SERIES INFORMATION K-STATE at TEXAS A&M Overall: Texas A&M leads, 40-12-1 In College Station: Texas A&M leads, 30-4-1 Last Season: Texas A&M won a three-game series, 6-3, 4-3 and 4-9, April 1-3, in Manhattan, Kan. Texas A&M won two games in Big 12 Championship, 4-1 and 9-8 (11), May 26 and 28, in Oklahoma City, Okla.
COACHES K-STATE:Brad Hill Alma Mater: Emporia State Career Record: 695-290-3 (18th season) Record at K-State: 277-199-3 (9th season)
TEXAS A&M: Rob Childress Alma Mater: Northwood Career Record: 260-139-2 (7th season) Record at Texas A&M: Same
RADIO INFORMATION Rob Voelker (pxp) and Ryan Lackey (color)
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Coming off a two-game midweek sweep at Minnesota, Kansas State begins Big 12 play this weekend at Texas A&M with a three-game series, Friday through Sunday, March 16-18, at Blue Bell Park. The series pits two of the top offensive teams in the league as K-State is second in the Big 12 with a .308 batting average, while the Aggies are third at .304. The series begins on with a 6:35 p.m., contest on Friday, while Saturday’s game begins at 2:05 p.m. The series concludes on Sunday with a 1:05 p.m., first pitch. Each game can be heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Rob Voelker and Ryan Lackey on the call. Fans can also hear the game online for free at www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com.
The Wildcats enter Big 12 play riding a season-long six-game winning streak with a four-game sweep over Hartford last weekend followed by their two wins at the Metrodome on Tuesday and Wednesday. K-State’s offense has come to life over the last week, hitting .352 with 11 doubles, one triple, five home runs and 59 RBI over the winning streak. K-State, which leads the conference in on-base percentage at .437, has shown patience at the plate recently by getting on base at a .517 clip over the last six games, thanks in part to 55 walks and 16 hit batters.
Kansas State holds two of the top three hitters in the league in sophomore Jared King and senior Wade Hinkle. King, who leads the Big 12 at .450, also paces the conference in hit-per-game (1.8) and ranks second in total bases (42) and slugging percentage (.700). King put Wednesday’s game away with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, his second of the year. Hinkle, who has reached base in every game this season, ranks third in the Big 12 with a .431 average and leads the Big 12 with a .570 on-base percentage. The first baseman, who is tied for fourth in hits, has worked 15 walks this season after just 11 in 43 games played last season.
After struggling to start the season, the K-State pitching staff has also performed well over the six-game winning streak, sporting a 2.89 ERA and striking out 54 as opposed to just 12 walks. Kansas State will start its usual weekend rotation in right-hander Matt Applegate on Friday, left-hander Joe Flattery on Saturday and right-hander Kayvon Bahramzadeh on Sunday. Applegate earned his first victory of the season last week against Hartford when he allowed two unearned runs on seven hits with a season-high eight strikeouts.
Flattery, a junior-college transfer, has been outstanding in his last three starts as he holds a 3-1 record this year with a 4.50 ERA. Last week against Hartford, Flattery worked a season-long 6.1 innings, allowing one run and striking out seven. Bahramzadeh has also been on fire in his previous three starts, holding a perfect 3-0 record this year with a 3.05 ERA.
DID YOU KNOW • Brad Hill entered 2012 sixth in the nation among active coaches with a .706 career winning percentage. • Senior Jake Brown tied a Big 12 and school record with six hits in the first game of a doubleheader last Saturday en route to Big 12 Co-Player of the Week honors. • Outfielder Tanner Witt, who is a perfect 11-for-11 in steals this season, recorded four last Saturday to tie a school record with eight other players. • Following play last weekend, Kansas State ranked in the top 50 nationally in five categories: walks (3rd), steals (5th), double plays (7th), runs scored (32nd) and batting average (46th). • The Cats are 223-16 when leading after seven frames during Brad Hill’s eight-plus years in Manhattan, including a perfect 11-0 mark this season. • Three of K-State’s freshmen relievers have combined to retire 17-of-19 first batters faced this season. • Two of the top three Big 12 players in terms of average are K-State’s Jared King (.450) and Wade Hinkle (.431). • Senior Wade Hinkle has drawn 15 walks in the first 15 games of 2012 after just 11 in 43 games played in 2011. • Sophomore Jared King ranked in the top 30 nationally in three offensive categories following play last weekend: batting average (7th), doubles (28th) and hits (34th). • After walking just 15 times and holding a .378 on-base percentage last year, Wade Hinkle entered play this week sixth in the nation in on-base percentage and 33rd nationally in walks.
IMPROVING IN THE CONFERENCE K-State has made big strides in Big 12 play recently as it has won at least 10 league games each of the last five years, while the Cats have finished in the top five of the league standings in two of the last three seasons. K-State’s best league finish came in 2010 when it placed third with 14 wins. Over the last three years, K-State has tallied 40 conference victories, its most over a three-year stretch in school history. Additionally, the Wildcats are one of only four teams in the league to record 100 overall wins and 40 conference wins since 2009 (OU, UT, A&M).
K-State, which finished 10th in the Big 12 in 2005, improved its Big 12 placing over a five-year stretch as the Cats finished ninth in 2006, eighth in 2007, tied for sixth in 2008 and fourth in 2009 before finishing third in 2010.
STARTING OFF STRONG K-State will be looking for its third Big 12 opening win in the last four years on Friday at Texas A&M. The Wildcats defeated No. 13 Oklahoma, 9-1, to open up conference play in 2009 before a come-from-behind 14-11 win over Oklahoma State - which fueled a series sweep - to begin the 2010 Big 12 season. Last season, K-State fell at No. 5 Texas, 3-0, to open conference play.
TEXAS A&M AT A GLANCE Texas A&M, the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 Conference, enters the first league series with a 14-4 record, but three of its four losses have come within the last week. The Aggies lost a three-game series last weekend at home to Cal State Fullerton before splitting a two-game midweek series against UT Pan American.
The Aggies are third in the Big 12 in hitting, just four points behind K-State, at .304. They are led at the plate by junior outfielder Tyler Naquin, who is second in the Big 12 to K-State’s Jared King with a .441 batting average. Right behind Naquin at .368 is Jacob House, who has a team-leading two home runs, while Mikey Reynolds is hitting .362 with a Big 12-best eight doubles. Senior Matt Juengel leads the Aggies with 18 RBI.
Texas A&M will throw three right-handers against Kansas State in Michael Wacha on Friday, Ross Stripling on Saturday and Rafael Pineda on Sunday. Each will be making their fifth starts of the season as Wacha leads the team with a 3-0 record and a 0.70 ERA after allowing just two earned runs in 25.2 innings with 34 strikeouts. Wacha took the win last Friday against Fullerton after allowing an unearned run on two hits with a walk and eight fanned batters in six innings.
Stripling is 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA and has also hit the 30-strikeout mark in 27.2 innings of work. Last Saturday against Fullerton, Stripling was on the hook for the loss after allowing five runs in six innings before A&M tied the game in the eighth. Pineda, a junior-college transfer, is also 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. He left the contest against the Titans last Sunday with the score tied 3-3 after throwing 5.1 innings, allowing four hits with three strikeouts.
THE TEXAS A&M SERIES Texas A&M leads the all-time series against Kansas State 40-12-1, including an 20-4-1 mark in College Station, as the two programs will meet as conference foes for the final time prior to Texas A&M’s departure to the SEC. Last season, the Wildcats and Aggies met five times – a three game conference series in Manhattan and twice at the Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City. A&M won the first two games in Manhattan by counts of 6-3 and 4-3 before K-State salvaged the series with a 9-4 win. Two tightly contested ballgames in the conference championship went to Texas A&M as the Aggies won, 4-1, in the first game and 9-8 in 11 innings to eliminate the Wildcats.
In its last trip to Texas A&M, K-State won its first game at Olsen Field for the first time in six years thanks to a two-strike, two-out run-scoring single in the 10th inning by Daniel Dellasega. However, the Aggies came back with a 10-2 win and a narrow 3-2 victory to take the series.
CREATING BULLPEN DEPTH Kansas State has gotten the most out of its young pitchers through 17 games this season. Three Wildcat freshmen hurlers - Nate Williams, Matt Wivinis and Robert Youngdahl - have combined to retire 17-of-19 first batters faced, record a 1.69 ERA and allow a .225 batting average. They have also struck out 19 batters as opposed to five walks in 26.2 innings of relief.
Leading the way this season has been Williams. A product of Valley Center, Kan., Williams has been nearly perfect in his seven outings as the only blemish on his line was a solo home run in the ninth inning of a blowout win at San Diego State. Williams has only given up three other hits as he is holding opponents to a .118 batting average while striking out eight without issuing a walk. Youngdahl is right behind him as he has not surrendered a run on five hits with five strikeouts in 8.1 innings.
AGGRESSIVENESS ON THE BASE PATHS A staple of the K-State offense over the last three seasons is its ability to steal bases, and that aspect of the game is prevalent again in 2012. The Wildcats, who have led the Big 12 in steals over the last three seasons, rank second in the league with 42 steals this year. That number received a huge boost last weekend against Hartford as the Cats tallied 22 in the four-game series.
Three Wildcats rank in the top five of the Big 12 in steals, including Tanner Witt. The outfielder is second in the league with 11 in 11 attempts, including a school-record tying four in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader. Jake Brown, the last Wildcat to record four steals in a game, and Ross Kivett are tied for fifth with nine.
HINKLE SHOWING PLATE DISCIPLINE A season after batting injuries, senior Wade Hinkle is starting to make an impact this season for Kansas State in the middle of the lineup. A former junior-college transfer, Hinkle is one of just four players in the Big 12 hitting over .400 heading into the week, but he has made his biggest strides by finding a way to get on base in virtually every plate appearance. The Albuquerque, N.M., product leads the Big 12 with a .570 on-base percentage, thanks to the fact that he has reached base in 36 of his last 42 plate appearances.
Hinkle, who is third in the Big 12 with 15 walks, recorded only 11 in 43 games a year ago. The first baseman drew three walks and was hit by a pitch at Nebraska, while he also worked three walks last Sunday against Hartford.
LEADER OF THE PACK If his first 15 games of the year are any indication, center fielder Jared King looks as though he will progress as a sophomore after earning Freshman All-America honors a year ago. Through 15 games, King leads the Big 12 with a .450 batting average (27-for-60) with seven doubles, one triple, two homers and 12 RBI. He also leads the Big 12 in hits-per-game (1.8), while he is second in doubles, (7), total bases (42) and slugging percentage (.700).
KAYVON COLLECTS SOLID STARTS Senior right-hander Kayvon Bahramzadeh, who has found success both as a reliever and a starter, has been stellar in three starts this year as he has earned the win each time out to tie for second in the Big 12. In his first start of the year at San Diego State, Bahramzadeh needed only 69 pitches to get through six innings as he helped the Wildcats defeated the Aztecs, 7-2. He was perfect his first time through the order, throwing only 25 pitches the first three frames.
The right-hander came away with wins against both Pacific and Hartford, striking out eight and five batters, respectively. His eight strikeouts against the Tigers were a new career high. A product of Tucson, Ariz., Bahramzadeh has lasted at least six innings in three-straight starts for the first time in his career. If he can accomplish the feat again this weekend, he would become the first Wildcat to last at least six innings in four-straight starts since Kyle Hunter had a streak of five towards the beginning of 2011.
FLATTERY TURNING IT ON Following a shaky outing to begin his Division I career, junior left-hander Joe Flattery has rebounded with three solid outings. Flattery, who opened the season with a loss at CSU Bakersfield, bounced back with a win against San Diego State when he allowed three runs in 5.1 innings to earn his first career victory. Over his last two starts, Flattery has allowed just two earned runs and has not issued a walk over 11.1 innings. Last Saturday against Hartford, the Fort Dodge, Iowa, native notched career highs in innings pitched (6.1) and strikeouts (7).
With his three victories, Flattery is the first K-State junior-college transfer to win three of his first four starts since Adam Cowart and Chase Mitchell in 2005. That season, Cowart won his first five starts, while Mitchell went 3-0 in his first four starts.