BU - RHP Trent Blank 1-1, 6.26 ERA, 23.0 IP, 7 BB, 10 K
SERIES INFORMATION K-STATE at BAYLOR Overall: Baylor leads, 34-14 In Waco: Baylor leads, 21-2 Last Meeting: K-State swept regular season series, 5-2, 5-2 and 3-2, April 16-18, in Manhattan, Kan. Baylor won, 11-8, at Big 12 Championship, May 26, in Oklahoma City, Okla.
COACHES K-STATE:Brad Hill Alma Mater: Emporia State, 1984 Career Record: 660-266-3 (17th season) Record at K-State: 242-175-3 (8th season)
BAYLOR: Steve Smith Alma Mater: Baylor, 1986 Career Record: 602-394-1 (17th season) Record at Baylor: Same
RADIO INFORMATION Brian Smoller (pxp) and Ryan Lackey (color)
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State will make its second straight trip to the Lone Star State this weekend as the Wildcats travel to Waco, Texas, to face No. 21 Baylor, Friday through Sunday, March 25-27, at Baylor Ballpark. The visit marks the first time since 2000 that the Wildcats will play their first two Big 12 series on the road. The action gets underway on Friday with a 6:30 p.m. contest before a 3 p.m. tilt on Saturday, while Sunday’s series finale is scheduled for 1 p.m. All three games can be heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller and Ryan Lackey calling the action. The series can also be heard online for free at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
Kansas State will look to right the ship this weekend as the Wildcats have lost five of their last six games - the longest losing stretch in the regular season since dropping seven-of-eight in April 2008 - following a series sweep at the hands of No. 5 Texas in Austin. That series saw the Longhorns take Friday night thanks to the arm of Taylor Jungmann en route to a 3-0 victory. K-State came back on Saturday to take a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning, but Texas scored once in the inning on a bases-loaded walk and duplicated the feat an inning later to earn a 4-3 comeback victory in 10 innings.
The Wildcats looked poised to salvage the weekend on Sunday as they held a 5-1 lead through six innings, but the Longhorns scored four times in the seventh to tie the game at five. Both teams went scoreless over the next six innings before a two-out bloop double landed just inside the foul line, allowing the winning run score from first as UT won 6-5 in 14 innings.
The Wildcat offense is led by junior Nick Martini - the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year - who is hitting .358 with four doubles, two triples and 12 RBI. He has also drawn 15 walks and been hit by a pair of pitches to total a .482 on-base percentage, which ranks fifth in the Big 12. The outfielder has reached base in a nation-leading 79-straight games, seven games shy of the longest known Division I record.
Kansas State is scheduled to start Kyle Hunter on Friday and Matt Applegate on Saturday, while the Cats have not declared a starter for the series finale. Hunter suffered his first loss of the season last week at No. 5 Texas, but was not given any run support as the left-hander surrendered three runs on just five hits in six innings with six strikeouts, this fourth-straight contest with six or more fanned batters. Applegate exited last week’s game with a one-run lead but ended up taking a no-decision after the right-hander allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits with three strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work.
DID YOU KNOW • In the last 12 contests, the Kansas State pitching holds a 3.38 ERA and a .217 opponent batting average. Among hurlers with three or more outings during that span, the staff tallied a 2.39 ERA and held opponents to a .198 average. • Propelled by 86 strikeouts in its last nine games (9.6 per game), the Wildcats have 149 this year, the most in the first 19 games of a season in the Brad Hill era. • Kansas State leads the Big 12 in strikeout differential (149 pitching strikeouts minus 95 hitting strikeouts) at +54. • 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 79-game streak of reaching base safely is the longest active streak in the nation. The streak has continued on a hit 67 times, while the junior has a .504 on-base percentage during the streak. • In two appearances last weekend at No. 5 Texas, reliever Tyler Sturges did not allow any of his four inherited base runners in scoring position to cross the plate. • Kyle Hunter’s 12 strikeouts against Long Island were the most since A.J. Morris also had 12 against Oklahoma in 2009. Furthermore, his 34 strikeouts through four starts is the most in five starts by a Wildcat since Adam Cowart in 2006. • Since his transition back to the bullpen last season, Evan Marshall has a 2.20 ERA and a .186 opponent batting average. He has also averaged 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings as opposed to 2.3 walks. • James Allen has five saves this season after nine a year ago. With 19 career saves, the junior ranks in the top 10 nationally and is second in K-State history.
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 five quality outings in their last six total starts. The duo has combined for a 4-1 record and a 0.63 ERA over the past three weekends, surrendering six earned runs in a combined 40.0 innings of work. They also struck out 39 batters as opposed to 11 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 two starts against the Blackbirds and at No. 5 Texas as he has allowed just one earned run on 10 hits with six walks and 13 fanned batters over 20.2 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.
THROW HIM THE CHAIR The Kansas State pitching staff has seen some of its better strikeout performances in recent memory in just 19 games this season. K-State has registered seven games with 10 or more strikeouts, including a season-high 16 against Western Illinois, the most since it had 17 in a 20-inning game vs. Texas in 2004. The Cats, who have averaged 9.6 strikeouts in their last nine games, have 149 this year, the most through the first 19 games of a season under Brad Hill. If they were to continue on their current pace of 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings, it would be the best average since the 1997 squad finished at 7.8.
Individually, Kyle Hunter leads the way with 34 fanned batters as he has at least six in each of his last four starts, including a career-high 12 against Long Island. His 34 punch outs are the second most through five starts under head coach Brad Hill after Adam Cowart had 37 in 2006. In comparison, First Team All-American A.J. Morris had 27 strikeouts through his first five starts of 2009.
BAYLOR AT A GLANCE Winners of nine of its last 11 games, Baylor enters the weekend series with a 14-7 overall record and a 1-2 mark in Big 12 play. The Bears lost the first game of its conference-opening weekend at home to Texas Tech, 6-5, before winning a 14-13 barnburner on Saturday. The Red Raiders won the rubber match, 10-6, in 10 innings on Sunday before the Bears got healthy with a 6-1 win on Tuesday against UT-Arlington.
Baylor is paced offensively by junior Brooks Pinckard, who is hitting .378 with six doubles, two triples, a homer and 12 RBI, while he is an astonishing 22-for-24 in stolen base attempts this year. Behind Pinckard at .344 is senior Chris Slater, who has seven extra-base hits with 14 RBI. Sophomore Max Muncy, who is hitting .341, leads the team with 20 RBI, while junior Josh Ludy has a team-high two home runs.
Baylor is scheduled to start ace Logan Verrett on Friday followed Josh Turley on Saturday and Trent Blank on Sunday, all of whom did not factor into a decision last week against Texas Tech. Verrett is 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts this year, while he holds a 9-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The junior right-hander surrendered four runs (three earned) on eight hits with two walks and six strikeouts in five innings of work against TTU.
Turley, a left-hander who is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in seven appearances (four starts), exited the Saturday contest after four innings with an 11-2 lead after working around eight hits with a pair of walks and strikeouts. Tech tied the game up at 13 with nine runs in the ninth inning before BU won the game in the bottom half.
Blank also received the start in the series finale against the Red Raiders, giving up four runs on 10 hits with a walk and two strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
THE BAYLOR SERIES Baylor leads the all-time series against K-State 34-14, including a 21-2 mark in Waco, Texas. However, the Cats have been tough on the Bears as of late as Kansas State has won six of the last nine overall games and four of the last six regular-season contests against BU. Two years ago, K-State ended a 19-game losing streak to the Bears at Baylor Ballpark as the Cats won, 7-1, on Friday night.
K-State swept Baylor a year ago in Manhattan by winning a pair of 5-2 contests before edging the Bears, 3-2, in the series finale. Pitching was the key for the Wildcats in the series as they held a Bear offense that averaged 8.2 runs on 12 hits over its previous five ballgames to just six runs on 13 hits for the entire three-game series. Current Wildcats Kyle Hunter, Justin Lindsey and James Allen were nearly untouchable in the series as they combined to go 2-0 with two saves with a 1.18 ERA and eight strikeouts, while limiting BU to a .106 batting average.
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 ME IF YOU CAN After leading the Big 12 in stolen bases each of the past two seasons, Kansas State is at it again as it has 39 steals to sit fourth in the league. Of its 39 swipes, 31 came over a nine-game homestand as the Wildcats were a perfect 15-of-15 against Western Illinois and 15-of-18 against Long Island. The 15 steals by K-State both weekends were the most in any series or tournament in two years. Of the Wildcats 15 steals against the Blackbirds, 12 came on Friday 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.
Brown also paces K-State overall this season with eight steals, which is tied for sixth in the league. Jared King, Tanner Witt and Jason King are tied for second on the team and with six apiece.