Editor’s note: This is the eighth in a series of nine articles preview the 2014 Big 12 baseball season and looking at what each of the nine conference teams that particpate in the sport of baseball brings to the diamond this season.
2. Kansas State Wildcats
2013 season record: 45-19 in all games; 18-8 in the Big 12, 1st place, Big 12 champion
Kansas State hated to see last season end. The Wildcats won a program-best 45 games and their first regular-season Big 12 championship. The 2013 league crown was K-State’s first conference championship in baseball since 1933. The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals round last season, where their season came to a disappointing end, just two games short of reaching the College World Series.
Kansas State boasted one of the country’s most prolific offensive teams a year ago. The Wildcats batted .322 as a team last spring, best in the Big 12 and second best in all of college baseball. Much of that hitting power is back again for another go around in 2014.
Big 12 Player of the Year last season, second-baseman Ross Kivett, will lead K-State this season. Kivett, a senior, was a .360 hitter in the Wildcats’ championship season a year ago and led the team in hits (94) and runs scored (57).
Six of the top-10 hitters in the conference last season were Wildcats, and four of those players (Kivett, Austin Fisher, Shane Conlan and Blair DeBord), all All-Big 12 First Team selections last season, are back in 2014.
The entire Kansas State infield is intact for another season (conlan at first base, Kivett at second, Fisher at shortstop and R.J. Santigate at third). All four infielders hit better than .200 in 2013.
Sophomore right-hander Jake Matthys, another All-Big 12 performer in 2013 is the stopper out of the bullpen (nine wins, nine saves and a 2.04 ERA in 34 appearances last season. Junior right-hander Matt Wivinis anchors the starting rotation.
The preseason pick of the Big 12 coaches to repeat as conference champion in 2014, Kansas State is off to an extremely start, winning just one of its first eight games this season. The Wildcats are schedule to play four games this weekend in Abilene, Texas, against Grand Canyon (two games), Missouri State and Abilene Christian. K-Started started the season, playing its first eight games on the West Coast.
Next up: No. 1 Oklahoma State