Wodtke providing early spark for K-State baseball

Then-sophomore infielder Jake Wodtke gets a hit off of Missouri State during the Wildcats' game at Tointon Family Stadium on March 13, 2015. (File Photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

If you search the word “hardworking” on merriam-webster.com, you’ll find the definition listed as “using a lot of time and energy to do work.” Under its synonyms, you may be able to find the name “Jake Wodtke.”

As most athletes in any sport, the junior infielder from Shawnee, Kansas, has put in the time and work to get where he is today.

“It’s nice,” Wodtke said. “I played against and played behind a lot of good players, and it’s good to finally get a shot.”

Wodtke redshirted in his second year at K-State after his first year was less than stellar. He went 0-for-7 at bat in 10 games during the Wildcats’ 2013 campaign. After sitting out the 2014 season, Wodtke began to make his push for a starting spot as a redshirt sophomore in 2015.

Wodtke appeared in 50 of the 57 games that season, 40 of which he started. He recorded a batting average of .241, had 11 RBIs, walked 14 times and scored 24 runs.

It was, however, on the defensive side that Wodtke really shined. Wodtke committed just two errors in the field, helping him post a .990 fielding percentage. Those two errors were the fewest among K-State infielders who started at least 10 games. He also did not commit an error through his last 41 games.

After the season, he was awarded Academic All-Big 12 Second Team honors.

“I think we saw it in him last year,” K-State head coach Brad Hill said. “Last year was kind of his first year to really get in there on a regular basis. Due to the injury to (Steve) Serratore, he was in there quite a bit. You just saw him grow a little bit last year. I think this fall he really established himself. He was our fall MVP and just established himself as a guy we could count on every day.”

Wodtke continued to fine-tune his skills during the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons when he played for the El Dorado Broncos in the Jayhawk League, a summer wood bat league for collegiate players, scoring 15 runs in 28 games.

The Wildcat second baseman entered the 2016 season after being named the Big 12’s Best Defensive Second Baseman by Baseball America. Wodtke has proven this preseason honor to be true though the first 12 games of the season.

“It’s nice seeing hard work pay off,” Wodtke said. “I’ve been a part of this team for a long time, and it’s good to be in the lineup every day finally and just do what I can.”

Wodtke has been the heart and soul of the Wildcat roster early on, and he has proven it on the field with his numbers.

Wodtke has started all 12 games for the Wildcats this season, and he leads K-State in batting average, RBIs, hits and runs. He is averaging .457, has 16 RBIs, 21 hits and has scored 16 runs.

In addition to those numbers, Wodtke earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors on Monday.

“He’s been a guy that you can look to and does everything right every day,” Hill said. “He comes out to get better every day, he practices extremely hard, takes a lot of pride in his defense, and obviously you can see that. He’s worked extremely hard with his hitting, and just like I said, he’s a great example for our guys to see a guy get rewarded because he does everything right every day.”

Wodtke’s play has not only pleased him, but his teammates as well.

Senior outfielder Clayton Dalrymple, said he could not be happier for Wodtke and the way he is playing.

“I’m so proud of him,” Dalrymple said. “He’s doing so well. I love to see his success, making awesome plays on defense all the time, hitting the ball well, finding the first fastballs and hitting them hard. He’s doing a great job in the two-hole. He’s providing a great spark for our lineup. I’m so, so incredibly proud of him. He’s doing an awesome job and he’s been a big part of our offense.”

Wodtke’s success is something the Wildcats, at 8-4, will need to continue to have if they hope to keep winning. They have won six games in a row and will look to make it seven when they face the University of Wisconsin-Milwaulkee today.

First pitch is slated for 3:05 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium.