Feb. 13, 2013
Today we conclude our three-part series on the 2013 Kansas State baseball team by examining the team's outfielders. Monday's entry highlighted the pitching staff, while Tuesday's article reviewed the squad's catchers and infielders.
One of the strongest position groups heading into 2013 seems to be the outfield where a pair of returning All-Big 12 selections in Jared King and Tanner Witt will roam center field and left field, respectively.
King, a two-time All-Big 12 pick and 2013 preseason All-American, led the league in the regular season with a .378 batting average while collecting a team-high 15 doubles, four triples, seven homers and 47 RBI. The Dublin, Ohio, product and younger brother of former Wildcat Jason King, finished the year in the top 10 of the Big 12 in 10 categories, including top-five marks in slugging percentage (third; .577), total bases (third; 127), hits (fourth; 83) and on-base percentage (fifth; .453).
With a solid arm and speed to close the gaps in the outfield, the smooth-hitting King will look to let the game come to him in 2013 while elevating his performance once again.
"The big thing for Jared is trying not to do too much," Hill said. "He's had two great years. At times last year, he really tried to do too much and go win games for us when he didn't have to go win games. He led the Big 12 in hitting, but he got himself out at times. He just needs to be himself and understand there are a lot of good players in front of him and behind him in the lineup."
Witt, a senior, transitioned from shortstop to outfield prior to last year and was great defensively while contributing more at the plate. A competitor at the top of the lineup along with Kivett, Witt finished fifth in the Big 12 with 40 walks, including a Big 12 record-tying six in one game. He was also fierce on the base paths as he carded 20 steals to tie for sixth in the conference, while his .444 on-base percentage was seventh.
"Tanner is a tough out when he's in the right mindset and knows his role, which is getting on base and being a competitor," Hill said of one of his four seniors. "You have him and Ross at the top of the lineup and then, all of sudden, here comes Jared King hitting behind those two guys. When he's in the mode of getting on base, stealing bases and scoring runs, he's as good as anyone in the conference."
Returning from an injury that sidelined him in 2012, Mitch Meyer came back with a vengeance in the fall and won the starting job in right field. The redshirt sophomore went 10-for-31 with three doubles, a home run and six RBI in 17 games as a freshman in 2011, and he will look to become a more dynamic member of the offense this year.
"Mitch was the surprise of the fall. He just really caught the eye of everyone," said Hill. "He put himself in a position to be one of the middle-of-the-order guys and play every day in right field. He was aggressive at the plate, which he always had been, but he was also one of the fastest guys. He's going to be a threat on the bases, plus he has the best arm in the outfield."
Jon Davis, a senior who was on fire over the second half of the season as the starting left fielder, will likely fill the designated hitter role while working as a backup in both the outfield and infield. A starter over the final 33 games last year, Davis hit .316 overall, while he led the team and finished second in the Big 12 with a .387 conference-only batting average. A player that went just 1-for-18 to start the year, Davis led the team with a .357 mark over the final 33 games and reached base via a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch in 30 of those contests.
"Jon got off to that terrible start last year before getting the opportunity at Oklahoma and leading us in Big 12 hitting," commented Hill. "He's one of those guys that just goes and plays. The game doesn't really bother him a whole lot. Each at-bat is a new experience for him and that's why he had success a lot of times."
Also providing depth in the outfield will be community-college transfer Damion Lovato. A two-year player at New Mexico Junior College, Lovato hit .374 as a sophomore in 2012 with five home runs, each coming within the final 25 at-bats of the year.
"Damion showed some flashes this fall too," Hill added. "He's a right-handed bat that could get in there and get some playing time at the DH spot. He has good power, and he's an athlete that runs pretty well. He might be able to steal some bases. He adds to the depth of our outfield."
Manhattan native Kyle Speer (6-3; 210; L/R) returns for his second year in the program, while freshman Clayton Dalrymple (6-1, 185, R/R) from Coppell, Texas, will also provide depth.