Baseball Preview: Kansas State

Kansas State had never qualified for a regional prior to 2009 when they went 41-16. They had one of the better teams in school history in 2010 when they went 37-22, finished third in the Big XII at 14-12 and qualified for a regional for the second consecutive year.

#3 Seed – Kansas State Wildcats
 

  • Overall Record – 36-23
  • Conference Record – 12-14 (6th place)
  • How they qualified for a regional – At-large
  • Last Regional Appearance – 2010 (1-2 at Arkansas Regional.  Lost twice to Washington State, Beat Grambling)
  • RPI/ISR – 41/43
  • SOS – 49 (RPI)/60 (ISR)
  • Record vs. tournament field – 7-14
  • Record vs. top 50/top 100 RPI – 10-14/21-21

 
Season Summary
 
Kansas State had never qualified for a regional prior to 2009 when they went 41-16.  They had one of the better teams in school history in 2010 when they went 37-22, finished third in the Big XII at 14-12 and qualified for a regional for the second consecutive year.  The Wildcats were expected to take a slight step back this season after losing four players who hit .330 or better and were picked by the Big XII to finish in fifth and by Baseball America to finish in seventh. Kansas State split the difference by finishing in sixth with a retooled offense and a strong bullpen to make a late run to get into position to receive an at-large spot in a regional.
 
Kansas State got off to a good start at 12-2 against mostly soft competition (Pacific, Western Illinois, Long Island) with the only challenge for them coming in a tournament at Coastal Carolina where they went 2-2.  The Wildcats struggled for over a month with a 9-13 mark over their next 22 games that included a 5-10 start in their Big XII games with only one series win (against Oklahoma) in their first five conf series.  Kansas State rebounded from their midseason slump to go 14-6 down the stretch with sweeps of Texas Tech and Kansas that propelled them from the bottom of the conference standings to the middle.  The Wildcats played well last week in the Big XII tournament and beat Oklahoma twice and lost to Texas A&M twice, finally being eliminated 9-8 by the Aggies in eleven innings.
 
Kansas State had a solid offense last year that hit .323 but knew they might have trouble hitting early after losing several standouts along with having to use the new BBCOR bats.  The Wildcats offense ended up hitting 40 points less at .283 and they only hit .272 in Big XII games.  Kansas State has never built their offense around playing for the big inning with the long ball and that hasn't changed this year.  The 34 HR's that the Wildcats hit weren't far off of the 39 that they hit last year with the old bats but where they drive opposing teams crazy is on the base paths.   Kansas State stole 120 bases to lead the Big XII and finish in the top ten in the country in 2010 and have already stolen 123 bases to once again lead the conf and rank in the top ten.  Six Wildcats have stolen at least thirteen bases.  Kansas State will also bunt to move runners over and try to beat out SAC bunts.  The Wildcats will work counts to try to wear pitchers down and had five hitters end up with over twenty walks.  Kansas State finished second in the Big XII in scoring but was held to four runs or less 24 times.  The Wildcats offense is much better at home using their speed on their field turf where they hit .305 and averaged seven runs per game.  Kansas State hit .244 and averaged 4.3 runs per game away from home.
 
Kansas State won last season primarily due to their offense with a staff ERA of 5.57 and thought there would be some improvement with most of their pitching staff returning and that has been the case with the team ERA tumbling down by almost 1 1/2 runs to 4.16.  The Wildcats had the same two pitchers in the Friday and Saturday spots in the rotation all season but their results were up and down as they also were with the Sunday and midweek starters.  The backbone of the Kansas State pitching staff has been a dynamite 1-2 combo out of the bullpen at the end of games and a bunch of relievers who would be brought into games for a couple of hitters in situational matchups.  The Wildcats held their opponents to four runs or less 34 times.
 

Offense
 
Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 83 (decreases offense by 17%).
Batting Average – .280 (NCAA ranking – 142, Conf ranking 4)
Runs – 352 (77, 2) 6.0 per game
Home Runs – 34 (81, 5)
Stolen Bases – 123 (4, 1)
Slugging Percentage – .406 (91, 3)
On Base Percentage – .371 (DNR, 5)
Walks – 219 (91, 5), 3.7 per game
HBP's – 67 (64, 6)
Sac Bunts – 62 (45, 4)
Strikeouts – 332 (DNR, DNR), 5.6 per game
 

Batting Order
 
DH #7 FR Ross Kivett (RH – .322/.382/.362, 0-19-8) didn't play much the first half of the season but once he got his chance he hasn't come out of the lineup.  He doesn't have much power with only four extra-base hits.  Kivett doesn't walk much or strike out much (11/17 BB/K ratio).  He had the second best AVG on the team in conf games at .318.  Kivett is a good bunter and is tied for the team lead with 8 SAC's.
 
LF #17 SR Kent Urban (Both – .237/.369/.368, 2-22-5) split time between 1B and the OF earlier in the year but didn't hit much and spent most of the season as a part-time player.  He was moved into the lineup two weeks ago due to an injury to #24 FR Jared King (Both – .314/.370/.547, 8-40-13), who was 2nd team All-Big XII.  King was hit in the face by a ball two weeks ago while sitting in the dugout and is doubtful to questionable for this weekend.
 
CF #26 JR Nick Martini (LH – .326/.446/.433, 1-42-24) was the Big XII player of the year in 2010 after he hit .416 and got on base at least once in every game as part of his NCAA record streak of 93 straight games that was snapped earlier this season.  He has outstanding plate discipline (35/22 BB/K) and is a line drive hitting machine.  Martini has had a solid season, ending up in the top ten in the conf in RBI, TB, BB and OBP, but hasn't been quite as good as he was last year and hit in the .280's in conf games and was honorable mention All-Big XII.  He is a threat to run every time he is on base.  Martini is projected to be drafted in the 3rd-4th rounds next week.
 
3B #28 JR Jason King (Both – .333/.385/.608, 10-57-16) is one of the best power hitters in the Big XII and was among the conf leaders in HR, RBI, TB, SLG, 2B, 3B and R.  He was voted 2nd team All-Big XII.  King had a monster Big XII tournament last weekend when he went 10-14 in four games.  King was one of the conf leaders in Big XII games with 5 HR and 21 RBI.
 
1B #34 JR Wade Hinkle (LH – .309/.382/.446, 2-27-3) was in and out of the lineup earlier in the year but became a fixture at 1B down the stretch.  He was second on the team in AVG before the Big XII tournament but struggled last weekend when he went 1-12.
 
RF #18 JR Mike Kindel (LH – .246/.323/.448, 7-41-14) is an all or nothing hitter who is third on the team in HR and was among the conf leaders with 16 2B but also led the team with 45 K.  He slumped last weekend when he went 1-15 in the Big XII tournament.
 
SS #5 Soph Tanner Witt (RH – .246/.359/.277, 0-18-14) has good plate discipline (27/30 BB/K) but doesn't have much power with only five extra-base hits.  He is a threat to run like most of the team is when he gets on base.
 
C #6 JR Dan Klein (RH – .291/.339/.391, 2-9-0) and #27 Soph Chase Graskewicz (Both – .242/.324/.295, 0-13-1) have been splitting time pretty evenly with Klein providing a little more pop at the plate.
 
2B #8 JR Jake Brown (LH – .262/.365/.321, 1-20-18) is one of the fastest players on the team and is in the top ten in the Big XII in SB.  He is also a good bunter and is tied for the team lead with eight SAC's.
 

Defense
 
Fielding .974 (39, 6) – 60 errors.  Double Plays – 40 (154, 6)
 
Kansas State plays on a turf infield that helped a solid fielding team have the best fielding percentage in school history.  King and Hinkle are solid on the corners, Witt and Brown have good range up the middle but have combined to make 25 errors.  Good speed in the OF with Martini and Kindel, Urban is adequate in LF.
 
Stolen Base Attempts – 49-71 (DNR, 5).  Baserunners are 24-39 against Klein and 25-32 against Graskewicz.  
 
WP's/PB's Allowed – 39 (DNR, DNR).  Klein and Graskewicz do a solid job of blocking pitches.
 



Pitching
 

  • ERA – 4.21 (98, 8)
  • AVG – .265 (DNR, 5)
  • HR – 31 (DNR, 7)
  • Walks – 202 (85, 6), 3.3 BB/9 IP
  • Strikeouts – 439 (79, 4), 7.3 K/9 IP
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Kansas State expected to have an improved rotation after returning pitchers who started 47 of 59 games in 2010.  Their first two SP's have usually been solid but they have been shuffling guys in the third weekend spot.
 

Starting Pitchers
 
FRI – #32 JR Kyle Hunter (LHP – 5-4, 4.26 ERA, 15 GS, 87 IP, 89 H, 25 BB, 78 K, .269 BA, 2 HR, 4 HBP, 2 WP, 10-14 SB) is the veteran of the rotation after being one of the weekend starters in 2010 and got off to a good start by allowing three runs or less in nine of his first ten starts.  He allowed eight runs against Oklahoma State and seven runs against Kansas in two of his last three Big XII starts before getting a no decision last week when he allowed four runs in seven innings against Oklahoma.  Hunter is usually around the plate and has allowed only three walks in his last five starts and has allowed two walks or less in eleven starts.  He has a high 80's fastball and his best pitch is his changeup.  Hunter is projected to be picked in the teens in the draft next week.
 
SAT – #15 JR Matt Applegate (RHP – 5-4, 4.31 ERA, 15 GS, 86 IP, 87 H, 26 BB, 76 K, .263 BA, 5 HR, 6 HBP, 2 WP, 4-5 SB) has been on a short leash recently and hasn't gotten out of the fifth inning in four of his last five starts after pitching into the sixth inning in eight of his first ten starts.  He is a converted reliever and won't usually throw more than 70-80 pitches in a game unless he is throwing well.
 
SUN – #25 FR Shane Conlon (LHP – 4-1, 4.42 ERA, 11 apps, 6 GS, 37 IP, 37 H, 13 BB, 25 K, .270 BA, 6 HR, 3 HBP, 2 WP, 5-5 SB) didn't start a game until late April and has been inconsistent with solid starts against Texas Tech (6 2/3 IP, 0 R, 4 H) and last week against Oklahoma (5 IP, 2 R, 4H) mixed in with bad starts against Missouri (4 2/3 IP, 5 R, 6 H) and Kansas (3 IP, 4 R, 5 H).
 
Midweek – #22 JR Justin Lindsey (RHP – 5-1, 4.31 ERA, 13 apps, 9 GS, 46 IP, 46 H, 20 BB, 30 K, .266 BA, 2 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP, 7-12 SB) was a weekend starter in 2010 but has been used mostly as midweek starter this season.  He only went past the fourth inning in one of his starts when he threw five shutout innings against Bakersfield.  Lindsey threw 5 2/3 shutout innings in a relief appearance against Texas A&M last week.
 

Relief Pitchers
 
Kansas State went 29-3 when they had the lead after seven innings and have a great of confidence with the lead late in games.  They don't mind going to the bullpen earlier than most teams and have nine pitchers in their bullpen who have made at least ten appearances.
 
Closer – #20 JR James Allen (RHP – 3-1, 1.35 ERA, 17 saves, 29 apps, 40 IP, 25 H, 11 BB, 45 K, .179 BA, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 2 WP, 1-1 SB) led the conf in saves and was 1st team All-Big XII.  He has been lights out the past few seasons.  Allen has a low 90's fastball and a solid slider.  He is projected to be picked in the 7th-8th rounds in the draft next week.
 
#31 JR Evan Marshall (RHP – 4-5, 1.67 ERA, 1 save, 27 apps, 54 IP, 40 H, 14 BB, 48 K, .209 BA, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 3 WP, 3-9 SB) has been part of a great 1-2 combo in the last 3-4 innings of games.  He is able to go 2-3 innings.  Marshall has a fastball in the 93-94 range and a good slider.  He is projected to be picked in the 3rd-4th rounds next week.
 
#23 JR Kayvon Bahramzadeh (RHP – 3-0, 5.27 ERA, 20 apps, 5 GS, 43 IP, 44 H, 13 BB, 31 K, .262 BA, 5 HR, 3 HBP, 2 WP, 3-4 SB) was pitching out of the bullpen earlier in the year before being moved into the rotation as Big XII play started.  He threw well against Texas (5 IP, 1 R) but didn't get out of the fourth inning in any of his other four weekend starts and was moved back to the bullpen.
 
#21 FR Gerardo Esquivel (RHP – 1-2, 2.50 ERA, 16 apps, 18 IP, 12 H, 14 BB, 12 K, .188 BA).
 
#33 FR Jared Moore (LHP – 1-0, 2.55 ERA, 16 apps, 17 IP, 15 H, 10 BB, 15 K, .238 BA).
 
#39 FR Blake Freeman (LHP – 3-2, 5.74 ERA, 13 apps, 5 GS, 26 IP, 41 H, 10 BB, 22 K, .347 BA).