SE: Bat Cats Begin 2016 Season

K-State baseball begins its 2016 season tomorrow evening with a trip to California to take on UC Riverside at 6 p.m., at the Riverside Sports Complex. Tomorrow’s game is the first of a four-game series between the Wildcats and Highlanders.

“Riverside will be a challenge because they’ll be a different uniform,” said K-State head coach Brad Hill after one of the team’s many intra-squad scrimmages that have taken place over the last several months. “They’re California kids, so they’re used to playing outside. We’ve been fortunate enough to be outside on the weekends, but we haven’t been fortunate enough to be outside midweek (because of the cold). We’ve been able to really get a good game-type practice in outdoors, but we haven’t been able to break things down outside.” 

With 14 returning letterwinners from last year’s squad and eight seniors on the roster, this year’s veteran group is ready to get to the Golden State and begin a new chapter after a long winter of training.  

Hill said, under the direction of new pitching coach Tyler Kincaid, he believes one of this team’s strengths will be its pitching staff. 

“I’m hoping that pitching depth is (our biggest strength),” said Hill at the team’s media day last week. “There is a lot of potential in our pitching staff. There are a lot of guys with game experience.”

Last year’s pitching staff had the fifth-best team ERA (4.27) in school history during the aluminum bat era (since 1977). The Wildcats return all of their top pitchers from last season, excluding eighth-round MLB draft pick, Nate Griep. 

Senior right-handed pitcher Corey Fischer is expected to make the series start tomorrow evening. Fischer, a former transfer from Madison (WI) College, finished the 2015 season with All-Big 12 Honorable Mention accolades after appearing in 19 games (7 starts) and logging a 4-6 record with a 4.37 ERA (3.23 ERA against Big 12 teams).

“Going into this season I have a year of experience under my belt,” said Fischer. “Originally I started out playing junior college, then last year was my first year playing at the Division I level, so I have the confidence of knowing what everything is going to be like, and that is a big help to me.”

Following closely behind Fischer is senior right-handed pitcher Levi MaVorhis. MaVorhis appeared in just 10 games last season before his season was cut short with injury. 

“Levi is good, he really looks good,” said Hill. “His surgery went great, he did a great job in rehab, (athletic trainer) Blaine Burris did a super job with him. His velocity is up three or four miles per hour, and that’s great. Right now he’s kind of flip a coin in the battle with Corey Fischer for Fridays; that’s the battle we have right now.”

MaVorhis is looking to wrap up his K-State career with a strong final season. The Freeland, Washington native, who started the Wildcats’ Big 12-clinching game against Oklahoma in 2013, is on the cusp of cracking the program’s top-10 in career victories.

“I feel good. It was a process coming back, but it was fun working with our trainer and getting back. I’m feeling good and I’m excited,” said MaVorhis. “We have lot of young talent on this team, both hitting and pitching, and the trick is trying to get them confident. They’re all here for a reason, so we’re trying to get them to know that and trying to give them as much confidence as we can when they’re out there on the mound because they could have a big impact.” 

According to Fischer and MaVorhis, a few of those newcomers expected to come in and make an impact on the mound are freshmen right-handers John Boushelle (Fayetteville, Arkansas), Jacob Ruder (Nixa, Missouri), Logan Wiley (Springfield, Missouri) and Mitch Zubradt (Shawnee, Kansas).

Around the diamond, the expected starters for this opening weekend are Tyler Moore (catcher), Jake Scudder (first base), Jake Wodtke (second base), Steve Serratore (third base) and Tyler Wolfe (shortstop). The outfield will be commanded by a combination of Quintin Crandall, Sam Chadick, Clayton Dalrymple, Danny Krause, Michael Smith and Brooks Zimmerman. However, similar to the pitching staff, no positions are secure as the Wildcats continue to step up and push each other day in and day out. 

“We’re really deep,” said Wolfe. “That’s good because if you have that many guys pushing each other, and if you know that there’s a guy right behind you on your tail, that’s going to push you forward. (The competition) has definitely been good for all of us.” 

Following this weekend’s series, K-State will continue its tour out west with the Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge in Surprise, Arizona, with two games against No. 5 Oregon State (Feb. 25-26) and two more against Utah (Feb. 27-28).  

K-State returns to Manhattan to open its home slate on March 4, as a three-game series against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (March 4-6) will kick off a busy month in Tointon Family Stadium. The Wildcats will host 17 of 18 games during the month of March with their lone road contest being at Creighton on March 22. To check out the entire Wildcat baseball schedule, please click here

“Absolutely,” shortstop Wolfe said when asked if he was excited to play on his home turf in March. “It’ll be nice. It will help all of us both in the classroom and on the field. And we’ll get to sleep in our own bed every night. I think it’s going to be beneficial in a lot of ways.”

For more information on this weekend’s series and the 2016 Wildcat baseball team, please click here

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K-State Athletics officials have announced that single-game tickets for the 29-game home slate at Tointon Family Stadium are on sale now.

The ticket prices remain unchanged for the third straight season, with tickets starting at $5 for youth (ages 12 and under), senior citizens and military personnel. Adult general admission Cat Cushion tickets are $8. 

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