MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State baseball coach Brad Hill and leadoff hitter Ross Kivett enjoyed the perks that follow a conference championship Tuesday. Hill was chosen Big 12 coach of the year, while Kivett won player of the year.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
The Big 12 also announced that it was delaying the start of its baseball tournament in Oklahoma City, scheduled to begin today, to Thursday because of Monday’s tornado disaster in nearby Moore.
“We debated canceling the tournament in deference to the devastating tragedy in Moore, but were encouraged by Oklahoma City leaders and the Oklahoma City All-Sports Association to go forward,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a news release. “We believe the tournament can serve as a testament to the strong Oklahoma spirit and the resiliency of the Oklahoma people.”
The eight teams in the tournament, split into four-team pools, will play three games each, one Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The teams with the best record in each pool will play a championship game at 1 p.m. Sunday. Top-seeded K-State opens the tournament against Texas Tech at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
For Hill, the coach of the year award came as no surprise. The Wildcats, who finished the regular season 39-16 overall and 16-8 in the Big 12, won their first conference championship since 1933 and might play host to a NCAA Tournament regional a year after they suffered a losing season and tied for last in the league standings. K-State was picked to finish seventh this season.
Hill becomes the third K-State coach to win Big 12 coach of the year honors this academic year, joining football coach Bill Snyder and basketball coach Bruce Weber. K-State is the first school in league history to have its football, men’s basketball and baseball coaches win the award in the same academic year.
“It’s more about the players than me. It’s not that big of a deal for me,” Hill said Tuesday by phone. “It’s a credit to our players and what they accomplished this year. You win awards because you win a lot of games, and you win a lot of games because your players take care of business and are motivated for success.
“That’s what we had this year, man. We had a group of guys who took charge and took over. A coach can’t make players do anything. They have to want to do it and be the focal point of the team. That’s what we had this year, a great group of leaders.”
One of those leaders was Kivett, a junior infielder who led the way for K-State’s offense with a .359 batting average at the top of the order. He also scored 46 runs, hit a home run and had 30 RBIs.
Hill thought junior outfielder Jared King, a .342 hitter who drove in 46 runs, and Austin Fisher, a shortstop who hit .358, also were deserving of the award.
Kivett is the third K-State player to win league player of the year honors, joining Craig Wilson (1992) and Nick Martini (2010).
Relief pitcher Jake Matthys was chosen freshman of the year after going 8-0 with a 2.01 ERA. King, who has a 3.52 GPA, and TCU’s Jantzen Witte, who carries a 3.84 GPA as a graduate student, shared the scholar-athlete of the year award.
The Wildcats also had a school-record seven players make first-team all-Big 12: Blair DeBord, Shane Conlon, Tanner Witt, Fisher, Kivett, King and Matthys.
Kansas pitcher Jordan Piche was chosen newcomer of the year. A transfer from Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, Piche is 3-3 with five saves and has a 2.20 ERA in league games.
West Virginia pitcher Harrison Musgrave, with a 5-0 record and 1.02 ERA, won pitcher of the year.