K-State Takes on Illinois in Elimination Game
K-State Takes on Illinois in Elimination Game
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Fullerton, Calif. /// Goodwin Field (3,500)
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Backed by an 8-3 mark in its last 11 games, Kansas State earned its third-straight NCAA Regional berth as the Wildcats are the No. 3 seed in the 2011 NCAA Fullerton Regional, June 3-6, at Goodwin Field in Fullerton, Calif. The Wildcats are one of five Big 12 teams to earn a regional bid each of the past three seasons and one of six in this year's NCAA Tournament field. Kansas State begins play in the double-elimination regional against second-seeded Stanford at 6 p.m. (CT) Friday. Following the game between the Wildcats and Cardinal, No. 1-seed Cal State Fullerton will take on fourth-seeded Illinois at 10 p.m. (CT).
Every game from the 2011 NCAA Fullerton Regional will be broadcast on ESPNU with Justin Kutcher handling the play-by-play duties and Morgan Ensberg adding the color commentary. This weekend's regional is the first time in program history K-State will appear on one of the ESPN networks. Coverage from the K-State Sports Network can be heard throughout the state of Kansas with Wyatt Thompson and Matt Walters on the call. Free live audio is also available at www.k-statesports.com.
The Wildcats are coming off a 2-2 showing at the 2011 Big 12 Championship, with both of its wins over No. 12 Oklahoma and both of its losses coming at the hands of No. 13 Texas A&M. The Wildcats received a two-out single in the ninth inning from Ross Kivett last Wednesday to defeat the Sooners, 5-4. Following a 4-1 loss to the Aggies on Thursday, Kansas State held a 4-2 lead on OU until the Sooners scored a run in the seventh. James Allen came on to record his second save of the championship and his 17th of the season as he collected two strikeouts - including one on a 16 pitch at-bat - to keep the Wildcats alive with a 4-3 win. Saturday saw K-State hold leads of 5-0 and 8-4, but Texas A&M scored four times in the eighth and had a bases-loaded since in the 11th to win, 9-8.
Kansas State's offense has been on fire over the last two weeks, combining to hit .303 with 20 doubles, four homers and 50 RBI in a series against Kansas and at the Big 12 Championship. The Wildcats, who are fourth in the Big 12 with a .280 team average, have five starters hitting .300 or better. Jason King, who went 10-for-16 last week en route to all-tournament team honors, leads the charge at .333. Nick Martini (.326) is second, followed by Kivett (.322), Jared King (.314) and Wade Hinkle (.309). The elder King ranks in the top 10 of the Big 12 in 10 offensive categories, including top five marks in doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, total bases and slugging percentage.
The Wildcats are planning to start junior left-hander Kyle Hunter against Stanford on Friday afternoon. Hunter holds a 5-4 record and a 4.26 ERA in 15 starts this season. The Galesburg, Ill., product is coming off a great outing against Oklahoma last Wednesday in which he worked seven solid innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with a Kansas State conference tournament record nine strikeouts. K-State has not announced a starter past its first game of the regional, but could use junior right-hander Matt Applegate or freshman left-hander Shane Conlon. Applegate is also 5-4 with a 4.31 ERA, while Conlon is 4-1 on the year after earning the win last Friday against the Sooners.
DID YOU KNOW
• The 2011 Wildcats have recorded the third-most wins in school history. All three tops marks have come within the past three years as the 2009 squad set the school record with 43 wins before K-State tallied 37 victories last season.
• Kansas State has 123 steals this year, which is third in school history.
• The Wildcats have hit .305 over the last 25 games to raise their average 18 points to .280. Kansas State ranked seventh in the conference before the stretch, but is now fourth in the league in hitting.
• Kansas State currently has four pitchers that have thrown 15.0 innings or more with an ERA less than 4.00. The last time the Cats finished the season with more than four pitchers holding an ERA less than 4.00 was 1974 (8).
• Freshman outfielder Jared King is second in K-State history in home runs by a freshman. He is two shy of Brett Reid's record of 10 in 1999.
• Jason King's seven RBI against Northern Colorado are the most in a single game in the Big 12 this season.
• Jason King enters regional play as the national leader in sacrifice flies with 12 this season. He both the school's single- season and career (22) marks.
• Nick Martini has eight steals in the last 11 games to improve his career total to 62, which is second in school history.
• Jason and Jared King is the only set of brothers nationally to homer in the same game this season as they hit a solo- and two-run home run, respectively, in a win over No. 5 Texas A&M on April 3. They are also the only set with multi-homer games this year as Jason hit two against Northern Colorado on March 30 before two solo shots by Jared on April 26 at CSUB.
• Ironically, another set of brothers - Illinois' Josh and Justin Parr - are also in the Fullerton Regional.
• James Allen has set new Kansas State records for single-season saves (17) and career saves (31). He broke the records of Daniel Edwards, who had 12 in 2008 and 26 in his career. Allen is first in the Big 12 in saves this season.
• Allen is three saves away from tying the Big 12 record of 20 held by former Oklahoma pitcher Jeff Bajenaru in 1999. Allen is tied for fourth in conference history in career saves. Current Colorado Rockies closer Huston Street (Texas) holds the record with 41 from 2002-04.
OFFENSE ON A ROLL
Nearly a month ago to the day, Kansas State was on the outside looking in when it came to qualifying for the 2011 Big 12 Championship. After sweeping Kansas in the final regular-season weekend, K-State finished sixth in the Big 12 and finished the season by winning eight of its last 11 games to earn its third-straight regional bid.
Although the pitching and defense continued to be solid during the recent run, it was the Wildcat offense that exploded down the stretch of the regular season and in the conference tournament. Over the last 11 games, Kansas State hit .316 (124-of-392) with 28 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 84 RBI. Leading the way for the Wildcats was junior third baseman Jason King, who hit at a .535 clip (23-for-43) with seven doubles, two triples, one home run and 12 RBI. The Dublin, Ohio, product was outstanding in the Big 12 Championship, going 10-for-16 en route to All-Tournament Team honors.
STANFORD AT A GLANCE
The No. 2 seed for the NCAA Fullerton Regional, Stanford enters postseason play with a 32-20 record. The Cardinal, who finished fifth in the Pac-10 with a 14-12 conference record, won 11-of-15 games during the month of May. Stanford, which is hitting .298, is led offensively by sophomore Stephen Piscotty at .361. Behind Piscotty as .321 is freshman Brian Ragira, who is tied for the team-lead in home runs (4) and paces the squad with 41 RBI. Senior Zach Jones, who is hitting .268, leads the team with 15 doubles and is tied for the team in homers with Ragira.
Stanford has not announced a starting pitcher prior to Tuesday afternoon, but could throw one of three right-handers in Mark Appel, Jordan Pries or Dean McArdle as each has started at least 12 games. Appel is 5-6 with a 3.02 ERA and Pries is 5-5 with a 3.53 ERA. McArdle leads the team in wins as he is 7-4 with a 4.15 ERA.
CAL STATE FULLERTON AT A GLANCE
Cal State Fullerton earned the top spot in the regional after finishing with a 40-15 record and a Big West-best 19-5 mark in conference play. The Titans, who are hitting .285, are led by freshman outfielder Michael Lorenzen at .350. Nick Ramirez, a junior first baseman, leads CSUF in doubles (15), home runs (9) and RBI (45).
The Titans hold the top team ERA at the regional at 2.85, which ranks 13th nationally. They have five regular pitchers with an ERA less than 3.00, three of which are below 2.00.
ILLINOIS AT A GLANCE
The Big 12 regular-season and conference tournament champions, Illinois enters postseason play with a 28-25 overall record and a 15-9 mark in conference action. The fourth-seeded Fighting Illini are making their first NCAA Regional appearance since 2000. Offensively, Illinois is hitting .284, thanks in part to a .333 mark by sophomore Justin Parr. Sophomore Brandon Hohl, who is hitting .311, leads the team in doubles (12) and RBI (38), while Matt Dittman is tops in home runs (6).
Illinois has not announced a rotation as of Tuesday afternoon. The Fighting Illini holds a team ERA of 4.84 and has recorded 10 saves, while they have yielded a .272 opponent batting average.
THE STANFORD SERIES
Friday's meeting will be just the second on the diamond between Kansas State and Stanford. The Cardinal won the first game of the series, 8-7, on March 22, 1971, in Riverside, Calif. The Wildcats will be facing its second Pac-10 opponent this season as they dropped an 8-1 decision against California on February 27 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. This weekend also marks the second-straight season that K-State will meet a Pac-10 team in a NCAA Regional after the Cats went 0-2 against No. 2-seed Washington State in the 2010 NCAA Fayetteville Regional.
THE CAL STATE FULLERTON SERIES
This weekend `s potential match-up with Cal State Fullerton would mark the first between the two programs. The Cats are 8-6 all-time against Big West members after winning four games against Pacific earlier this season. K-State swept the Tigers on their home field to open up the season, and the two teams met in Conway, S.C., a week later with the Cats winning, 6-2.
THE ILLINOIS SERIES
Kansas State has met Illinois on four occasions prior to this weekend's potential contest against the Fighting Illini. Illinois holds a 3-1 mark against K-State, with the Wildcats' lone win in the series coming on March 10, 1991, in College Station, Texas, by a final score of 9-5. K-State is 29-21 all-time against teams from the Big Ten Conference and was scheduled to travel to Minnesota for a two-game series in April. That series was postponed until 2012 after the collapse of the Metrodome roof.
Kansas State has been involved in many close games this season as over a third of its games (23-of-59) have been decided by one run. K-State, which is 11-12 this year in one-run games, had been on the losing end earlier in the season, dropping nine of its first 14. Since that point, the Wildcats are 6-3 in one-run games, including 3-1 mark over the past two weeks. K-State picked up an 11-10 victory in 10 innings over KU on May 20 before winning two games decided by one against No. 12 Oklahoma last week at the Big 12 Championship (5-4 on May 25, 4-3 on May 27). The amount of one-run games this year is remarkable considering the Wildcats were only involved in 11 one-run games all of last year, going 8-3. Kansas State was involved in 22 one-run games in 2008 and 18 in 2009, going 12-10 and 12-6, respectively.
AGGRESSIVE ON THE BASE PATHS
A staple of the K-State offense over the past two seasons, the Wildcats lead the Big 12 with 123 steals and are fourth nationally in that department entering the NCAA Tournament. The 2011 Wildcats currently rank second in school history, while Kansas State has topped the 100-steal mark each of the last four seasons, three of which resulted in a regional bid. The Cats are also using their legs to get on base with 84 infield singles on the season, including a team-leading 17 by Jake Brown.
Of the Wildcats' 123 swipes, 84 have come in their 33 non-conference games (2.5 per game), while they had a school-record 12 in one game against Long Island. K-State's performance against the Blackbirds bettered their 10-steal outings against Creighton in 1979 and Chicago State last year, while they are the most in a single game in the Big 12 this season. Brown led the charge against LIU with four, tying the school record held by eight players. Kansas State also bolstered its total last weekend against New Orleans with 17 in the series.
Nick Martini leads the team and is fourth in the Big 12 with 24 steals on the year. The junior has improved his career total to 62, which is second in school history. Brown has 18 to tie for ninth in the conference, while Jason King (16), Mike Kindel (14), Tanner Witt (14) and Jared King (13) each have 10 or more.
THE SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF THE LONG BALL
After hitting just 11 home runs in its first 30 games, Kansas State has seen its home-run total jump over the past month. The Wildcats have tallied 23 homers in its last 29 games, including 17 in the last 20 contests. Over the last 20 games, freshman Jared King has led the way with six of his season's eight home runs. Jared has teamed with older brother Jason King to collect 18 of the Wildcats' 34 round-trippers this year. Jared leads all Big 12 freshmen with his eight homers, four more than Texas' Erich Weiss. He is also two away from tying the Kansas State freshman record of 10 by Brett Reid in 1999.
The Wildcat home-run total was given a boost when they tallied a season-high four round-trippers against Cal State Bakersfield on May 4. It was the ninth four-home run game for Kansas State under head coach Brad Hill and the first since hitting four against Chicago State on April 28, 2010. All four home runs against the Roadrunners came in the first three innings, the most in the first three innings of a game since also hitting four against Western Illinois on February 22, 2004.
KING EXCELS ON FIELD AND IN CLASSROOM
Not only does junior third baseman Jason King find success on the field, but the Dublin, Ohio, product is also stellar in the classroom. King was named a Third Team Academic All-American and a Second Team All-Big 12 performer last week. King, who ranks the top 10 of the Big 12 in 10 offensive categories, was also named to the Academic All-Big 12 first team. It was the first time in his career he was named an Academic All-American as the Dublin, Ohio, product holds a 3.96 cumulative GPA in marketing.
King leads the team in batting average at .333, which ranks ninth in the Big 12, while he holds top-five marks in the conference in total bases (135; 2nd), RBI (57; 3rd), slugging percentage (.608; 3rd), home runs (10; T3rd;) and triples (6; T3rd).