Kansas State Series Preview

Despite Tuesday's loss to the Rice Owls, the Longhorns are one of the hottest teams in the nation, having won 13 of their last 15 contests, including seven consecutive Big 12 games. Burnt Orange Beat previews this weekend's series with the Kansas State Wildcats.

Historically, Kansas State has been a pushover for the ‘Horns. Texas has not dropped a series to the Wildcats since 1998, when the club went 23-32-1 and failed to qualify for the Big 12 Tournament. But this isn't your typical K-State team.

The Wildcats come into this weekend's series ranked 23rd in the nation, and they have an outstanding offense to go with one of the nation's best starting pitchers. To top it off, KSU has a .980 fielding percentage in conference play, good enough for second in the league.

Texas Pitching

Friday: Chance Ruffin, So., RHP (6-2, 2.65 ERA...68.0 IP, 57 H, 15 BB, 62 K)
Saturday: Cole Green, So., RHP (3-1, 2.63 ERA...54.2 IP, 48 H, 15 BB, 32 K)
Sunday: Brandon Workman, So., RHP (3-3, 3.10 ERA...52.1 IP, 41 H, 13 BB, 55 K)

Texas will go with the same rotation they used last weekend, with Green pitching on Saturday and Workman on Sunday. Ruffin has the challenge of going up against stud right-hander A.J. Morris on Friday, and the other two pitchers will have to give the Longhorns some more innings this weekend.

Green tossed a complete game two weeks ago in Nebraska, but aside from that performance, he has not given the ‘Horns more than five innings since March 8 against Stanford.

The same is true of Brandon Workman. The tall right-hander is just 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA in Big 12 play, and he's averaging just 4.4 innings pitched in his conference starts.

The Texas bullpen figures to be extremely well rested for this weekend's series. Coach Augie Garrido decided to give his top arms a rest when the club played Rice on Tuesday. Taylor Jungmann (4-2, 1.10 ERA), Austin Dicharry (5-1, 1.38 ERA) and Austin Wood (4-0, 1.55 ERA) did not see action in the mid-week.

Kansas State Pitching

Friday: A.J. Morris, Jr., RHP (9-0, 1.31 ERA...68.2 IP, 47 H, 18 BB, 69 K)
Saturday: Lance Hoge, Sr., LHP (4-2, 3.77 ERA...43.0 IP, 37 H, 12 BB, 27 K)
Sunday: TBA

Not much else can be said about A.J. Morris' season. He has done an outstanding job, and he's not showing signs of slowing down. The Humble, Tex., native has pitched into at least the seventh inning in all of his Big 12 starts this season. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he commands all three of his pitches -- a low-90s fastball, a breaking ball, and a changeup -- with consistency.

Hoge is one of the most improved pitchers in the Big 12 this season. The southpaw posted a 6.87 ERA in 36.2 innings for the Wildcats last year, but that is down over three runs this season. However, he has been inconsistent in conference games, posting a 5.24 ERA in five starts.

Senior righty Todd Vogel has been K-State's primary Sunday starter this year, but he hasn't given the Wildcats good innings of late. While KSU is 3-0 in its last three Sunday games, with Vogel putting up a 3.60 ERA during that span, he has pitched just 3.1 innings in each of the games.

Kansas State may still turn to Vogel, but because the Wildcats did not play a midweek game this week, they could also go to midweek starters Ryan Daniel (2-1, 3.41 ERA) or Kayvon Bahramzadeh (2-1, 4.19 ERA).

KSU's bullpen is not very deep, but they do have a couple of solid arms in sophomore lefty Thomas Rooke and freshman right-hander James Allen.

Rooke and Allen have combined for eight saves this season. The left-hander has a 2.95 ERA on the season with 44 strikeouts -- versus just six walks -- in 36.2 innings. Allen has a 3.70 ERA, and he has walked just four in 24.1 innings.

Texas Offense

C: Cameron Rupp, So. (.278, 4 HR, 25 RBI)
1B: Brandon Belt, Jr. (.336, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 7/10 SB)
2B: Travis Tucker, Sr. (.303, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 8/9 SB)
SS: Brandon Loy, Fr. (.266, 0 HR, 14 RBI)
3B: Michael Torres, Sr. (.293, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 7/8 SB)
LF: Tant Shepherd, So. (.296, 2 HR, 18 RBI)
CF: Connor Rowe, So. (.237, 4 HR, 18 RBI)
RF: Kevin Keyes, So. (.315, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 7/10 SB)
DH: Preston Clark, Sr. (.241, 0 HR, 10 RBI) or Russell Moldenhauer, Jr. (.234, 0 HR, 7 RBI)

Kevin Lusson or David Hernandez could also see action this weekend. The Longhorns gave Lusson his second career start last Sunday against Oklahoma, and he responded with more good at-bats.

Though the offense has been outstanding for the last few weeks, they struggled on Tuesday evening. Texas had 17 baserunners, but scored just four runs. Now, the bats face perhaps their biggest challenge of the year when they go against Morris on Friday night.

Kansas State Offense

C: Rob Vaughn, Sr. (.287, 3 HR, 15 RBI)
1B: Justin Bloxom, Jr. (.385, 6 HR, 37 RBI, 7/8 SB)
2B: Carter Jurica, So. (.396, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 15/22 SB)
SS: Drew Biery, Sr. (.366, 7 HR, 36 RBI)
3B: Jason King, So. (.308, 5 HR, 44 RBI, 8/10 SB)
LF: Nick Martini, Fr. (.296, 1 HR, 29 RBI, 9/13 SB)
CF: Dane Yelovich, Sr. (.304, 0 HR, 19 RBI, 20/29 SB)
RF: Jordan Cruz, Sr. (.292, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 11/18 SB)
DH: Adam Muenster, Jr. (.250, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 12/17 SB)

The Kansas State lineup may not pack the punch that Oklahoma's did, but it's not far off. The Wildcats hit .320 as a team and Brad Hill's team loves to run. KSU has attempted 135 steals in just 40 games this season. Comparatively, Texas is 45-for-62 on the basepaths in 38 games. Four Wildcat players have double-digit steals.

As usual, the K-State offense doesn't have a bunch of 6-foot-4 mashers that will be picked early in the MLB Draft [all of KSU's starters are 6-foot-1 and below], but that doesn't mean they can't play. From one through nine, their lineup is stacked with excellent collegiate hitters that know how to get on base and put a charge into one now and then.

Leading the way is sophomore second baseman Carter Jurica, who is batting .396 with 15 stolen bases.

First baseman Justin Bloxom, who is batting .385 this season, led the Wildcats in hitting last season. He batted .288. Last year, KSU hit just .261 as a team with 36 home runs. But things are different for the entire Kansas State team this year, as they look for a rare NCAA Regional bid.

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