Jared King in line to become Wildcats’ next big bat

Jed Barker | Collegian The ball flies out of Cal Poly catcher Elliot Stewart’s glove as senior Tanner Witt slides in to home plate for a run, barely evading a tag out during the fifth inning of the three-game series finale on March 9 at Tointon Family Stadium. As K-State’s seniors graduate, the team will look to players like Jared King, junior center-fielder, for leadership. “I’m just trying to help [younger players] out as much as I can because I’ve been through the process,” King said.

In 2011, center-fielder Jared King enjoyed one of the most successful freshman seasons in the history of K-State baseball. He earned Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball and was named to both the Second Team All-Big 12 and the Big 12 All-Freshman team. Still, he followed that up with an even more impressive 2012 season.

King batted .378 in conference play, making him the Big 12 regular season batting champion and was once again named Second Team All-Big 12. He was also named First Team All-Midwest Region by the American Baseball Coaches Association. King finished in the top five in the conference in total bases, slugging percentage, hits, triples and multi-hit games. King was also a First Team Academic All-Big 12 selection.

After two stellar seasons, it would be an understatement to say that King is expected once again to lead K-State on and off the field this season. As King goes into his junior campaign for the Wildcats, the national media are taking notice of his numbers here at K-State. King was named to two preseason All-American teams: Perfect Game’s Second Team and Baseball America’s Third Team. King was also one of 50 players placed on the preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, an annual award to the nation’s top amateur player awarded by Major League Baseball.

“You have to be able to deal with that,” said head coach Brad Hill on King’s preseason recognition. “When you’re a great player you’re going to get the hype and you’re going to get the attention, and now maturity, composure, those things come into play on how you’re going to deal with that. He’s a great player, that’s why he got all those accolades.”

In order to live up to such high expectations, King plans not only to perform on the field, but he is also trying to help out the younger players on a team whose roster includes many new freshmen.

“One of the things I’ve been working on is trying to be a little more vocal, especially to the younger guys,” said King of his leadership role with the team. “It’s my junior year, so I’m just trying to help them out as much as I can because I’ve been through the process.”

Hill also acknowledged King as a leader on the team, describing him as laid-back, someone who goes up to the younger players, talks to them individually and always says and does the right things.

King’s greatest influence on the team, though, is as an impact bat in the heart of the lineup. The junior occupied the third spot in the lineup, generally reserved for a team’s best hitter, all of last season and again this season. Having such an accomplished hitter helps the entire team and gets the offense going.

“He’s a good hitter, and hitting becomes contagious,” Hill said.

Last season the offense carried the team in many of its wins despite some shaky pitching, and his teammaters are looking to King again this season to add some punch to the Wildcat lineup.

One area in which King excelled last season was with two-out RBIs. He was second on the team as a sophomore with 18, and he put up 16 two-out RBIs as a freshman, good for third place on the team.

“You have to be able to go out there every day and say, ‘Guys are on base; you just got to get it done,’” King said. “Good teams will consistently drive guys in with two outs and two strikes; those are big-time RBIs.”

Jared is not the first King to excel at K-State. His older brother Jason was a three-year letterman for the Wildcats at third base and was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 MLB Draft by Detroit. The younger King is expected to be taken in the second round of this summer’s draft, and some scouts think he could be picked even higher. Perfect Game has him projected as a possible pick in the supplemental first round, which is sandwiched between the first and second rounds.

Before he can think about the draft, King still has plenty of ball to play as a Wildcat, as the team looks to return to the postseason after missing out last year. King was part of the 2011 team that made it to the NCAA Regionals, and he will be looked to as the leader if the team is to return again this year.