Cats Take Part in First Practice of 2015

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Following the start of the spring semester earlier this week and Opening Day looming on the horizon, the K-State baseball team officially began its 2015 season today with its first team practices of the year at Tointon Family Stadium.

"Working outside is great for us," said head coach Brad Hill about practicing outdoors on the first day as opposed to inside the indoor facility. "For the last couple of years, we haven't really been outside much to prepare [prior to the season]. This is a team that needs that, with all the newcomers. We need to be out, on the field and in the defensive-type situations. With guys in new positions, that's really important for us. 

"[The weather] has been nice, and it looks like it is going to be nice for the next week, so we have to utilize the outside time and make the most of it."

The Wildcats return 14 letterwinners from last year's squad, led by a group of three seniors, Max Brown, Shane Conlon and Carter Yagi. Brown was one of the team's top hitters last year, ending his first campaign with the Wildcats batting .330 with eight extra-base hits and nine stolen bases in 43 games (25 starts). The former Bellevue (WA) Community College transfer started 16 of K-State's final 19 games, a stretch in which he hit .380

Conlon will enter his fifth and final season in a Wildcat uniform. The first baseman, who is a former All-Big 12 First Team honoree, is coming off a 2014 campaign in which he had a career-high 29 RBIs to go along with his .296 batting average, 11 extra-base hits and eight stolen bases. Conlon is a career .304 hitter who has played in 144 games, including 129 starts, since the start of the 2011 season.

Yagi, meanwhile, played in 43 games last year after transferring from the College of Southern Idaho. The Salt Lake City, Utah native was one of the nation's toughest hitters to strike out, ranking third in Division I with a strikeout once every 29 at-bats. The left-handed hitter finished the season batting .261 with 16 RBIs and six stolen bases while also logging time at four different defensive positions.

The K-State pitching staff has six returning letterwinners, led by juniors Nate Williams and Levi MaVorhis along with redshirt sophomore Nate Griep. Griep and MaVorhis combined to make 23 starts last year, with MaVorhis pacing the team in innings pitched (84 1/3), wins (6) and complete games (2) while Griep had a 4.66 ERA in his first season pitching for K-State. Williams is looking to bounce back from a 2014 season that never got started for him due to an injury. Williams is a former All-Big 12 Freshman Team selection who served as the Wildcats' set-up man during the team's Big 12 title run in 2013. As a reliever in his career, Williams has a 2.99 ERA.

The Wildcat returners will be joined by 22 newcomers, a group that includes 13 transfers and nine freshmen. Overall, the K-State roster features nine freshmen and sophomores, 14 juniors and four seniors.

The season gets underway on Friday, February 13 with the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Florida. After four games in three days against the likes of Iowa, Pittsburgh, George Mason and Saint Louis, the Wildcats will play four games in the Big 12/Pac-12 Showdown in Arizona the following weekend before opening their 29-game home schedule on Friday, February 27 against Eastern Illinois. 

Season tickets are on sale now and start as low as around $2 per game. To purchase season tickets, click here, call 1-800-221-CATS (2287) or stop by the K-State Athletics Ticket Office in Bramlage Coliseum.

Prior to the season starting, the Big 12 Conference will release its preseason All-Big 12 selections and Coaches Poll on Thursday, February 5.