MANHATTAN, Kan. - Coming off its second-straight NCAA Regional appearance, Kansas State opens the 2011 season with a three-game series at Pacific, Friday through Sunday, February 18-20, at Klein Family Field in Stockton, Calif. The two teams have met just twice in series history, while it will be the first on either program's home field. First pitch on Opening Day is scheduled for 8 p.m. (CT) Friday, while Saturday's game is scheduled for 4 p.m. (CT) and the series finale is slated for Sunday at 1 p.m. (CT). All three games can be heard on both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com, while listeners in the Manhattan area can hear the Friday (joined in progress) and Sunday contests on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN. John Kurtz and Ryan Lackey will have the call for all three games.
Kansas State is coming off a 37-22 campaign in 2010, including a 14-12 mark in Big 12 play to finish third in the league, its highest conference finish since 1990. The 37 overall wins were the second most in school history, while K-State's 14 Big 12 wins tied the record set just a year prior.
The Wildcats return six position starters from last season, including second team All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year Nick Martini. The Crystal Lake, Ill., product, who has found his name on many preseason All-America lists, led the Big 12 with a .416 average last season and also led the league with an on-base percentage of .576. K-State also welcomes back infielder Jason King, an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection in 2009 that missed the 2010 season due to injury. Starters Jake Brown (IF), Matt Giller (OF), Mike Kindel (OF) and Kent Urban (IF) are also back for 2011.
K-State returns nearly all of its pitching from last season as the Wildcats bring back 84.4-percent of their innings pitched from a year ago. All three weekend starters in 2010 - Kyle Hunter (honorable mention All-Big 12), Justin Lindsey and Kayvon Bahramzadeh - are back, as are relief pitchers Evan Marshall (Second Team All-Big 12) and James Allen, who is on the initial watch list for the 2011 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year award.
DID YOU KNOW • Kansas State baseball is the only team in the Big 12 among baseball, football, men's and women's basketball, and volleyball programs to continually improve its conference finish over the past five seasons. • Head coach Brad Hill enters 2011 sixth in the nation among active coaches with a .714 career winning percentage. • K-State was 28-1 last year when leading after seven innings, while the Cats are 183-13 when leading after seven frames during Brad Hill's seven years in Manhattan. • The Wildcats have led the Big 12 in hitting each of the last two seasons and were the only team in the league with three players in the top 10 in batting average last year. • K-State finished the 2010 season second in the Big 12 in runs (448) and RBI (414) despite hitting fewer home runs (39) than any other team. • The Wildcats hit .340 against non-conference opponents last season, its best mark since 2006. • In 2010, K-State did not allow a walk in nine contests, while the Cats walked only one or two batters 18 times. • 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 recorded a hit in 54-of-59 games as a sophomore, while he reached base in every contest last year. • Evan Marshall started his first seven games of the season, but recorded a 2.41 ERA and limited opponents to a .188 average after moving to the bullpen.
OPENING DAY SUCCESS Kansas State will try to keep its good fortunes going in season-opening contests on Friday. K-State has won four of its last five Opening Day contests, the first time the Wildcats have done so since the 1998-2002 seasons. K-State, which is 4-3 under head coach Brad Hill in season-opening games, will look to win five of its last six lid lifters since the 1998-2003 seasons.
ON HOSTILE TURF This weekend marks the second time during Brad Hill's tenure and just the second time since 1992 that the Wildcats will play a true three-game road series to open the season.
K-State found success the last time it opened the season with a true road series in 2009 at Houston as the Wildcats won two of three against the Cougars. The Wildcats dominated UH in the first game, 16-2, their largest margin of victory in a season opener since 1996. Kansas State came back with a 9-2 victory on Saturday before dropping a 3-2 contest in 10 innings on Sunday.
Prior to the Cats' trip to Houston two years ago, the last true three-game road set was in Fayetteville, Ark., in 1992 as Kansas State won the first game of the series in an 18-13 shootout before dropping the next two games.
Kansas State will be opening its eighth-straight season away from home as the last time the Wildcats have opened up at Tointon Family Stadium was in 2003. The Wildcats, however, have improved over those eighth years on the road as they have recorded at least seven true road wins each of the last four seasons, including 13 in 2009.
NON-CON DOMINANCE K-State's play against non-conference opponents over the past two seasons has fueled the Wildcats to quick starts. Kansas State is 161-54 (.749) in non-conference games under head coach Brad Hill, including a 52-17 (.754) mark over the past two seasons.
In regular season non-conference games, the Cats have been even tougher as they are 152-43 (.780) over the past seven years and a combined 46-10 (.821) over the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
PACIFIC AT A GLANCE Pacific returns 16 letterwinners, including six positions players and six pitchers, off a squad that went 31-23 overall and 12-12 in Big West play to finish fourth in the conference. The Tigers, who were picked to finish seventh in the Big West by the league's coaches prior to the 2011 season, have improved its record each of the last two seasons as they had 14 wins in 2008 and 21 in 2009 before its 31-win season last year.
Senior first baseman Brian Martin is the top returning hitter for the Tigers as he hit .364 with 15 doubles and 38 RBI a year ago. Sophomore infielder John Haberman was .321 with 13 doubles and 30 RBI during his first year in Stockton.
Pacific is scheduled to start a trio of right-handers in Marcus Pointer on Friday, John Prato Matthews on Saturday, while Jake Hummel gets the nod on Sunday.
Pointer, a senior who is in his second year in Division I after pitching at Skyline JC, went 7-5 with a 4.58 ERA in 15 starts a year ago. The right-hander struck out 65 and walked 45. Prato Matthews, a junior, saw limited action last season as a two-way player as he was 0-1 with a 15.83 ERA on the mound in nine games, including one start. Another senior, Hummel, found similar success to Pointer a year ago as he was 7-4 with a 4.65 ERA as he split time as both a reliever and a starter.
THE PACIFIC SERIES Kansas State will be meeting Pacific for the third, fourth and fifth times in school history as the series is tied at one game apiece. The Tigers shutout K-State, 3-0, in 1970 in a game played in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Wildcats were able to come back two years ago and even the series with a 7-4 win on February 26, 2009, in San Diego, Calif. K-State combined to score its seven runs over the second and third innings of that contest, while it held off a three-run ninth by Pacific to take the win. The two teams will also meet next week on Saturday, February 26, in the Caravelle Resort's Baseball at the Beach in Conway, S.C.
AT ALL COSTS The Kansas State offense is different than most in the nation in that it relies heavily on hitting for average, tallying a high on-base percentage and being aggressive on the base paths. K-State has succeeded at its plan each of the past two seasons as it has led the Big 12 in average and steals in 2009 and 2010, while it was second in on-base percentage in 2009 and first in 2010.
Last season, the Wildcats finished third in school history with a .323 average, its highest since the 1997 season. K-State tallied the second-highest on-base percentage (.426) in school history, thanks to 448 hits (fifth in school history), 273 walks (10th in school history) and a Big 12 record 110 hit-by-pitches.
K-STATE PITCHERS YIELD HIGH RETURNS For the first time in three years, K-State returns all three weekend starters from the year prior, while the Wildcats bring back four relief pitchers that threw at least 30 innings in 2010. As a whole, K-State will have 84.4-percent of its pitching staff back in terms of innings pitched, the most since the 2008 club carried over 97.9-percent of its innings from the year prior. Last year K-State returned 48.8-percent of its innings pitched, while the 2009 squad had 35.0-percent of its innings pitched return.