BatCats head to west coast for season opener

Then-junior infielder Tyler Wolfe and then-sophomore infielder Jake Wodtke tip their hats before the start of the baseball game against Santa Clara on March 7, 2015, at Tointon Family Stadium. The Wildcats took a victory on each day of the three-day series. (File Photo by Cassandra Nguyen | The Collegian)

K-State baseball is coming off a rebuilding season with many new faces. The Wildcats finished the 2015 season with a 27-30 overall record and a 10-14 record in the Big 12. Head coach Brad Hill and his team made the Big 12 tournament after not making it in a disappointing 2014 campaign.

The Wildcats will be looking to improve on their 2015 season with eight returning seniors and six other letter winners from last season. Along with these returning players, K-State added 17 newcomers, 12 of whom are freshmen.

When talking about the experience of this year’s team, Hill said he thought the seniors could be of help.

“Eight seniors is a lot of seniors,” Hill said. “We have such a large freshman class. That’s the kind of thing that offsets that experience, particularly the number of young kids that will be playing this year. But at the same time we like to think those eight seniors will provide good leadership. I do think we have a lot of experience at the top, but we have a lot of kids that don’t have experience.”

Senior shortstop Tyler Wolfe is one of the top returners for the Wildcats. Wolfe did not start off very well last year, but that all changed when Big 12 play began. He reached base in the last 22 games of the season, batting .350 during that stretch.

Wolfe is the starting shortstop for the Wildcats, but he can also pitch when needed.

“We have a little more depth in the infield, so I should have the opportunity to throw more this year,” Wolfe said. “I always have been able to pitch — I’ve pitched my whole life — so I feel comfortable out there.”

K-State will open the 2016 season on the road in Riverside, California, against the University of California, Riverside in a four-game series.

UC Riverside is coming off a disappointing 2015 campaign with a 15-40 overall record and a 4-20 record in the Big West Conference. The team has five seniors this year.

Hill said he knows going on the road is never easy.

“With Riverside, it will be California kids who have been playing outside,” Hill said. “We’ve been fortunate to be outside on the weekends, but we haven’t been able to be outside midweek. We’ve been able to put a lot of game-type practice in, but we haven’t done a lot of breakdown. I would like to be able to do defensive things outside. There are a lot of differences when you talk about being out and in, particularly when you start talking about your defensive schemes and what you do defensively.”

The first game of the four-game series between K-State and UC Riverside will begin at 8 p.m. Friday.