 2-1, 2.16 ERA on mound
Player School Class W-L IP SO ERA Notable
Crayton Bare Baylor Sr 6-2 53.1 54 3.38 5 saves tied for team lead
Jacob Evans Oklahoma Fr 6-2 45.2 39 1.38 9 saves tied for 2nd in league
Dillon Overton Oklahoma Jr 9-2 81.0 74 2.89 2 complete games
Dillon Peters Texas So 6-3 86.2 57 1.97 4 Big 12 wins tied for 4th
Jordan Piche’ Kansas Jr 6-4 60.0 45 1.80 Led Big 12 with 11 saves