Position Preview: Pitchers

Rotation

No. 1: RHP Nate Griep (RS Sophomore)
No. 2: RHP Levi MaVorhis (Junior)
No. 3: RHP Mark Biesma (Senior)
No. 4: RHP Corey Fischer (Junior)

Others to consider:
RHP Colton Kalmus (RS Sophomore), LHP Jordan Floyd (Sophomore), RHP Brandon Courville (Junior)


Bullpen
RHP Lucas Benenati (Junior)
RHP Brandon Courville (Junior)
LHP Jackson Douglas (Freshman)
RHP Brandon Erickson (Junior)
LHP Jordan Floyd (Sophomore)
RHP Kyle Halbohn (RS Junior)
RHP Colton Kalmus (RS Sophomore)
LHP Mitch Plassmeyer (Freshman)
RHP Bryce Ward (Freshman)
RHP Nate Williams (RS Junior)
RHP Tyler Wolfe (Junior)

The K-State pitching staff, coming off a season in which it had the highest ERA among all Big 12 teams, has retooled for 2015 with 10 new arms that will throw alongside five returners. Two of the five returners will headline the starting rotation while a key returner who missed all of last season will look to return to his old form and be a stable presence at the back-end of games for the Wildcats.


STARTERS
Leading the front for the Wildcat hurlers is redshirt sophomore Nate Griep. The right-hander will take the ball as the Opening Day starter, graduating from last year's roles in which he went from bullpen arm to midweek starter to weekend starter. Griep was fantastic in his first seven appearances of his career, posting a 1.42 ERA. The run was capped by a shutout at Oklahoma, helping the Wildcats salvage a win in their Big 12 opening series of 2014. Following the blanking of the Sooners, Griep pitched in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, holding Creighton to two runs - both courtesy of a third-inning home run - over seven innings to earn his third career win. Once the calendar turned to April, though, Griep labored through seven more appearances, including a gutty 8.0+ inning outing vs. KU in which he allowed 10 hits and four walks but just a pair of runs in a 2-1 loss. Griep, who finished last year on a seven-game losing streak, will look to snap the streak vs. Iowa on February 13 after a summer in which he pitched for the Topeka Golden Giants of the Mid-Plains League (1.42 ERA) and a fall camp where he demonstrated growth in emotional maturity on the mound.

Levi MaVorhis was the Wildcats' Friday starter for all but one weekend last year and brings with him 19 career starts entering the 2015 season. A season ago, the right-hander led K-State in wins (6), innings pitched (84.1), strikeouts (48) and starts (13). He also shaved nearly a run off his ERA from his freshman year, going from 4.77 in 2013 to 3.95 - which was the best among all K-State starters. The junior also tossed two shutouts, matching the K-State record for most in a season, with one of those shutouts being against rival KU. After a summer pitching in the Cape Cod League (1.80 ERA over his final 7 games), MaVorhis will serve as a valuable asset on Saturdays for K-State.

With the first two weekends containing four games apiece, the Wildcats will utilize a four-man rotation on the weekends. Right-handers Mark Biesma and Corey Fischer, both transfers, will break camp as the No. 3 and 4 starters, respectively. Biesma, a transfer from Washburn, impressed the K-State coaching staff with his deceiving stuff during fall camp and will look to make the most of his only season in a Wildcat uniform. Fischer, meanwhile, was originally pegged for a bullpen role, but his competiveness earned him a spot in the rotation at the beginning of the season. He will make his K-State debut after spending the last two years at Madison College, where he was a combined 11-4 with a 2.54 ERA, 94 strikeouts and 40 walks in 21 games (18 starts).

Although Biesma and Fischer will begin the season as part of the group of four starting pitchers, the Wildcats have also seen redshirt sophomore Colton Kalmus looking to insert his name into the rotation conversation. Kalmus had his freshman season cut short due to injury, but he has worked on building his arm strength over the first weeks of the year. The right-hander made a total of 10 appearances last year; however, over his five appearances from March 15-April 8, he made four midweek starts while posting a 1.08 ERA (2er, 16.2ip) with 13 strikeouts and seven walks. 


BULLPEN
A stable of predominantly young and inexperienced will be headlined by returner Nate Williams. The redshirt junior is coming off a 2014 season that never got started following an ankle injury in early season practices. Despite the setback, Williams has returned to the mound, a place where he has posted a 3.38 career ERA in 47 appearances with K-State. The right-hander had a career year in 2013, recording a 1.39 ERA and 24 strikeouts serving as the team's set-up man.

The only left-hander on the K-State pitching staff with experience at the Division I level is sophomore Jordan Floyd. The Topeka, Kansas native made 18 appearances last year, including two starts, and posted a 7.65 ERA. Despite the high ERA, the southpaw was able to show flashes of his potential pitching out of the K-State bullpen during the nonconference portion of the schedule.

Williams and Floyd will be surrounded by two classes of pitchers in the pen: freshmen and junior college transfers. The arms with junior college experience include right-handers Lucas Benenati, Brandon Courville, Brandon Erickson, Kyle Halbohn and Tyler Wolfe (although Wolfe has earned the starting shortstop job). Benenati and Erickson have extended their college careers by heading east following two years at the junior college level in their native states of California. Benenati (Santa Barbara City College) was an all-league performer as a freshman in 2012, but an arm injury ended his 2013 preseason All-American campaign before it started. He was forced to bounce back in 2014 in limited action, striking out 16 in 13 1/3 innings (8 appearances). Erickson, from a little farther up the California coast in Redding, helped Feather River College win back-to-back conference championships in 2013 and 2014. Last year, the 5-10 pitcher posted the third-best ERA in the state (0.63) while holding opponents to a .145 batting average against over his 43 innings pitched.

Courville and Halbohn are former junior college starters who helped their respective teams reach the JUCO World Series last year. A product of Midland College (TX), Courville led his team in strikeouts (84) and complete games (5) over his 17 appearances (13 starts) last season, his second year with the Chaparrals. Halbohn, who will contend for a role at the back-end of the Wildcats' bullpen, spent the last two seasons at Spartanburg Methodist (SC). The 6-8 hurler fanned 51 in 62 1/3 innings over his 13 appearances (12 starts) in 2014 while also tossing three complete games. Halbohn has previous experience as a closer when he spent one season at San Jacinto College (TX), notching two saves over his six appearances in 2012.

Alongside the junior college arms are three freshmen: left-handers Jackson Douglas and Mitch Plassmeyer and right-hander Bryce Ward. A summer signee for K-State, the 6-6 Douglas broke out in his senior season at Mayo (MN) High School, striking out 105 and walking 17 in 12 games (five starts). Along with the strikeouts, he had a 9-1 record with a 1.22 ERA, helping him earn all-state honors. Plassmeyer and Ward spent the past summer pitching for the Rossville Rattlers of the Mid-Plains League, combining to strike out 44 in 47 innings. This was after both hurlers posted sub-2.00 ERA campaigns as seniors in high school, with Plassmeyer attending Desmet Jesuit in St. Louis and Ward at Jenks in Jenks, Oklahoma. Ward was also a participant in the 2014 USA Baseball 18-and-under team trials in the fall of 2013.