K-State baseball (16-18, 4-8) is looking dangerous as of late after taking two games and the series from No. 8 TCU over the weekend. The Wildcats’ home slate continues tonight against Wichita State at Tointon Family Stadium.
“It’s a good win, but in the Big 12 we’ll probably be playing somebody else ranked next weekend too, so it’s nothing new,” said K-State head coach Brad Hill after Sunday’s 6-2 win against the Horned Frogs.
The K-State coaches and players want to use their first conference series win of the season — and first since April 2014 — as a jumping off point for future success in the homestretch of conference play.
“It’s a huge spark for our team,” senior outfielder Max Brown said. “Especially (after) those close games that are heartbreakers, but all we do is keep telling ourselves to keep believing and baseball will pay you back eventually and it’s starting to.”
Hill said even though a win over a high-ranked team might act as a springboard, it’s more about how K-State plays and practices moving forward that will decide how significant that series win was for momentum.
“You hope it is (a jumping-off point),” Hill said. “But every day is a new day in baseball. It’s more of how you approach and get your preparation in.”
K-State’s “new day” begins tonight against the Shockers who traditionally have been a strong, national contender in baseball. The midweek matchup is a one-game series, but the two will meet next month in Wichita for another one-off meeting.
The Shockers have had a rough season so far at 13-22 on the year and 5-4 in conference play. The program was put on NCAA probation earlier this year for impermissible benefits received by 21 players over a two-year span.
Wichita State comes into Manhattan lugging a four-game losing streak after suffering a sweep at home by the hands of Illinois State.
“It’ll be exciting,” Hill said. “It’s always exciting against the Shockers. Hopefully it will be a great crowd, I expect it to be. Hopefully our guys will approach it that way. But again, another game and a chance to move forward.”
Last season, K-State was able to sweep the Shockers in the season series – which included a 10-4 drubbing in the final battle of the season.
Wichita State, however, leads the overall series 51-36 dating back to 1906.
Senior right-handed pitcher Mark Biesma (0-1, 6.75 ERA) will take the mound for K-State. He will battle Wichita State right-hander Jeb Bargfeldt (2-2, 4.22 ERA).
First pitch between the Wildcats and Shockers is slated for tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium.
Brown and Wolfe are Big 12 Player and Co-Newcomer of the Week
K-State baseball earned their second and third conference honors of the season, as senior outfielder Max Brown and junior infielder Tyler Wolfe were named Big 12 Player and Co-Newcomer of the Week Monday.
Brown is the first K-State player to be named Big 12 Player of the Week since former K-State standout outfielder Ross Kivett garnered the honor in March 2014.
“He’s been on-time lately,” junior infielder Tyler Wolfe said of Brown before the TCU series. “He just looks a lot more comfortable. At the beginning of the year he was a lot more hesitant but now he looks more comfortable and it’s really good to see him hitting well. He’s a big bat in our lineup.”
The senior centerfielder hit a team-best .429 over the past five games including two doubles, two triples and six RBI’s.
Brown had one of his best games of the season this past Friday, recording four RBI’s in the Wildcats’ dismantling of, then, No. 3 TCU. The four RBI’s were the most by a K-State player since Jon Davis and Shane Conlon’s four against Texas Tech in April of last year.
“(Brown) has just been more aggressive,” Hill said. “And just not be tentative. When your tentative it shows a lack of confidence and when you’re aggressive that shows some confidence and I think he’s much more confident right now. You can see that in the way he’s swinging the bat. A swing and a miss isn’t bothering him where in the past I think it did.”
While there have been gaps between K-State’s player of the week honors, Wolfe’s selection is the second for K-State this season after junior catcher Tyler Moore recieved the same honor in March.
“He’s been one of our most consistent guys,” Hill said of Wolfe before the TCU series. “And that doesn’t mean just hits, I think consistency is on base. For me, it’s are you doing all the things in the game. He’s playing really good defense, he’s taking his walks, getting some hits for us. It’s really a combination of everything.”
Wolfe has been a scoring machine of late, hitting a more-than-respectable .333 and registering a conference-high seven RBI’s in the past five games. Wolfe is tied for first in the Big 12 this season in runs scored during conference play (11).