Wildcats Host No. 5 Texas A&M in Big 12 Home Opener
Wildcats Host No. 5 Texas A&M in Big 12 Home Opener
Friday, April 1 - Sunday, April 3
Manhattan, Kan. /// Tointoin Family Stadium (2,331)
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Following a pair of road series at No. 5 Texas and No. 21 Baylor, Kansas State opens its Big 12 home slate by hosting fifth-ranked Texas A&M, Friday through Sunday, April 1-3, at Tointon Family Stadium. The Wildcats are in the midst of their longest winning stretch against the Aggies as they have won four of the last six games, while the series marks the latest conference home opener since 2004 for K-State. The three-game set gets underway on Friday at 6:30 p.m., before a 4 p.m. start on Saturday, which marks the Cats' first televised game of the year. The teams conclude the series with a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.
Fox Sports Kansas City will be on hand to televise the Saturday contest, the network's first of two trips to Manhattan this season. Brian Smoller will handle the play-by-play duties, while former K-State skipper Mike Clark will provide the color commentary.
Friday's contest can be heard across the K-State Sports Network with Smoller, Wyatt Thompson and Matt Walters on the call, while the final two games of the series will be broadcast on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN. A live webcast of the Friday and Sunday games is available through K-State's multimedia channel, K-State All-Access at www.k-statesports.com.
The Wildcats enter the weekend fresh off a two-game sweep of Northern Colorado in which they took a 6-3 decision on Tuesday before winning 16-3 on Wednesday, its largest margin of victory this season. Tuesday's game saw Kansas State score five runs over the first three innings and receive solid outings from sophomores Tanner Witt, who recorded his fourth-straight multi-hit game, and Tyler Sturges, who threw 2.1 shutout innings of relief.
Wednesday's contest was decided in the first inning as the Cats scored 10 times in the frame - their largest single inning since 2005 - while junior third baseman Jason King hit two home runs and drove in seven RBI. It was the first multi-homer game of his career and the first since March 12 of last season. His seven runs driven in were also the most by a Wildcat since Drew Biery had nine at South Dakota State in 2006.
The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, Nick Martini, leads the K-State offense with a .329 batting average and a .472 on-base percentage, which ranks seventh in the Big 12. He has reached base in a nation-leading 84 consecutive games, just two shy of the known Division I record. King and Wade Hinkle have been a force in the middle of the batting order as they have combined to go 13-for-26 with three extra base hits and 13 RBI over the past five games. Leadoff man Tanner Witt and No. 9 hitter Jake Brown have been equally impressive over that stretch, teaming to hit .472 with a .525 on-base percentage and 10 runs scored.
The Wildcats are slated to start a trio of junior pitchers in Kyle Hunter on Friday, Matt Applegate on Saturday and Kayvon Bahramzadeh on Sunday. Hunter holds a 2-1 record and a 2.45 ERA, but has taken two no decisions in his last two starts. Last weekend at No. 21 Baylor, the left-hander exited the game with the lead after allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings of work. Applegate, a right-hander, holds similar credentials as Hunter, going 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA through six starts. Bahramzadeh, who has started the series finale in each of the first two Big 12 weekends, is 1-0 with a 3.43 ERA after surrendering three runs on five hits through 4.1 innings last weekend against the Bears.
DID YOU KNOW
• In the last 17 contests, the Kansas State pitching staff holds a 3.25 ERA and a .232 opponent batting average. Among hurlers with five or more outings during that span, the staff has tallied a 2.46 ERA and held opponents to a .221 average.
• Propelled by 122 strikeouts in its last 14 games (8.7 per game), the Wildcats have 185 this year, the second most in the first 24 games of a season in the Brad Hill era.
• Kansas State leads the Big 12 in strikeout differential (185 pitching strikeouts minus 120 hitting strikeouts) at +65.
• K-State has the third-most drafted players on its roster in the Big 12 with eight, behind only Texas (16) and Oklahoma St. (12).
• Nick Martini's 84-game streak of reaching base safely is the longest active streak in the nation. The streak has continued on a hit 70 times, while the junior has a .500 on-base percentage during that span.
• Since his transition back to the bullpen last season, Evan Marshall has a 2.09 ERA and a .192 opponent batting average. He has also averaged 5.7 strikeouts per nine innings as opposed to 2.2 walks.
• Sophomore shortstop Tanner Witt holds a career best five-game hitting streak, going 10-for-22 (455) with two doubles, two walks and five runs scored, while he is also 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts during that stretch.
• James Allen has seven saves this season after nine a year ago. With 21 career saves, the junior is just the second K-State closer to reach the 20-save plateau in a career (Daniel Edwards, 26, 2005-08).
TOUGH STARTING PITCHING
Kansas State's starting pitchers have strung together six great performances over the first two weekends of Big 12 play. Juniors Kyle Hunter, Matt Applegate and Kayvon Bahramzadeh have combined for a 3.38 ERA over 33.0 innings pitched with 10 walks and 25 strikeouts at No. 5 Texas and No. 21 Baylor. However, the trio holds a 0-1 record as the starters have left with a lead three times only to see that lead evaporate in the later innings.
The combined ERA by Hunter, Applegate and Bahramzadeh over the last two weeks ranks sixth over a two-series conference stretch and is the best since posting a 2.97 ERA against Baylor and Nebraska in 2009. The lowest ERA by the Wildcat starting pitchers under head coach Brad Hill was 2.54 in a pair of starts by Brad Hutt and Justin Murray, while Lance Hoge and Chase Bayuk split starts against Nebraska and Oklahoma State in 2008.
HUNTER, APPLEGATE ARE K-STATE'S 1-2 PUNCH
Kansas State's top two starting pitchers - Kyle Hunter and Matt Applegate - have combined to register six quality outings in their last eight total starts. The duo has combined for a 4-1 record and a 2.06 ERA over the past four weekends, surrendering 12 earned runs in a combined 52.1 innings of work. They also struck out 47 batters as opposed to 14 walks.
Applegate, who came within two outs of throwing K-State's first no-hitter since 1976 against Long Island, has been stellar over his last three starts against the Blackbirds, at No. 5 Texas and at No. 21 Baylor as he has allowed just four earned runs on 12 hits with five walks and 11 fanned batters over 19.0 innings.
Against Long Island, Hunter struck out a career-high 12 batters, bettering his eight-strikeout performance from the week prior. His 12 strikeouts were the most since A.J. Morris also had 12 against Oklahoma in 2009. Hunter also tallied six fanned batters at No. 5 Texas and at No. 21 Baylor, extending his streak of at least six strikeouts to five-straight games. Prior to his 12 strikeout performance against Long Island, he had eight against Western Illinois and seven at No. 17 Coastal Carolina.
TEXAS A&M AT A GLANCE
Texas A&M, which is ranked fifth in this week's USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll, enters the contest on a seven-game winning streak, while the Aggies have won eight of their last nine contests. Texas A&M swept Kansas at home last weekend by counts of 2-1 (10), 11-1 and 3-1 before topping UT-Arlington 7-4 in 10 innings Wednesday night in Arlington.
The Aggies hold the top pitching staff in the county with a team ERA of 1.61, including a 0.80 overall ERA and a 0.77 ERA in conference play among its three starting pitchers. The Aggies are scheduled to start a trio of right-handed pitchers in John Stilson on Friday, Michael Wacha on Saturday and Ross Stripling on Sunday. Stilson, Texas A&M's closer a year ago, is 1-1 with a 1.05 ERA in seven appearances, including six starts. The junior pitched seven innings of shutout ball last week against the Jayhawks, working around seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
Wacha is 4-1 with a 0.60 ERA, having allowed just three earned runs in 45.0 innings over his six starts. Another junior, Wacha has pitched two complete games in his first two Big 12 starts of the season, including last week when he allowed an unearned run on seven hits with a walk and nine strikeouts.
Stripling, last year's Saturday starter, has a team-high five wins in six decisions. The junior has seen time in 11 games, including four starts, while he also holds a sub-1.00 ERA at 0.76. He took the win last week against KU when he surrendered an unearned run on six hits with three walks and seven fanned batters.
Texas A&M is paced offensively by sophomore outfielder Tyler Naquin, who is hitting .367 with six doubles, five triples, one homer and 16 RBI. Right behind him at .340 is junior transfer Jacob House, who is tied with Matt Juengel for the team lead in RBI with three. House also paces the team with 21 RBI.
THE TEXAS A&M SERIES
Texas A&M leads the all-time series against Kansas State 36-11-1, including an 11-7 mark in Manhattan. But much like its previous two conference opponents this season, the Wildcats have been tough as of late. The Aggies won the first game of the 2009 series in Manhattan, but K-State came back with a pair of victories over the 15th-ranked Aggies to win the series, which put the Wildcats into the national spotlight. The series-clinching victory came off the bat of Carter Jurica, who hit a sacrifice fly to score current K-State student assistant coach Rob Vaughn from third base.
Kansas State edged the Aggies in the first game of the 2010 series by a score of 8-7 in 10 innings to give the Wildcats a three-game winning streak over Texas A&M. The victory represented the longest winning streak over the Aggies in series history.
RELIEVERS RISE TO THE OCCASION
The core of Kansas State's bullpen - Evan Marshall, Kayvon Bahramzadeh and James Allen - has been equally impressive as the top two Wildcat starters. The three hurlers, who have a combined 24 relief appearances, has teamed to go 4-1 with a 1.94 ERA and six saves, while they have over a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and have limited opponents to a .160 batting average.
The effectiveness of Marshall, Bahramzadeh and Allen is even better if you take out Allen's appearance against Texas on Saturday when he walked five batters (two intentionally) and gave up his first two runs of the season. Without that outing, the trio has combined for 1.60 ERA and a .157 opponent batting average.
CATCH US IF YOU CAN
Kansas State, which topped the Big 12 in stolen bases each of the past two years, is at it again as the Cats have 54 steals to sit second in the league. Of its 54 swipes, 40 have come in its 11 home games (3.6 per game), including 15 apiece in four-game series against Western Illinois and Long Island. The 15 steals by K-State both weekends were the most in any series or tournament in two years. Of the 15 steals against the Blackbirds, 12 came in the first game of the series as K-State set a new school record for steals in a game, bettering 10-steal performances against Creighton in 1979 and Chicago State last year.
Junior infielder Jake Brown led the charge against LIU with four swipes, tying the school record held by eight different players. The last Wildcat to have four steals in a game was Nate Tenbrink against Le Moyne on March 9, 2008.
Tanner Witt paces K-State overall this season with 10 steals, which is tied for fifth in the league. Brown and Nick Martini are tied for sixth with nine steals, while Jared King, Jason King and Mike Kindel have at least five this season.