Like fellow Sunflower State school Kansas, Kansas State has executed a major turnaround in baseball this season, and Wildcat coach Brad Hill is very pleased with where his team is at this point in the season. The Wildcats hold down the two spot in the Big 12 standings heading into this weekend’s action. That represents a turnaround of six positions in the standings from just a year ago, when K-State ended the season with a 27-31 overall record and an eighth-place finish in the conference.
The Wildcats step outside of the conference this weekend, traveling to Iowa City to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big Ten. With a win Tuesday at Wichita State, Kansas State is riding a six-game winning streak and 12 of the last 14, which has increased its season record to 24-10, just three games shy of the Cats’ total number of wins in 2012.
Hill is very pleased with his team’s offensive output so far this season, but he would like to see more consistency out of the starting pitching. In a weekly podcast hosted by the Big 12 Conference, Hill cited the individual play of Shane Conlan, Blair Debord, R.J. Santigate, Tanner Witt, and Kivett Ross. K-State leads the Big 12 in hitting, batting a collective .330 as a team, almost 30 points higher than the second-best hitting team, Oklahoma State, and 50 points higher than last season. Hill said he knew his team had the potential to be pretty good this season with so many players returning, but he also acknowledged that, offensively, they’ve exceeded even his expectations.
“We’ve had three or four guys kind of handing the baton off to each other,” Hill said, which has allowed the Cats to maintain consistency up and down the lineup. Kansas State’s .330 team batting average ranks third in the nation.in the t5op 25 nationally, and the Wildcats lead the Big 12 in seven offensive categories.
Three Cats are in the top 10 in the conference in hitting – Debord (.385), Kivett (.381) and Witt (.352) – and the team batting average is at a three-year high.
Two of the Wildcats’ last four victories have been of the walk-off variety, including their 7-6 win over Wichita State on Tuesday, a game that they trailed 6-1 entering the eighth innings. Of course, when you are hitting as well as K-State is this season, you’re never really out of any contest.
The Kansas State pitching staff has been very inconsistent. We have had good outings from our pitchers and bad outings, Hill said. You just never know what you’re going to get from game to game, which is troubling to the K-State coach. Hill said he is lacking a dependable third starter, which is an area he would like to shore up.
The Wildcats are 6-3 against Big 12 foes, one game back of league-leading Oklahoma. They have two more three-game conference series this month: at Oklahoma State next weekend and back home to host TCU the weekend after that. The Horned Frogs, surprisingly, are currently tied with Texas in last place in the league, both with 3-6 conference records. May poses a stronger challenge for the Wildcats with road series at Texas and in-state rival Kansas and at home against Oklahoma to end the regular season and likely decide the Big 12 champion.
Kansas State has already surprised a lot of people with how well they are playing this season, but the players feel confident they can still win it all. That may be a tall order with half a conference season still remaining. But with the way they’ve played thus far, and with more consistency out of their pitching, you certainly can’t rule them out.
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