K-State Travels to Take on No. 24 Oklahoma
K-State Travels to Take on No. 24 Oklahoma
March 29, 2012
Friday, March 30 - Sunday, April 1
Norman, Okla. /// L. Dale Mitchell Park (2,904)
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State will look to get back on the winning track against its third-straight ranked Big 12 opponent as the Wildcats travel to Norman for a three-game series against No. 24 Oklahoma, Friday through Sunday, March 30 through April 1, at L. Dale Mitchell Park. Friday’s game will begin at 6:30 p.m., while Saturday’s contest is scheduled for 2 p.m., and Sunday’s series finale is set for 1 p.m. All three games can be seen on K-StateHD.TV, which is available at www.k-statesports.com for $9.95 per month and $79.95 per year. The series will also be broadcast in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller and Ryan Lackey on the call. Free live audio of all three games is also available online at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
K-State, which lost its midweek contest at Nebraska, 6-3, will be looking for its first Big 12 series win. The Cats have won each of the last two series openers - at No. 8 Texas A&M and against No. 21 Texas - but they have not been able to complete the series as they lost the final two games to both the Aggies and Longhorns. However, K-State is going up against an OU club that it had success against last year as it won four of the five meetings.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE
K-State, which is looking to snap a season-long three-game losing streak, has been one of the top offensive teams in the Big 12 as they currently rank third with a .300 batting average. The team average is boosted by a trio of players who rank in the top 10, including sophomore Jared King, who is second in the Big 12 at .414. Wade Hinkle is seventh at .371, while Matt Giller is 10th at .355. The K-State offense has also found a way to get on base in a multitude of ways, leading the league in on-base percentage at .414. King and junior outfielder Tanner Witt have helped that number rise over the last few weeks as they are currently riding career-long streaks of consecutive games reaching base safely at 19 and 17 games, respectively.
The Wildcats will use their usual rotation of right-hander Matt Applegate on Friday, left-hander Joe Flattery on Saturday and righty Kayvon Bahramzadeh on Sunday. Applegate, who is 2-2 with a 5.56 ERA, had perhaps his best start of the season last week against No. 21 Texas when he allowed just two runs on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work, his longest outing in Big 12 play in his last five starts dating back to 2011.
Following a rough start to his Big 12 career, Flattery bounced back last week against the Longhorns when he threw five shutout innings with no walks and six strikeouts. The junior-college transfer is 3-2 this year with a 4.03 ERA. Bahramzadeh, who is 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA in six games this season, will be looking to bounce back from a rough outing last week when he surrendered four runs on seven hits in three innings.
The K-State bullpen is led by a nucleus of young pitchers in freshmen Nate Williams and Robert Youngdahl, as well as sophomore Gerardo Esquivel. Williams has seen action in 10 games this season, holding a 0-1 record and a 2.35 ERA. He suffered his first loss last Saturday in a career-long three innings after picking up the save the night before. Youngdahl has been the most-used reliever with 13 appearances, while Esquivel has worked exclusively out of the bullpen in his last seven contests, and he tossed four scoreless innings in two games against Texas.
DID YOU KNOW
• K-State has a .400 or better on-base percentage in 14 games this season, holding a 12-2 mark in those games.
• The Wildcats have worked at least five walks in 16 games this year, going 11-5 in those games.
• The Cats are 224-17 when leading after seven frames during Brad Hill’s eight-plus years in Manhattan, including a 12-1 mark this season.
• First baseman Wade Hinkle hit two grand slams two weeks ago, the first Wildcat to hit two in a week since Todd Fereday hit two in a single game in 1994.
• Hinkle has drawn 17 walks in 2012 after just 11 in 43 games played last season.
• Sophomore Ross Kivett went 7-for-11 last weekend against Texas, his most hits in a conference series and the most by a Wildcat against the Longhorns since Nick Martini had seven at UT in 2009.
• Outfielders Jared King and Tanner Witt have tied their career-long streaks of consecutive games reaching base at 19 and 17 games, respectively.
FINDING A WAY TO GET ON BASE
Kansas State has been one of the best teams nationally in terms of getting on base. The Wildcats currently lead the Big 12 with a .414 team on-base percentage, thanks to the fact that they are tops the conference with 134 walks and were fourth nationally in that category following play last week. The Wildcats have recorded a team on-base percentage of at least .400 in 14 games this season, going 12-2 in those contests. The season high for K-State is a .558 mark against Hartford on March 9.
K-State has recorded five or more walks in 16 games this year, going 11-5 in those contests, as it entered the week fifth nationally in terms of free passes. The Cats have also tallied at least 10 walks on three occasions and hold a perfect 3-0 mark in those games.
NEEDING THE CLUTCH HIT
Although the Wildcats have been proficient in getting on base, K-State is still looking to consistently record timely hitting as it has averaged 9.3 runners left on base in its 24 games. The Wildcats have stranded at least 10 runners on 10 occasions, including a season-high 16 against Hartford on March 10.
OKLAHOMA AT A GLANCE
Winners of five of its last six, No. 24 Oklahoma enters this weekend’s series with a 16-10 overall record and a 2-4 mark in Big 12 play. The Sooners were swept by Texas in the conference-opening weekend but rebounded with a series win at Texas Tech. Tech won Friday night, 6-1, but OU came back with wins of 5-3 and 8-2 to take the series before defeating Oral Roberts, 5-2, Tuesday night in Norman.
Oklahoma, which is hitting .279 as a team, is led by junior Max White with a .357 average, four doubles and a team-leading 24 RBI. Senior Cody Reine, who is hitting a shade below .300 at .298, leads the team with six doubles, while he has homered twice and has 10 RBI. Freshman Hunter Lockwood leads the Big 12 with seven home runs and is the second-leading Sooner with 22 RBI.
The Sooners are expected to start a pair of left-handers on Friday and Saturday in Jordan John and Dillon Overton, while right-hander Jonathan Gray will toe the rubber Sunday afternoon. John is 3-4 with a 3.13 ERA this season and will be making just his second start of the year and his second in as many weeks. Against Texas Tech last weekend, the sophomore took the loss despite lasting 7.1 innings when he allowed five runs (four earned) on 10 hits with three walks and six strikeouts. John pitched twice in relief against the Wildcats, including a seven-inning outing in the Big 12 Championship when he took the loss after allowing two runs (one earned).
Overton holds a perfect 4-0 record and a 2.89 ERA in eight outings, including six starts and a pair of complete games. One of his complete games came last week in Lubbock when he allowed just three runs (two earned) on eight hits with no walks and five strikeouts. K-State was able to record a pair of victories against Overton as he allowed five unearned runs in the regular-season finale before surrendering four runs in 4.1 innings in the second meeting between the two teams in the Big 12 Championship. Gray, who leads the team in starts with seven, is 2-3 with a 5.58 ERA. The right-hander was pulled after 4.2 innings last week as he allowed two runs on seven hits.
THE OKLAHOMA SERIES
Oklahoma leads the all-time series against K-State, 181-71-1, including a 91-23-1 record in Norman. However, the Cats seemed to have the Sooners’ number last year as they were victorious in four of the five games. The four wins over OU tied for the most in a single season after the 1990 K-State team swept a four-game series.
All four K-State wins came against ranked OU teams as the Cats won the regular-season series over the seventh-ranked Sooners. K-State took Friday-night’s game, 2-0, thanks to 7.2 scoreless innings by Kyle Hunter. After Oklahoma won the Saturday game, 14-2, K-State came back with a 6-2 win on Sunday due to a five-run sixth inning.
Needing wins in the Big 12 Championship to pad its NCAA Tournament resume, K-State earned a 5-4 win in the opening game over No. 12 Oklahoma as Ross Kivett singled on a full-count, two-out pitch in the ninth inning for the go-ahead run. In an elimination game two days later, James Allen struck out the final two batters with the tying run at second base in the ninth inning as K-State topped OU, 4-3.
ONE OF THE BEST CONFERENCES
The Big 12 has been known to be one of the nation’s top baseball conferences, and Kansas State has seen the brunt of that to begin conference play each of the last two seasons. In 2011, K-State played four-straight ranked opponents to open the season in No. 5 Texas, No. 21 Baylor, No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 7 Oklahoma. The Wildcats began the year just 2-7 in conference play, but rebounded against the seventh-ranked Sooners with a series win.
K-State will begin the 2012 conference season with the four same opponents, each of which have been or most likely will be ranked when they play the Wildcats. Kansas State went 1-2 at No. 8 Texas A&M and against No. 21 Texas over the last two weekends and will travel to No. 24 Oklahoma this weekend. After a non-conference series against Sacred Heart, the Wildcats host Baylor, April 13-15, a team that checks in as high as No. 18 in this week’s rankings.