Kansas State University

K-State baseball off to best start in school history

MANHATTAN — Kansas State baseball coach Brad Hill has little to complain about right now.

Coming off a three-game sweep over Baylor, which gave the Wildcats (26-8 overall, 9-3 Big 12) their best start in school history, K-State is ranked in the top 20 of most major polls and in good shape to make its second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.

A win against Wichita State at 7 p.m. today at Eck Stadium would push those numbers even higher, and give K-State greater bragging rights against an in-state rival it has defeated four consecutive times.

But Hill isn't worried about any of that. With 20 games remaining before the Big 12 tournament begins, Hill wants his team to win because he knows it can use every win it can get.

"We're in a position where we want to think about postseason play," Hill said. "We talked about it at the beginning of the year, and we want to make this something that happens on a regular basis.

"We've got a lot of work to do. We've been good at times, but we are a young club and a new club. We have inconsistencies, and I worry about them all the time."

Those inconsistencies haven't been noticeable at home, where the Wildcats are 16-2. But on the road, K-State is more susceptible to mistakes, especially on the mound and in the field. The last time it traveled for a two-game series, it gave up 28 runs, 32 hits and lost both against BYU.

With seven of the Wildcats' next nine games on the road, it's easy to see why Hill wants to hold off on the postseason talk for at least a while longer.

"We're up and down," Hill said. "We haven't played with consistency the last three or four weeks. We play three or four really good games and then we slip a little bit. We're a young club and a very new club. We can be good, but we're still learning how to grind it out"

K-State players are more confident. They say they played poorly against BYU because they let down in those games. In the days leading up to that trip, the Wildcats won two meaningful games against Nebraska, and thought that momentum would automatically carry over to the next series.

It didn't, but that won't be a problem today.

"This is always one of the most fun games of the year," said K-State senior Adam Muenster. "You're playing Wichita State, and it's always a great game. Even when one of the teams is better than the other, it's always close. That's one of our favorite games to play in, and we're all looking forward to it."

Not that the opponent matters to K-State sophomore Nick Martini, who leads the team with 38 RBI and a .423 batting average. Even if the Wildcats were playing someone other than the Shockers, he insists they would be ready.

K-State learned its lesson against BYU.

"That showed us how important it is to do the little things," Martini said. "Bunting, getting guys over... We didn't do that in Provo. Once we get more consistent in those areas we're going to put it all together."

K-State has been close to being a complete package all season. Sophomore pitcher Kyle Hunter is 7-0 on the mound, and James Allen has gone 4-0 with five saves and a 2.01 ERA to become one of the nation's top closers.

At the plate everything starts with Martini, but seniors Daniel Dellasega and Muenster have earned praise from Hill as well. Dellasega is hitting .357 and Muenster is hitting .382.

Allen believes this group is loaded with too much talent to let upcoming road trips bother it.

"We've had our ups and downs, but the best part about being down is we've bounced back real well," Allen said. "A lot of stuff is clicking. Our team chemistry is great. This is a real good time to prove who we are and what we can do."

NOTES

* K-State was strong defensively against Baylor over the weekend. During its three-game sweep of the Bears, it allowed a total of six runs — its lowest conference series total since 2006.

* After his strong start to the season — a 4-0 record, five saves and a 2.01 ERA — K-State's James Allen was recently named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year midseason watch list.

* Wichita State holds a commanding 48-29 lead over K-State in the all-time series, but the Wildcats have won four straight and eight of the last 11.

* Wichita State is trying to get back on a winning track after losing four of five. Cody Lassley, who is hitting .343 with a team-leading 17 home runs, could give the Shockers a lift today.

* Tobin Mateychick struggled in his most recent start before rebounding with a solid relief effort a week ago at Nebraska. He struck out three and allowed one hit in 2 1/3 innings. An April 7 start against NAIA Rogers State did not go as smoothly. Mateychick gave up eight hits and six runs in 3 1/3 innings.

* WSU's Bombardier Learjet Indoor Practice Facility will be dedicated before the game. Fans may tour the building from 5:30-6:55 tonight.

  Comments