SERIES INFORMATION K-STATE at TEXAS TECH Overall: Texas Tech leads, 27-19-1 In Lubbock: Texas Tech leads, 14-6-1 Last Season: K-State swept three-game series, 2-1, 4-3 and 4-1, April 21-23, in Manhattan, Kan.
COACHES K-STATE:Brad Hill Alma Mater: Emporia State Career Record: 707-312-3 (18th season) Record at K-State: 290-221-3 (9th season)
TEXAS TECH: Dan Spencer Alma Mater: Portland Career Record: 114-110 (4th season) Record at Texas Tech: Same
LUBBOCK, Texas - Winners of five of its last six, Kansas State travels to Lubbock, Texas, to take on Texas Tech, Thursday through Saturday, at Rip Griffin Park in a series that will likely decide the final spot in the 2012 Big 12 Championship. K-State, which is one game back of the Red Raiders and a half game behind Kansas, needs to win this weekend’s series to claim one of the final spots in the 2012 Big 12 Championship, while the Wildcats could also claim the final spot if it wins just one game and KU is swept by Missouri.
First pitch on both Thursday and Friday is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., while Saturday’s regular-season finale will begin at 1 p.m. Thursday’s series opener can be seen world-wide on K-StateHD.TV, while Saturday’s contest will be shown to a national audience on FSN with Greg Lucas and Jack Lazorko on the call. All three games will be aired in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller and Ryan Lackey calling the action, while free live audio is also available at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
K-STATE AT A GLANCE K-State enters an important three-game set following a series victory last weekend against in-state rival KU. The Wildcats shut out the Jayhawks, 2-0, on Friday, but KU returned the favor on Saturday with a 6-0 win. On Sunday, K-State scored three in the first inning before KU responded with three of its own the next half inning. The Wildcats bullpen came on strong to shut down the Jayhawks the rest of the way before the Wildcats scored fourth eighth-inning runs en route to a 9-3 victory.
The Wildcats are led offensively by sophomore Jared King, whose .376 batting average ranks second in the Big 12. His 74 hits this year also rank second in the league, while he hit his sixth homer of the season on Sunday. Wade Hinkle is second on the team with a .333 batting average and leads the squad with 10 home runs and 47 RBI. Hinkle went 4-for-8 last weekend with a double and a homer en route to Big 12 Player of the Week accolades. He ranks second in the league in homers, walks (44) and on-base percentage (.489). Tanner Witt is third on the team with a .320 batting average, while Jon Davis is also hitting over .300 at .315.
For the fourth-straight week, Kansas State is expected to use the rotation of right-hander Kayvon Bahramzadeh and left-hander Joe Flattery in the first two games of the series, respectively, while the Wildcats are undecided on a Saturday starter. Bahramzadeh picked up his sixth victory of the year and his first in Big 12 play last week against KU when he worked 5.2 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. The right-hander, who is 6-3 with a 4.57 ERA, has a career-best 72 strikeouts thanks to at least five in his last five Big 12 starts. Flattery holds a 5-4 record and a 4.73 ERA in 13 starts this year. The junior, who suffered the loss last Saturday by giving up three runs in 6.2 innings, has worked last least six innings in his last two starts after doing so just once in his first 11 starts of the year.
DID YOU KNOW • The K-State pitching staff has reached double digits in strikeouts in eight Big 12 games this year, the most by the Wildcats since the league’s first season in 1997. • K-State has turned 54 double plays this season and entered the week ranked 10th nationally in that department. • The Wildcats also ranked in the top 25 of the NCAA in walks (5th), steals (11th) and fielding percentage (25th). • K-State’s bullpen tallied a 1.35 ERA last weekend against KU after a 7.93 mark in their first 18 Big 12 games. • Jared King is tied for first in the Big 12 with 24 multi-hit games this season. • Tanner Witt tied a Big 12 record with six walks on May 5 against Nebraska Omaha.
BULLPEN STEPS UP Kansas State would have not been able to win the series last weekend if it wasn’t for the efforts of its bullpen. Entering the series with a combined 7.93 ERA in the first 18 Big 12 games this season, the Wildcat relievers tallied a 1.35 ERA after allowing just two earned runs in 13.1 innings. A majority of the work was done by left-hander Jared Moore and right-handers Nate Williams and Gerardo Esquivel. Moore tossed four shutout innings on Sunday with a career-high seven strikeouts, which followed a 2.2 scoreless innings by Williams, who picked up his first career win. Esquivel earned a two-inning save on Friday and also finished Sunday’s game as he combined for three scoreless innings.
All three pitchers have been brilliant in their last several relief outings. Moore has not allowed a run in relief since March 25 against Texas, a streak of 9.1 innings over five outings with 16 strikeouts. Williams has tossed 5.2 shutout innings in his last two appearances, while Esquivel has allowed just two runs in his previous 7.1 innings.
MANAGING WALKS AND STRIKEOUTS Kansas State has recorded one of its better seasons in terms of walks and strikeouts both at the plate and on the mound. On offense, the Wildcats have worked 251 walks and have struck out just 309 times to hold a 1.23 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the lowest against the Wildcats since 1996. In head coach Brad Hill’s eight other years at K-State, the Wildcats’ lowest strikeout-to-walk ratio on offense was 1.31 in 2009. Additionally, K-State is approaching the school’s tops 10 in walks as it leads the Big 12 by an astonishing 25 and entered the week ranked fifth nationally.
On the flip side, the Wildcat pitching staff holds a 2.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, continuing a streak of four-straight years prior to 2012 with a ratio higher than 2.0. K-State is tied for third in school history with 395 strikeouts. TEXAS TECH AT A GLANCE Texas Tech, which hasn’t played since a 5-0 win at Dallas Baptist on May 8, holds a 28-24 record overall and is a game ahead of K-State in the Big 12 standings at 6-15. The Red Raiders’ last Big 12 series was May 4-6 at Texas A&M in which they lost the first two games, 4-2 and 7-2, before salvaging the final game with a 8-4 victory in 12 innings.
Tech, which is second in the Big 12 with a .296 average, is led by junior Jamodrick McGruder at .374 with a conference-leading eight triples and 23 RBI. The outfielder is also first in the league with 37 stolen bases, 14 ahead of K-State’s Ross Kivett. Bo Altobelli is second on the team with a .344 average. Barrett Barnes, who is third at .325, leads the team with eight home runs and 47 RBI. Scott LeJeune is also hitting over .300 at .308 and paces the Red Raiders with 16 doubles.
The Red Raiders are expected to start a trio of right-handers in sophomore Duke von Schamann on Thursday, senior John Neely on Friday and sophomore Trey Masek on Saturday. In 11 starts this year, von Schamann is 6-3 with a 1.71 ERA, but he will be making his first appearance since April 28 at Missouri. In that contest, von Schamann took the win after allowing three unearned runs on two hits in a 4-3 victory.
Neely, who is 3-6 with a 5.08 ERA, will be making his 10th start and his 15th appearance on Friday. The senior will be looking to bounce back from a loss on May 4 at Texas A&M when he surrendered three runs (two earned) on five hits in 5.1 innings of work in a 4-2 Aggie victory. Masek, who has seen time in 17 games this year, will be making just his sixth start of the year on Saturday. Also the team leader in saves with two, Masek holds a 1-4 record and a 3.45 ERA. The sophomore started the series finale at Texas A&M on May 6, and took a no decision after allowing two runs on four hits in five innings.
THE TEXAS TECH SERIES Texas Tech leads the all-time series against Kansas State, 27-19-1, including a 14-6-1 mark in Lubbock. However, K-State has held the upper hand lately as the Wildcats have won five of the last seven games, including a current four-game winning streak. K-State salvaged the final game of the 2010 series in Lubbock before sweeping last season’s series in Manhattan. Needing a series win this weekend to secure a spot in the 2012 Big 12 Championship, the Wildcats will need to win its third series in Lubbock as the 2002 and 2008 squads won two of three on the road.
K-State used stellar pitching last year to earn the sweep of TTU. In the first game of the series, then-freshman Shane Conlon tossed 6.2 scoreless innings in his first career start en route to a 2-1 K-State win. Game two saw Kayvon Bahramzadeh, Evan Marshall and James Allen throw 3.2 scoreless innings in relief while K-State scored two in the third and two more in the fourth in a 4-3 Wildcat victory. Matt Applegate started the series finale and turned in his best performance to date as he allowed one run in seven innings with a career-best 13 strikeouts in a 4-1 victory.
PLENTY OF STRIKEOUTS Thanks to 62 strikeouts over its last six Big 12 games, the Wildcats now have 15 games with 10 or more strikeouts, including eight in Big 12 play. The eight games with 10-plus strikeouts against league foes is the most by the Wildcats since the Big 12 began play in 1997, while the overall total is the third most under head coach Brad Hill. The total was boosted by K-State logging 31 in both series against the Cowboys and Jayhawks, which tied for the second most in a Big 12 series under Hill. In Hill’s eight-plus years at K-State, the Cats have struck out at least 28 batters in 11 Big 12 series. The top mark was 34 against Missouri 2007, while K-State hit the 30-strikeout mark on three other occasions - against Baylor in 2004 and 2009, and against Texas in 2004.
FINDING A WAY TO GET ON BASE K-State has been one of the best teams in the Big 12 in terms of getting on base this year. The Cats are second in the conference in on-base percentage and were 29th nationally entering the week, thanks to a .442 mark over the last six games. The Cats, who lead the conference and rank fifth nationally in walks, have recorded a team on-base percentage of at least .400 in 26 games this season, going 20-6 in those contests. Also, K-State has recorded five or more walks in 25 games this year and is 4-1 when collecting 10 or more free passes.
K-State has three players in the top 10 of the Big 12 in on-base percentage, led by Wade Hinkle at .489 to rank second, while Tanner Witt is fourth at .458 and Jared King is sixth at .450.
KING HEATING BACK UP Sophomore outfielder Jared King hit the .400 mark on the season following a 3-for-4 outing against Missouri State on April 11, but in his 10 games following that performance he hit just .256 with two extra-base hits and 10 RBI to see his average fall to .365. Trying to break out of the slump, King has reversed the trend over the last 10 games as he is hitting .421 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs and 15 RBI to see his average climb back to .376. Additionally, King has tallied six multi-hit games, a .737 slugging percentage and a .478 on-base percentage over the last 10 games, while he earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors two weeks ago.
King looks primed to earn All-Big 12 honors this season as he ranks second in the Big 12 in average, hits (74), slugging percentage (.563) and total bases (111). The Dublin, Ohio product also sits in the conference’s top 10 in runs scored, home runs, doubles, triples, RBI, and on-base percentage.
HINKLE HITS FOR POWER, SHOWS DISCIPLINE Much like King, senior Wade Hinkle has also been on fire lately as, after seeing his average dip to .311 on May 1, he has hit a team-best .529 over the last six games with two homers and 10 RBI. Thanks to his 4-for-8 performance with a double and a home run last weekend against Kansas, Hinkle earned the first Big 12 Player of the Week honor in his career. Hinkle, who is one of just two players in the conference with 10 or more home runs, is two away from entering the school’s single-season top 10. Also, he the only player in the Big 12 this season to rank in the top three in both home runs and walks, while he could become just the third player since 2008 to accomplish the feat.
Although Hinkle is able to hit for power, he has also shown excellent plate discipline this season as he is second in the Big 12 in both walks (44) and on-base percentage (.489). His walk total is tied for sixth in school history and he needs just four this weekend to tie the school record. He can also finish in the top 10 on the school’s single-season on-base percentage chart as he currently ranks sixth.
SENIOR LEADER ON THE MOUND Senior right-hander Kayvon Bahramzadeh is in the midst of his best season as a Wildcat as he has tallied a career-best six wins in his nine decisions and holds a 4.57 ERA, just 0.01 higher than his 11-appearance freshman campaign. However, where Bahramzadeh has improved the most is in his strikeout total as he has 72 this season to rank ninth in the Big 12. The Tucson, Ariz., product has nearly doubled his previous career high of 40 strikeouts in 2010 thanks to the fact that he has struck out at least five batters in each of his last five Big 12 starts, a stretch that began with a career-best 11 fanned batters at No. 24 Oklahoma.
Also, Bahramzadeh needs one more win to rank in the school’s top 10 for a single season and to tie him for the most by a Wildcat senior.