Wildcats Begin Road Trip at Minnesota
Wildcats Begin Road Trip at Minnesota
March 12, 2012
Tuesday, March 12 - Wednesday, March 13
Minneapolis, Minn. /// Metrodome (63,699)
K-STATE: Brad Hill
Alma Mater: Emporia State
Career Record: 693-290-3 (18th season)
Record at K-State: 275-199-3 (9th season)
MINNESOTA: John Anderson
Alma Mater: Minnesota
Record at MINN: Same
SportsRadio 1350 KMAN
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Winners of six of its last seven, Kansas State will look to continue to build momentum prior to Big 12 play with a two-game series at Minnesota, Tuesday and Wednesday, March 13 and 14, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn. The series marks the first time since the Wildcats’ last trip to Minnesota in 1994 that they will play in a true domed venue. The series begin on Tuesday with a 6:35 p.m., first pitch, prior to Wednesday’s 3:05 p.m., contest. Both games against the Golden Gophers can be heard in the Manhattan area on Sports Radio 1350 KMAN with Rob Voelker and Ryan Lackey on the call. Fans can also hear the game online for free at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
K-State enters the midweek series on a roll both offensively and on the mound as the Wildcats totaled 45 runs on 45 hits, while they surrendered only eight earned runs and struck out 43 batters during last weekend’s four-game series against Hartford. Thanks to its solid play at the plate, Kansas State now ranks second in the Big 12 in batting average at .303, just seven points behind Texas A&M. The Wildcats also drew 44 walks against the Hawks and were hit eight times to push its season on-base percentage to a Big 12-leading .431, 34 points better than the second-place team.
The Wildcats boast two of the top three hitters in the Big 12 in sophomore Jared King and senior Wade Hinkle. King paces the conference with a .491 batting average and seven doubles. He is also tops in hits per game at 2.0, while he ranks second in three other categories. Hinkle, who has reached base in all 15 games this season, is third in the Big 12 with a .429 average, while he has two homers and 15 RBI. The first baseman leads the league in on-base percentage at .580, 42 points better than King, who is second.
Kansas State, which is third in the league with 2.93 walks per game, will start sophomore left-hander Shane Conlon on Tuesday, while the Wildcats are undecided on a starter for Wednesday afternoon. Conlon, who was a weekend starter a year ago, earned his first start of the year last Tuesday at Nebraska. He was perfect through the first two innings, but he could not record an out as he was pulled in the third. The left-hander is 1-1 this season with a 5.00 ERA in five appearances. The left-hander went 3-1 with a 4.82 ERA as a starter last season, picking up a win in his first career start against Texas Tech, as well as a victory over No. 12 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship.
DID YOU KNOW
• Brad Hill entered 2012 sixth in the nation among active coaches with a .706 career winning percentage.
• Senior Jake Brown tied a Big 12 and school with six hits in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday.
• Outfielder Tanner Witt recorded four steals on Saturday to tie a school record with eight other players.
• The Cats are 221-16 when leading after seven frames during Brad Hill’s eight-plus years in Manhattan, including a perfect 9-0 mark this season.
• The Wildcats’ 15 runs and 21 hits on Feb. 25 against San Diego State are the most in the Big 12 this year.
• Three of K-State’s freshmen relievers have combined to retire 14-of-16 first batters faced this season.
• Two of the top three Big 12 players in terms of average are K-State’s Jared King (.491) and Wade Hinkle (.429).
• Senior Wade Hinkle has drawn 15 walks in the first 15 games of 2012 after just 11 in 43 games played in 2011.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN...
Kansas State begins a five-game, week-long road trip with two games at Minnesota, but the Wildcats should be used to life on the road as K-State began the season with a seven-game, 10-day road trip in California. This week is the third road trip of at least a week in the last three years as the Cats played eight games in nine days in Florida in 2010.
MINNESOTA AT A GLANCE
Minnesota enters the two-game midweek series with a 7-8 record. Last weekend at the Metrodome Tournament, the Gophers defeated Stony Brook, 7-1, but dropped a game to Kansas by a count of 9-4 before falling to Stony Brook, 5-4. It was the second-straight tournament Minnesota hosted after sporting a 2-1 record with wins against New Mexico State and West Virginia in the Dairy Queen Classic the previous weekend.
The Golden Gophers are hitting .234 as a team and are led at the plate by sophomore Dan Olinger. The infielder is hitting .404 with seven doubles and seven RBI. Bobby Juan is second on the team at .300 with four doubles, one triple and a team-leading nine RBI. Matt Puhl, who is hitting .192, has four doubles and is second on the team with eight RBI.
Minnesota is expected to start a pair of left-handers in DJ Snelten on Tuesday and Jordan Jess on Wednesday. Snelten, a sophomore, does not have a record in five appearances (two starts), but holds an impressive 1.06 ERA in 17 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting just .154 off him, while he’s struck out 13 batters. His last outing came on Saturday when he threw 2.1 no-hit innings of relief against Stony Brook. Tuesday will be his first start since Feb. 25 against Milwaukee when he pitched 5.1 scoreless innings. His last outing was a start against Hamline last Wednesday when he pitched three scoreless innings, allowing two hits with no walks and a strikeout in a game that the Gophers eventually won, 3-2, in 16 innings.
Kevin Kray leads the team with two saves this season, holding a 0-1 record and a 1.35 ERA in five appearances. A right-hander, Kray has allowed just one walk as opposed to nine strikeouts.
THE MINNESOTA SERIES
Minnesota leads the all-time series between the two programs, 7-1. Two years ago in Manhattan, the Wildcats notched their first victory against the Gophers with a 12-6 win. K-State recorded 18 hits in the game, including four-hit games by Carter Jurica and Nick Martini. Minnesota came back the next day to split the series with a 3-0 shutout of the Wildcats. The two teams were slated to meet in Minneapolis last season, but the series was shifted to 2012 after the collapse of the Metrodome roof. Kansas State is 134-186 all-time against current members of the Big Ten, but holds a 28-22 record against the conference outside of its lengthy conference history with Nebraska.
BROWN’S BIG WEEK
Senior shortstop Jake Brown tied a Big 12 record as part of a career week against Nebraska and Hartford. In five games last week, Brown hit .524 (11-for-24) with three doubles, one home run and 11 RBI. In the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, Brown tied a Big 12 and school record with six hits in six at-bats, including a pair of two-RBI doubles. It was the first time since 2008 a Big 12 player had six hits in a game, while it was the first by a Wildcat since 1999. He became just the third player in school history to tally six hits in a game.
Brown followed that contest with a 2-for-4 effort in the nightcap, finishing his day by going 8-for-10 with seven RBI. His eight hits represented the biggest single-day outburst in head coach Brad Hill’s nine-year tenure at K-State.
Thanks to his big week, Brown raised his season batting average nearly 100 points as he now ranks seventh in the league at .364. He is also tied for eighth in hits, third in runs, fifth in RBI and seventh in on-base percentage after not seeing his name in the top 10 of those categories prior to the week.
CREATING BULLPEN DEPTH
Kansas State has gotten the most out of its young pitchers through 15 games this season. Three Wildcat freshmen hurlers - Nate Williams, Matt Wivinis and Robert Youngdahl - have combined to retire 14-of-16 first batters faced, record a 1.99 ERA and allow a .231 batting average. They have also struck out 17 batters as opposed to five walks in 22.2 innings of relief.
Leading the way this season has been Williams. A product of Valley Center, Kan., Williams has been nearly perfect in his six outings as the only blemish on his line was a solo home run in the ninth inning of a blowout win at San Diego State. Williams has only given up two other hits as he is holding opponents to a .103 batting average while striking out seven without issuing a walk. Youngdahl is right behind him as he has not surrendered a run on four hits with four strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
A staple of the K-State offense over the last three seasons is its aggressiveness on the base paths and its ability to steal bases, and that aspect of the game is prevalent again in 2012. The Wildcats, who have led the Big 12 in steals over the last three seasons, rank second in the league with 39 steals this year. That number received a huge boost last weekend against Hartford as the Cats tallied 22 in the four-game series.
Three Wildcats rank in the top five of the Big 12 in steals, including Tanner Witt. The outfielder is second in the league with 10 in 10 attempts, including a school-record tying four in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader. Jake Brown, the last Wildcat to record four steals in a game, is tied for third with nine, while Ross Kivett is tied for fifth with eight.
HINKLE SHOWING PLATE DISCIPLINE
A season after batting injuries, senior Wade Hinkle is starting to make an impact this season for Kansas State in the middle of the lineup. A former junior-college transfer, Hinkle is one of just four players in the Big 12 hitting over .400 heading into the week, but he has made his biggest strides by finding a way to get on base in virtually every plate appearance. The Albuquerque, N.M., product leads the Big 12 with a .580 on-base percentage, thanks to the fact that he has reached base in 26 of his last 35 plate appearances, including a streak of 10 straight last week.
Hinkle, who is second in the Big 12 with 15 walks, recorded only 11 in 43 games a year ago. The first baseman drew three walks and was hit by a pitch last Tuesday against Nebraska, while he also worked three walks Sunday.
LEADER OF THE PACK
If his first 13 games of the year are any indication, center fielder Jared King looks as though he will progress as a sophomore after earning Freshman All-America honors a year ago. Through 13 games, King leads the Big 12 with a .491 batting average (26-for-53) with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 10 RBI. He also leads the Big 12 in doubles and hits-per-game (2.0), while he is second in total bases (38), slugging percentage (.717) and on-base percentage (.542). King has recorded one of the best starts to a season in recent school history as his 26 hits in the first 13 games are the most since Joe Roundy also had 26 to begin 2006.