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K-State Hits the Road Again at No. 16 Texas A&M


GO WILDCATS 1B Brett Williams is riding a 9-game hitting streak into the weekend series with Texas A&M.
GO WILDCATS
1B Brett Williams is riding a 9-game hitting streak into the weekend series with Texas A&M.
GO WILDCATS

April 11, 2002

Manhattan, Kan. - Kansas State will try to continue their winning ways on the road this weekend, as the Wildcats hit the trail for the second consecutive weekend with a trip to College Station, Texas to take on No. 16 Texas A&M for a three-game series at C.E. "Pat" Olsen Field. It will be the Wildcats' eighth ranked foe in the last 11 series and fourth straight ranked opponent to start conference play.

Kansas State will play two night games in College Station with first pitch set for 7 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, while the finale on Sunday is set for 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast live by Sports Radio 1350 AM KMAN out of Manhattan, while live stats will be available at www.AggieAthletics.com

Kansas State (18-14, 5-4 Big 12) heads into the weekend after a puzzling 8-7 loss to NAIA opponent Sterling on Wednesday at home. K-State was coming off an impressive season series over nationally-ranked Texas Tech over the weekend and the Warriors appeared to be another easy win for the upstart Wildcats. However, the Warriors broke a 6-all tie with two runs in the top of the ninth then held off the Wildcat rally for the close victory. K-State got impressive performances from junior outfielder Pat Maloney, who hit his team-leading ninth home run of the season with a three-run shot in the bottom of the second, while first baseman Brett Williams extended his team-high hitting streak to nine games with his 1-for-2 afternoon.

After last weekend's trek to Texas Tech, Kansas State has now played just five 'true' road games this year, posting a 2-3 record. The Wildcats claimed their first road series win since 1999 and their first series win in the Lone Star State against one of the four Texas schools since 1997 in Sunday's 5-1 win over the Red Raiders at Dan Law Field. K-State earned a history-making, 15-inning affair on Friday night by a score of 7-5 before dropping a 15-0 decision on Saturday. Kansas State has just one win in 10 visits to College Station, a 6-0 defeat of the Aggies on March 9, 1991 at the Continential Classic.

The Wildcats continue through one of the roughest portions of the schedule with their series at nationally-ranked Texas A&M. Seven of the team's last 11 opponents have been ranked in the Top 25. Five of the Wildcats' last eight wins have come against ranked foes (No. 20 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 28 Texas Tech), while eight of their last nine losses have been to teams ranked in either of three major polls (Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Rutgers, OSU, Nebraska, Wichita State and Texas Tech).

Kansas State will stay with its usual weekend rotation, as senior right-handed pitcher Ross Hawley (1-2, 4.63 ERA) will start Friday's opener, while senior left-handed pitcher Brock Smith (1-4, 6.23 ERA) will go Saturday and junior right-handed pitcher Kevin Melcher (5-1, 2.85 ERA) will conclude the series on Sunday. Hawley leads the staff in starts (nine) and is a close second to Melcher in both innings pitched (46.2) and strikeouts (38). He has suffered three straight no-decisions in games versus Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Texas Tech. He had a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the eighth last week against the Red Raiders, but gave up a two-run shot to tie the game in an eventual 7-5 victory by the Wildcats in 15 innings. Smith has struggled the last few weeks with three straight losses in conference play. He held the Red Raiders scoreless through four innings last week, before leaving the game with two outs in the fifth and the Wildcats down 3-0. The staff's biggest surprise still seems to be Melcher, who paces the team in wins, ERA, innings pitched (47.1) and strikeouts (41). In his last two outings against Nebraska and Texas Tech, he boasts a 2-0 record and a 1.42 ERA with 11 strikeouts and just three walks in 12-2/3 innings pitched.

The Wildcats' hottest hitter has been junior first baseman Brett Williams, who extended his career-best hitting streak to nine games with a single against Sterling on Wednesday. During his current nine-game hitting streak, Williams is hitting an impressive .552 (16-for-29) at the plate with six runs scored and three RBIs. The average is even more impressive once you consider he has spent most of that period hitting in the seventh, eighth and ninth slots of lineup. He went 8-for-14 with a pair of runs scored in the series against Texas Tech, including a key 4-for-6 evening with two runs scored and a walk in the 15-inning Wildcat win on Friday. He is the Big 12's top hitter in conference-only games with a .529 average in nine games.

Kansas State is tied with Texas Tech for second place in team hitting in the Big 12 with a .318 average and has three individuals rank among the top 15 in the conference in hitting. Junior outfielder Pat Maloney continues to lead the league in hitting with a .403 average through 31 games, while sophomore third baseman Ty Soto (.386, fifth) and junior designated hitter Tim Doty (.355, 14th) finish out the Wildcats in the top 15. One of the best hitters the first part of the season, Maloney also places among the top 5 in the Big 12 in seven offensive categories, including second in home runs (nine).

Texas A&M (26-12, 7-5 Big 12) has been ranked in all three major polls for most of the season and currently ranks 16th in Collegiate Baseball and 18th in both Baseball America and the Baseball Weekly/ESPN Coaches Poll. The second consecutive week, the Aggies are one of six Big 12 teams that are ranked in the Collegiate Baseball poll, including Nebraska (10), Texas (15), Oklahoma State (17), Baylor (18) and Oklahoma (24).

Texas A&M enters the weekend with two straight losses, including Tuesday's 10-2 non-conference loss at No. 7 Houston. Before the two-game skid, the Aggies had won seven in a row, including nine of their last 10. Texas A&M has already played four Big 12 series and currently sits in a fourth place tie with Texas and Oklahoma in the league standings each with a 7-5 mark. The Aggies have swept Texas Tech and taken two of three from Oklahoma at home this season, while they took two of three at Kansas and lost all three at Nebraska. Texas A&M has taken the last two weekends off from league play with games against Centenary and Texas-Pan American.

Like Kansas State, Texas A&M will stay with its usual weekend rotation, as sophomore right-handed pitcher Justin Moore (3-1, 2.32 ERA) will start Friday's opener, with junior right-handed pitcher Khalid Ballouli (4-1, 3.21 ERA) starting Saturday's contest. Sophomore right-handed pitchers Matt Farnum (5-2, 2.92 ERA) or Ryan Warpinski (1-2, 4.70 ERA) will go on Sunday for the Aggies. Moore paces the team in innings pitched (66.0), ERA and game starts (nine), while he is tied with Warpinski for the team lead in strikeouts (41). Farnum, who is the designated closer with three saves, paces the team with 16 appearances. The staff ranks third in the Big 12 in ERA with a 3.70 average in 325.2 innings pitched with 293 strikeouts to 117 walks.

Offensively, Texas A&M ranks ninth in the Big 12 in hitting with a .294 average. The Aggies are led by senior outfielder Neal Stephenson, who paces the team in eight offensive categories, including runs scored (31), RBIs (32), home runs (7) and doubles (10). Sophomore shortstop Matt Alexander has a team-leading .324 average with 30 RBIs and 29 runs scored, while junior first baseman Travis posts a .304 average with 29 runs scored, 26 RBIs and six home runs.

In a series that dates back to 1985, Texas A&M has a commanding 17-3 advantage in the all-time meetings with Kansas State. The Aggies won the first two games in the series before the Wildcats earned their inaugural win in a 6-0 victory on March 12, 1991 in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M earned two more victories before Kansas State gained their second win, including their first at home, in a 7-5 victory on March 28, 1997. The Aggies then won 11 in a row before the Wildcats snapped the streak with a 5-3 in Manhattan last season. The two teams first met at the Texas-Pan American Tournament in Edinburg, Texas, on March 12, 1985 with Texas A&M taking a narrow 10-8 victory. The Aggies are 16-4 at home this season.

Kansas State has won just once in 10 trips to College Station, including eight straight losses dating back to 1994. The Wildcats' last win against the Aggies at Olsen Field came in a 6-0 victory on March 12, 1991. Since then the team has been outscored 75-24 in eight straight victories by the Aggies, including a pair of shutouts. In the last trip to College Station, K-State was swept by scores of 19-5, 9-4 and 9-4 on Feb. 25-27, 2000.

In all, K-State has won just two road series in 11 opportunities against the four Texas schools (Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech) and is a composite 12-49 against the four since the inception of the Big 12 Conference.

Kansas State returns home to begin a stretch of seven home games in the next eight contests, as the Wildcats play host to Bethany College for a 3 p.m. first pitch at Tointon Family Stadium. The team then begins a three-game series with nationally-ranked Texas (29-9, 7-5 Big 12) on Friday at 3 p.m.