MANHATTAN — When the Big 12 Conference handed out top individual honors at its baseball awards luncheon last week, Kansas State senior Adam Muenster was a spectator.
Teammate Nick Martini and Missouri's Aaron Seene were chosen the league's co-players of the year. Muenster, who hit .386 with a team-high 91 hits, had to settle for a spot on the 17-player all-conference team.
But Muenster is fine with how everything turned out. He received all the recognition he required after the ceremony. That's when K-State coach Brad Hill informed him several opposing coaches were speaking highly of Muenster.
"That's respect on how he approached the game and what he meant to our ball club," Hill said. "He's the guy who really made us go."
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As the Wildcats' leadoff hitter, Muenster embraced that duty. Every time he stepped to the plate, he did so with a sense of urgency. Knowing he didn't have much eligibility left, he treated each at-bat as if it was the most important of his career.
He had to get on base so players like Carter Jurica and Martini could drive him home.
"He's always a great competitor," said senior catcher Daniel Dellasega. "Whether or not his swing is feeling great at the time, you know he's going to compete for us in the one hole."
That tenacious approach helped Muenster improve drastically from his junior season. Last year, he lacked consistency and hit .292 as a designated hitter. Not bad, but it didn't come close to satisfying Muenster.
"Last year I felt like I had a lot of ups and downs," Muenster said. "I had weeks where I was good, and I was not so good other weeks. This year I've been trying to maintain being good all year long."
By all accounts, he has done that. Not only has he reached base in nearly half his plate appearances, he has used his speed to get around the bases. He leads K-State with 62 runs scored and 25 stolen bases, and plays third base on a regular basis.
Hill said Muenster has become more versatile because of his hard work in the offseason. He said Muenster developed a new mental approach and overhauled his swing. Not an easy task for the Omaha native, who admits to having ugly mechanics.
"Sometimes kids who have success don't want to change," Hill said. "But I think Adam really bought in last year. He said,'.280 isn't good enough, and I should be better than that.' "
With NCAA regionals beginning Friday, and a potential professional career waiting after that, Muenster is doing his best to maintain the leadoff-hitter mindset that has helped him all year long.
Right now, all he's thinking about is getting on base.
"Once my last game is over, and I'm thinking back at home, that's when it'll kick in that the season is winding down," Muenster said. "I'm playing as hard as I can right now."