MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State, which has faced ranked Big 12 opponents in each of its first three conference series, will face yet another ranked squad as the Wildcats host No. 5 Baylor, Friday through Sunday, at Tointon Family Stadium. The Bears come into the three-game set with a Big 12 best 12-0 conference record and have won 16-straight games overall, but K-State has won eight of the last 10 meetings against Baylor in Manhattan. The series begins with a 6:30 p.m., first pitch on Friday, while both Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests begin at 1 p.m. All three games will be televised as the Friday and Sunday games can be seen world-wide on K-StateHD.TV and nationally on Fox College Sports. Saturday’s game will be shown on Fox Sports Kansas City with Brian Smoller and former Wildcat head coach Mike Clark on the call. Friday-night’s game will be carried on the five-station K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson and Smoller handling the play-by-play duties, while Matt Walters will serve as the color analyst. The final two games of the series can be heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN and online at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
Military Appreciation Night on Friday highlights the promotional activities this weekend as military personnel can purchase a general admission bench ticket for $3, while K-State will wear its camouflage uniforms. Also, a pregame tailgate with plenty of food and beverage items will be held directly behind the stadium off College Avenue beginning at 5 p.m. Another tailgate precedes Saturday’s game beginning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday is also Junior Wildcat Day, and Sunday is a Family Day as fans can purchase a Wildcat 4-Pack for $30 that includes four general admission bench tickets, four hot dogs, four drinks and four bags of chips. Also, all kids can run the bases after the game.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE Kansas State is looking to bounce back from a 3-0 loss on Wednesday at Missouri State. All three Bear runs were unearned as the Wildcats were hurt by errors in both the first and eighth innings, while K-State stranded 13 runners - including eight in scoring position - and tied a season high with 13 strikeouts. However, the Wildcats received great pitching performances from Jared Moore, Tanner Witt, Caleb Wallingford and Johnny Fasola as they combined to allow just two hits, the fewest since surrendering just one against Long Island on March 12 last year.
The Wildcat pitching staff has been at the top of its game lately as the Cats have allowed a 0.35 ERA over the last three games and surrendered just a .136 average. Kansas State will start its usual rotation of right-hander Matt Applegate on Friday and lefty Joe Flattery on Saturday, while right-hander Kayvon Bahramzadeh will toe the rubber on Sunday. Applegate is 2-3 with a 5.32 ERA this year. In his last Big 12 start at No. 24 Oklahoma on March 30, the Wichita, Kan., product lasted eight innings and allowed just three earned runs, but he took the loss as he is in search of his first win since March 23 against No. 21 Texas. Flattery has been dominant as of late, registering a 3.14 ERA with four walks and 15 strikeouts in his last three outings, which includes five shutout innings against Texas. Last weekend against Sacred Heart, Flattery lasted 5.1 innings and allowed one run on four hits with six strikeouts.
Bahramzadeh has been equally impressive his last two times out as he has combined for 18 strikeouts in six innings while allowing just two runs. The right-hander tossed six scoreless frames last weekend with seven strikeouts after an 11-strikeout performance at Oklahoma.
The Wildcat offense, which ranks fourth in the league, will be looking to right the ship against Baylor after being shut out on Wednesday. K-State is led at the plate by sophomore Jared King, who is second in the Big 12 with a .400 batting average. Junior Tanner Witt is sixth in the league at .359, while his .424 average against Big 12 pitching ranks second in the conference. Witt has reached base safely in a career-long 25-straight games, which is the second longest in the Big 12 this season. During the streak, Witt is hitting .402 with a .505 on-base percentage.
DID YOU KNOW • The Kansas State pitching staff has allowed just one earned run in the last three games, good for a 0.35 ERA. • K-State leads the Big 12 with a .981 fielding percentage, a mark that ranked fourth nationally entering the week. • The Wildcats also ranked in the top 15 of the NCAA in three other categories, including steals (6th), on-base percentage (8th) and walks (14th). • Catcher Dan Klein has more pickoffs this year (six) than seven of the other eight Big 12 teams. • Tanner Witt has reached base safely in a 25-straight games, the second-longest streak in the Big 12 this year. • With his first hit on Wednesday, Jared King became the 75th player in school history with 100 career hits.
EATING UP INNINGS Kansas State has received six-straight solid outings from its three starters as the trio has combined for 34.2 innings over the last two weekends, the most in 10 series dating back to the Nebraska and Texas Tech weekends in 2011 (35.4 innings). Senior Matt Applegate leads the way with 13.1 innings over his last two starts thanks to his first career complete game at No. 24 Oklahoma on March 30. Kayvon Bahramzadeh is right behind Applegate with 12 innings, lasting six frames in his last two starts. Also, junior Joe Flattery has worked 9.1 innings, including 5.1 innings last week against Sacred Heart.
Not only have the starters chewed up innings to save the bullpen, but the trio has also given the Cats a chance to win every game as they have teamed for a 3.64 ERA. Bahramzadeh paces the starters in that department with a 1.50 mark over his last two starts after allowing two runs at Oklahoma before tossing six scoreless innings last week.
BAYLOR AT A GLANCE Baylor enters the weekend series on fire as the Bears have won 16-straight games and are 12-0 in Big 12 play. The Bears, who are ranked as high as fifth in this week’s Collegiate Baseball poll, have broken the Big 12 record for consecutive games won to start a conference season, five better than the 1999 Texas team that started 7-0.
The Bears are paced on offense by Lawton Langford’s .381 average, which ranks third in the Big 12, while the sophomore’s .492 on-base percentage is also third in the league. Senior catcher Josh Ludy, who is second on the team with a .328 average, leads the squad with 34 RBI and has 12 extra-base hits this year. Junior Logan Vick paces the squad with 15 doubles, while senior Dan Evatt and junior Max Muncy are tied for the team lead with four home runs apiece.
Baylor, which sports the second-best team ERA in the Big 12 at 3.22, will start left-hander Josh Turley on Friday and right-hander Trent Blank on Saturday, while the Bears are undecided on a starter for Sunday. Turley is 4-0 with a 2.20 ERA, which ranks fifth in the Big 12. In eight starts this year, the junior has limited opponents to just 12 earned runs on 50 hits with 12 walks and 42 strikeouts in 49.0 innings. Last week against Missouri, Turley worked 8.1 innings, allowing one run on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
Blank, who leads all Big 12 starting pitchers with a 1.67 ERA, also paces the conference with his perfect 8-0 record in 10 games, including eight starts. The senior has surrendered 10 earned runs in 54.0 innings, while opponents are hitting just .185 off him. Last weekend against the Tigers, he went six innings, allowing an unearned run on five hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
Although the Bears have not announced a starter for Sunday, they very well could go with right-hander Max Garner, who has started three of Baylor’s four Big 12 series finales. Garner holds a 2-2 record and a 5.40 ERA in 11 games, including six starts. However, the junior also leads the team with three saves.
THE BAYLOR SERIES Baylor holds a 35-16 mark all-time against Kansas State, including a 32-14 record in Big 12 games. However, the Wildcats have been tough at home as they hold an 11-10 advantage at Tointon Family Stadium and have won eight of the last 10 in Manhattan. In 2010, K-State swept the three-game series at Tointon Family Stadium, winning Friday and Saturday by identical scores of 5-2 before a 3-2 victory in the series finale.
Last season in Waco, BU won a 5-4 contest on Friday night as the Bears scored twice in the bottom of the ninth, which was fueled by a leadoff error, to steal a win from the Wildcats. In the middle game of the series, K-State scored three times in the top of the eighth - including two runs on a Jason King homer - to break a 3-3 tie as it tied ther series wiht a 6-3 victory. The series finale was much like the opener as K-State tied the game at three in the eighth, but a two-out error opened the door for BU in the bottom half as the Bears took the series with a 4-3 win.
ONE OF THE BEST CONFERENCES The Big 12 has been known to be one of the nation’s top baseball conferences, and Kansas State has seen the brunt of that to begin conference play each of the last two seasons. In 2011, K-State played four-straight ranked opponents to open the Big 12 season in No. 5 Texas, No. 21 Baylor, No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 7 Oklahoma. The Wildcats began the year just 2-7 in conference play, but rebounded against the seventh-ranked Sooners with a series win.
K-State will begin the 2012 conference season with the same four opponents, each of which have been ranked when they play the Cats. K-State went 1-2 in each series at No. 8 Texas A&M, at home against No. 21 Texas and at No. 24 Oklahoma. The Cats host Baylor this weekend, a team that checks in as high as No. 5 in this week’s rankings.
THROW ‘EM A CHAIR The Kansas State pitching staff has been dominant lately in terms of strikeouts as it has averaged nine per game over the last six contests. K-State has nine 10-plus strikeout games this year, including three in the last six games. The Cats rank third in the Big 12 in strikeouts per nine innings at 7.54, while they’ve seen their national ranking in that department jump from 215th on March 4 to 57th this week.
Leading the way has been senior starter Kayvon Bahramzadeh. In the series finale at Oklahoma, the right-hander notched a career-best 11 strikeouts, and he came back with a seven-strikeout performance last Saturday against Sacred Heart. The Tucson, Ariz., product now has 42 this season, bettering his career high of 40 in 2010. Another senior starter, Matt Applegate, also has 42 strikeouts this season and 165 in his career to rank 10th in school history and fourth among active Big 12 pitchers.
HITTING THE CENTURY MARK With his first-inning single on Wednesday, sophomore Jared King became the 75th player in school history to tally 100 career hits. However, the Dublin, Ohio, product reached the 100-hit plateau quicker than most in program history. Comparing King to players in the school’s career top 10 in hits, he tied for the quickest in terms of at-bats with Pat Maloney (2000-03) at 293, while he was the second-quickest in terms of games played with 80 after Nick Martini (2009-11) needed 78 games to reach 100 hits.