MANHATTAN, Kan. The Kansas State baseball team begins preseason drills Tuesday as it prepares for the 2007 season opener on February 16 against Penn State in Shreveport, La. The Wildcats, under fourth-year head coach Brad Hill, return 17 total lettermen and seven pitchers from last year’s 31-20-2 squad that won its final five games of the season.
Heading into the start of the 2007 season, the Wildcats will look to build around a pitching staff that could be the best in recent memory at Kansas State as they return two weekend starters from a year ago in juniors Brad Hutt and Chase Bayuk, both of whom won seven games in 2006. Ben Hornbeck returns after being named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American in his first season in Manhattan, and he, along with fellow sophomore Justin Murray, should contend for the third weekend spot in the rotation.
Junior Daniel Edwards should fill into the closer’s role in 2007 after a solid sophomore season and a stellar summer in the Northwoods League. Depth should favor the Wildcats on the mound with sophomores Trevor Hurley and Todd Vogel, redshirt freshman A.J. Morris and true freshmen Tyler Ruch and Scott Bachman all having the opportunity for significant mound time in 2007.
Offensively, outfielder Byron Wiley should anchor the middle of the order after hitting .297 with five homers as a true freshman, while sophomore Drew Biery, who could play shortstop or first base, returns as the Wildcats’ leading hitter from a year ago at .342. Nate Tenbrink is slated to take over at third base, while senior Eddie Vasquez and junior Brett Scott will battle for second base duties. Senior Eli Rumler returns to the shortstop position as he closes in on the K-State career record books in both assists and total chances.
While Wiley will anchor the outfield in center, the corner outfield spots are up for grabs as sophomores Tyler Link and Jordan Cruz, freshmen Adam Muenster and J.J. Muse and junior transfer Sean Smith will all battle for starting nods.
Behind the plate, sophomore Rob Vaughn may have a slight edge heading into the season, but junior Derek Bunker and redshirt freshman Daniel Dellasega will both battle for the job.