K-State Begins 2012 at CSU Bakersfield
K-State Begins 2012 at CSU Bakersfield
Feb. 16, 2012
Saturday, February 18 - Sunday, February 20
Bakersfield, Calif. /// Hardt Field (500)
MANHATTAN, Kan. - In search of a fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012, Kansas State opens its 112th season of baseball with a three-game series at CSU Bakersfield, Saturday through Monday, February 18-20, at Hardt Field in Bakersfield, Calif. The two teams never met prior to last year, but K-State and CSUB hooked up four times a year ago, including twice in Bakersfield as the Wildcats will be making their second appearance at Hardt Field in less than 10 months. First pitch for all three games is scheduled for 4 p.m. (CT), and will be broadcast on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Rob Voelker and Ryan Lackey on the call. The contests can also be heard online at www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
Kansas State is coming off a 36-25 campaign in 2011, including a 16-8 run to end the regular season and propel the Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats were just 20-15 overall and 5-10 in Big 12 play midway through the conference season, but improved down the stretch to go 7-4 in their final 11 conference games.
The Wildcats return seven position starters from last season, including 2011 Freshman All-American and Second Team All-Big 12 performer Jared King. The Dublin, Ohio, product was the first Wildcat true freshman to earn all-conference accolades since 1973 as he started 48 games and led all Big 12 freshmen with eight home runs. Five other position starters are seniors in catcher Dan Klein, infielders Jake Brown, Matt Giller and Wade Hinkle, and outfielder Mike Kindel. Also, sophomore Ross Kivett returns after starting the final 30 games last season.
The Wildcats must replace a Friday-night starter and two key components in the bullpen, but return a pair of seniors on the mound in seniors Matt Applegate and Kayvon Bahramzadeh. Applegate will begin the season as K-State’s No. 1 starter after producing a 5-5 record and a 4.63 ERA in 16 starts last year, while Bahramzadeh has pitched effectively out of the bullpen with some spot starts each of the last two seasons. K-State will start junior-college transfer Joe Flattery on Saturday. The left-hander held a career 14-8 record and a 3.03 ERA with 131 strikeouts in two seasons at Iowa Central CC. Monday marks the first career start for Gerardo Esquivel, a redshirt sophomore who pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in 19 appearances last year, accumulating a 1-2 record and a 2.55 ERA.
The Wildcats must replace possibly the best 1-2 punch out of the bullpen in the nation last season in Evan Marshall and James Allen. K-State will turn to sophomore right-hander Johnny Fasola to close out games early in the year, while junior Jake Doller and freshman Nate Williams, both right-handers, will also be in the mix for late-inning work.
DID YOU KNOW
• K-State has recorded its top three win totals in program history over the past three seasons.
• Brad Hill enters 2012 sixth in the nation among active coaches with a .706 career winning percentage.
• K-State was 29-3 last year when leading after seven innings, while the Cats are 212-16 when leading after seven frames during Brad Hill’s eight years in Manhattan.
• The Wildcats were 5-9 in their first 14 games decided by one run, but finished the year 6-3 in their final nine one-run games.
• Three of the top four team stolen base numbers in school history have come in the last three seasons, including last year in which the Cats swiped 123 bags to rank third.
• The six lowest team ERAs in the aluminum bat era (1977) have come in the last six seasons, including a third-place mark in 2011 (4.26).
• K-State had the second-lowest opponent batting average in school history last year at .269, the best mark since a school-record .263 average in 1995.
• Matt Applegate is fourth among active Big 12 pitchers in career strikeouts (123) and innings pitched (148.0).
• Leadoff man Ross Kivett ended the season by reaching base in 15 consecutive games.
OPENING DAY SUCCESS
Kansas State will try to see its good fortunes continue in season-opening contests on Saturday. K-State has won five of its last six Opening Day contests, the first time the Wildcats have done so since the 1998-2003 seasons. Last season, the Wildcats won both games on their first day of play as rain washed out the season opener. K-State, which is 5-3 under head coach Brad Hill in season-opening games, will look to win six of its last seven lid lifters for the first time since 1986-1992.
ON HOSTILE TURF
This weekend marks just the third time since 1992 that the Wildcats will play a true three-game road series to open the season, all three of which have come since the 2009 season. K-State has found success the last two times it has opened up with a three-game series on an opponent’s home turf as it swept Pacific a season ago and won two-of-three at Houston in 2009. Prior to the Cats’ trip to Houston three years ago, the last true three-game road set was in Fayetteville, Ark., in 1992.
Kansas State will be opening its ninth-straight season away from home as the last time the Wildcats have opened up at Tointon Family Stadium was in 2003. But the Wildcats have been successful away from home as of late as they have won least seven true road games each of the last five seasons, including 10 last year.
CSU BAKERSFIELD AT A GLANCE
CSU Bakersfield returns 14 letterwinners, including six position starters, off a squad that went 33-22 in its third season of baseball. The Roadrunners, who have played as an independent the last three seasons, are in their last season playing all non-conference games as they will join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) beginning with the 2013 season.
Infielder Oscar Sanay returns after leading CSUB in hitting as a freshman last season. The Chula Vista, Calif., product hit .355 with 12 doubles and 34 RBI. The Roadrunners also bring back their third- and fifth-leading hitters from a year ago in DC Legg and Andrew Letourneau, who hit .312 and .288 last year, respectively.
CSU Bakersfield is scheduled to start a trio of junior-college transfers in Jeff McKenzie on Saturday, Scott Brattvet on Sunday and Taylor Aikenhead on Sunday. McKenzie, a junior left-hander, pitched in just five games last year at San Joaquin Delta College after not throwing as a freshman. Brattvet will make his first career start after two seasons as a reliever at Santa Ana College. The right-hander held a 1-1 record and a 6.28 ERA out of the bullpen last year. Aikenhead, a sophomore left-hander, held a 4-1 record and a 3.03 ERA in 15 appearances, including three starts, last season at Bakersfield College.
The Roadrunners are starting three junior-college transfers due to the fact that they will be without their top returning pitcher in Jonathan Montoya, who will miss the year due to Tommy John surgery. Montoya was 8-5 last year with a 3.67 ERA in 16 starters, while the left-hander recorded seven complete games.
THE CSU BAKERSFIELD SERIES
Although the two campuses lay over 1,000 miles apart, this weekend marks the fifth, sixth and seventh times that Kansas State and CSU Bakersfield will meet in the last 10 months. Last season, the two teams were scheduled to meet just twice, May 4 and 5, in Manhattan, but both teams needed two more games as road contests at Minnesota were canceled. The Wildcats traveled to Bakersfield to play a pair of midweek games in late April, and the two teams were tied at four in the ninth inning of the first game when Ross Kivett tripled before Nick Martini drove him home as the Wildcats won, 5-4. The next night, K-State blanked the Roadrunners, 9-0, thanks to a pair of homers by Jared King.
The next week, CSUB made the trip to Manhattan for a two-game midweek series that saw K-State win the first game, 8-6. The teams were tied at 5-5 in the seventh when Jason King recorded a RBI triple to break the tie before Evan Marshall threw 2.1 no-hit innings for the win. K-State then looked as it would win going away in the final game of the series as the Cats were up 8-3 after two innings, but the Roadrunners stormed back and out-scored K-State 10-2 down the stretch to salvage the series with a 13-10 win.
K-STATE AND THE GOLDEN STATE
Trips to the Golden State were few and far between for K-State prior to the 2008 season, but K-State will be making its sixth trip to the state in the last five seasons and its fourth since the start of 2011. K-State lost one game apiece to Cal and Santa Clara in 2008, but made up for it in 2009 by going 3-1 in the San Diego Tournament. Then, last season, the Wildcats were perfect in two regular season trips west with a three-game sweep at Pacific and a two-game sweep at CSU Bakersfield before going 0-2 in the NCAA Fullerton Regional.
Kansas State holds an even 18-18 record when playing in California, but the Wildcats have excelled in the state lately as they are 8-3 since 2009.
K-State’s play against non-conference opponents over the past three seasons has fueled the Wildcats to quick starts. Kansas State is 186-65 (.741) in non-conference games under head coach Brad Hill, including a 76-28 (.731) mark over the past three seasons.
In regular season non-conference games, the Cats have been even tougher as they are 175-50 (.778) over the past eight years and a combined 68-17 (.800) over the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons.
This weekend’s series against CSU Bakersfield beings a 10-day, seven-game road trip to California. Following the series with the Roadrunners, the Wildcats will drive to San Diego to play in the San Diego Tournament, Feb. 23-26. The Wildcats face San Diego State twice and both San Diego and Oregon State once.
However, K-State is used to life on the road early in the season as it had an eight-game continuous road trip at the Russmat Invitational and the Bright House Invitational in Florida in 2010.
AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME
Although the pitching and defense remained solid for a majority of 2011, it was the Wildcat offense that exploded towards the end of the regular and in the conference tournament to help K-State earn another regional bid. Over the final 11 games going into the regional, K-State hit .316 (124-of-392) with 28 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 84 RBI. One of the top hitters during that stretch was Wade Hinkle, who hit .371 with three doubles and 10 RBI.
LIMITING THE OPPOSITION
The Wildcats have been on a great streak of low team ERAs over the past several years, and that was evident again last season. Since the introduction of the aluminum bat in 1977, the Wildcats have had their six lowest team ERAs over the last six seasons, including a 4.26 mark last year to rank third in school history. The 2006 squad holds the school record at 3.94, while the 2006 team finished just better than last year’s squad at 4.22.
Last season, Kansas State had five pitchers that threw 15.0 innings or more with an ERA less than 4.00, including returners Gerardo Esquivel and Jared Moore. The last time the Cats finished the season with more than five pitchers holding an ERA less than 4.00 was 1974 (8).