K-State Sports Extra: Hit 'Em Where They Ain't

By Mark Janssen

In an understatement, Kansas State center fielder Nick Martini says, "I've been seeing the ball pretty well lately. I've had some good swings at a lot of pitches."

With those good swings has come good contact, not to mention an average of nearly two hits per game during a recent hitting streak of 26 games, which ended on Tuesday in a non-conference loss at BYU. Until then the string of games was a K-State school record and a mark that ranks fifth-longest in Big 12 history.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't on my mind. I didn't feel pressure, but it (streak) was there at the start of every game," said the Crystal Lake, Ill., native. "If there was some pressure, there's less now. It's one less thing to be concerned about. Now, I can just go out and do my thing."

In Tuesday's 15-9 loss at BYU, Martini went 0-for-2, but did have two walks ending the streak. On Wednesday, he started another string by going 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI in a 13-10 loss to the Cougars. He now has hit safely in 29 of KSU's 31 games, has 15 multi-hit games this season and 11 games of more than one RBI.

Tonight in a 6:30 start, Martini and the No. 20 ranked Wildcats (6-3, 23-8) will be hosting the Baylor Bears (5-5, 20-11) at Tointon Family Stadium. The series continues with a 2 p.m. start on Saturday and a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.

The K-State center fielder is hoping for the same type of personal success as a year ago when he went 7-of-12 against the Bears.

Martini's numbers were solid last year (.336) when he earned Freshman All-American and Big 12 honorable mention honors by setting KSU freshman records with 54 runs scored and 78 hits in a single season.

But this season the stats are mind-boggling for the 5-foot-11, 193 pounder.

His nine-game .563 Big 12 average leads the league by roughly 100 points, and his on-base percentage is an astonishing .659.

For the total season, his .417 average ranks fourth in the league and leads the KSU team, as do his 50 hits, .513 on-base percentage and .567 slugging percentage.

"I'm more of a line drive, gap guy. I just try to stay consistent," said Martini, who is giving chase to the school record of Kasey Weishaar at .429 set in 1999. "I try to get on base and let guys knock me in. I'm lucky to have two really hot guys hitting ahead of me (Adam Muenster and Carter Jurica), and then (Daniel) Dellasega behind me. That makes my job a lot easier."

And, the Wildcats are finding their collective job to be easier with the fan support they've received this season.

K-State is averaging 1,572 for its 15 home games, which includes a stadium record of 4,745 for a single game against Wichita State, and a three-game series record of 8,540 last week against Nebraska.  That broke the old mark by 1,049 fans.

"That's really a plus to see that people are taking notice in what we're doing," said Martini. "It helps in bringing more energy to the team, and makes it more exciting to play."

K-State fans have a chance to see plenty of offense this week as the Wildcats' team batting average of .333 leads the Big 12 with Baylor next at .328. In addition, KSU has stolen 70 bases, which leads the league by eight.