By Mark Janssen
The Yankees and Rangers, and Phillies and Giants are battling it out to reach the 2010 World Series, but at K-State, the Purples and the Whites have already reached such status.
After using a 45-day period this fall to work out 28 times, K-State's Fall Series begins tonight at 6 at Tointon Family Stadium, and will continue on Thursday and Friday at 6. All games are open to the public at no charge.
With six starters returning, plus 13 other letterwinners from last year's Big 12 third-place team and Regional entry team, eighth-year coach Brad Hill said, "We're very excited with what we have coming back, but also with the concern that we're replacing three components to our success of a year ago."
"Jurica had 13 home runs and 69 RBI, which is a heckuva year," said Hill. "Daniel was so tough and a great leader behind the plate, and Adam was just a great, great leadoff hitter."
Still, the Wildcats welcome back six regular starters in the field, including all three outfielders in Big 12 Player of the Year Nick Martini (.416), Matt Giller (.282) and Mike Kindel (.267), plus first baseman Kent Urban (.265) and second baseman Jake Brown (.248) in the infield, and third baseman Jason King, who played every game in 2009 but sat out last season due to recovering from surgery.
While King will replace Munster, candidates at shortstop are Brown and sophomore Tanner Witt, while the catching candidates are Chase Graskewicz, Blair DeBord (.340) and newcomer Dan Klein.
Three pitchers that collected at least 10 starts in 2010 return, which includes all-Big 12 performers Kyle Hunter (9-2, 4.59), plus Justin Lindsey (4-4, 6.06) and Kayvon Bahramzadeh (2-3, 7.45). Evan Marshall (5-5, 3.90), Thomas Rooke (4-1, 4.18) and James Allen (5-1, 2.28), who earned nine saves a year ago, are back to anchor the bullpen.
"We have a lot of our pitching back, and if they improve, we're going to have great comfort with the staff," said Hill. "But if it's status quo, that isn't good enough. We're excited about the staff we have coming back, as long as they continue to improve."
The Wildcats are coming off consecutive Regional seasons in which they went 43-18-1 in 2009 and 37-22 in 2010.
"We don't want an arrogance, but I think this team does have a confidence," said Hill. "We want to make sure we stay with what got us where we are, which is being a hard working, blue-collar team that takes nothing for granted and plays with a chip on our shoulder.
"We have to remember that we are still very new to success," Hill said in reference to the fact that these last two seasons are the only two in the program's history where they have reached postseason play. "People still aren't necessarily used to seeing Kansas State in the upper half of the Big 12. We just need to make sure we continue to be there and avoid complacency."
The Wildcats will open the 2011 season on Feb. 18, with a three-game series against Pacific in Stockton, Calif.