By Mark Janssen
Don't blame Evan Marshall for trying to politic with Wildcat baseball coach Brad Hill to be the starting pitcher today when Kansas State takes on Stanford at the Fullerton Regional of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
Now, Marshall, the Wildcats' setup man for All-American closer James Allen out of the bullpen, has no chance of winning the debate, but the K-State right-hander admits, "The longer I have the ball in my hand the better against this team."
The 6-foot-1, 207-pound right-hander admits that he wasn't a "top prospect in my area," which left him without a scholarship offer from his favorite Cardinal team, and where he attended baseball camps as a young kid.
With that in mind, he offers a light smirk when he says, "This makes it very easy to get excited about playing. Sure, it gives me something to prove since they didn't think I was a prospect for them."
The West Coast native and former K-Stater Jason Linn (2007) notified Hill's coaching staff about Marshall, and the rest is in the record book, as his efforts have helped the Wildcats to three consecutive NCAA appearances.
As a reliever, Marshall owns 12 career wins and 15 all-time saves. Despite a modest 5-5 record this year, he sports a nifty 1.71 ERA with 50 strikeouts to only 15 walks. Teams have hit a measly .220 off him and he's yet to allow a home run.
On going from not being good enough to pitch for Stanford, but being an All-Big 12 caliber hurler for K-State, Marshall says, "It's the work ethic that has been instilled in me here. The conditioning program increased my arm strength and arm speed, which added velocity. I went from throwing 87 in high school to now in the low- to mid-90s here. It's a direct result of the hard work."
PLAYING LIKE 'A PACK OF SAVAGES': Marshall and the Wildcats will be playing over six hours south of his home town - "California is a tall state," Marshall quips - tonight at 6 p.m. CT in a first-round game of the Fullerton Regional at Goodwin Field.
The 36-23 Wildcats placed sixth in the Big 12 and enter as the No. 3 seed, while the 32-20 Cardinal placed fifth in the Pac-10 and carry the No. 2 seed. Stanford is ranked No. 20, 21 and 24 in the three college baseball polls.
K-State enters the postseason on an 8-3 roll bringing Hill to say that the team has finally found its identity. As the players are saying, "We're playing like a pack of savages."
"We are playing harder, playing with more energy, passion and more will," said Hill. "I wish I could explain why it didn't happen two months earlier, but it happened at the right time. I'm not sure what flipped the switch, but the switch definitely flipped."
Wildcat standout Nick Martini said of the team's recent play, "We know we're playing our best ball of the year so we want to picture what we have done, visualize and move on. If we continue to play with this same intensity we can maybe go win this thing."
Statistically, Stanford is hitting .298 with 23 home runs and has stolen just 29 bases in 45 attempts. K-State is hitting .280 with 34 homers with 123 stolen bases in 151 attempts.
"When you think of the Pac-10 you think of small ball, but Stanford is a physical, physical team," said Hill.
THE REST OF THE FIELD: Also playing in the Fullerton Regional is host school Cal State Fullerton (40-15, No. 8 in the nation) and Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion Illinois (28-25).
Games in the double-elimination event will also be played at 6 p.m. CT and 10 p.m. CT on Saturday and Sunday, and if necessary, 10 p.m. CT on Monday.
The winner of the Fullerton Regional will advance to face the Super Regional where it will face the winner of the Chapel Hill, N.C., Regional hosted by No. 7, 10, 13 (three major polls) North Carolina.
K-STATE ON ESPNU: All of K-State's games from the Fullerton Regional will be on ESPNU.
"That's exciting for our program and the university," said Hill. "It's an opportunity to showcase ourselves a little and draw attention to our program, so I hope we play well."
--Out of 59 games played this season, 21 have been decided by one run games. While opening the year 5-9 in one-run games, K-State has finished the season with a 6-3 record in ultra-close games.
--K-State and Stanford have played once - March 22, 1971 - with the Cardinal winning, 8-7.
--K-State hit just 11 home runs in the first 30 games, but has hammered 23 long balls in the last 29 games.
RECORDS... RECORDS... RECORDS:
--Jason King is No. 1 in career sacrifice flies with 22 and first in a single season with 12. He is also No. 3 in extra base hits in a season (35 in 2011) and No. 5 in all-time doubles (48).
--Jake Brown is No. 1 in career sacrifice bunts with 24 and No. 2 for a single season (14 in 2010).
--Nick Martini's 244 career hits ranks No. 6 in school history. He is four shy of Brian Culp in the No. 5 spot. Martini is No. 2 in all-time steals (62), No. 3 in being hit by a pitch (29), No. 5 in career doubles (48) and his career batting average of .360 ranks No. 7.
--James Allen is No. 1 in career saves (31) and season saves (17).
--Evan Marshall is No. 2 in career games (84) and season games (29).
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