The Kansas State baseball team will start their 2018 campaign in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, against South Alabama at the 18th Annual Brittain Resorts Baseball at the Beach with the first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday.
Brad Hill will lead the Wildcats during his fifteenth season as head coach at K-State. Last season, the Wildcats finished ninth in the Big 12 without a postseason appearance. Finishing with a record of 29-26 overall and 8-16 in conference play, K-State had its first winning season since 2013.
In 2017, K-State finished with 51 home runs which was the team’s highest total since 2009 and tied the record for second-most home runs under Hill.
There are 14 newcomers on this season’s squad and 11 of them are freshmen. Eight sophomore and six juniors and seniors make up the rest of the roster. From last year, there are 17 letter winners, four position starters and 10 pitchers. The team lost 15 letter winners, five position starters and six pitchers.
Key returners for K-State’s offense include sophomores Will Brennan and Cameron Thompson, and seniors Kyle Barfield, and Hanz Harker.
Outfielder Brennan led the Wildcats in 2017 with an impressive batting average of .350, and an on-base percentage of .453. Brennan had a slugging percentage of .388 to match his 27 runs batted in. His batting average broke K-State’s hitting record set in 1973.
Position player Cameron Thompson, who started all 55 games last season, had 70 base hits, 41 runs scored, four triples and batted in 33 runs. Thompson drew 33 walks and had a fielding percentage of .988.
Both Brennan and Thompson were Freshman All-American selections and were named Second Team All-Big 12 last year.
Outfielder Barfield finished with a .465 slugging percentage in 40 games, of which he started 20.
Outfielder Harker hit four homers, leading the returning players. Harker scored 25 runs while driving in 17. On the defensive side, Harker finished with a .976 fielding percentage.
The returning pitchers are led by seniors Justin Heskett and Hudson Treu.
Heskett started 14 games where he had a record of 5-3. In 75 innings, Heskett struck out 47 and walked 27.
Treu appeared in 15 games, three as a starter. He gave up eight walks, struck out 17 in 26 innings.
Sophomores Kasey Ford, Jared Marolf and Tyler Eckberg are important pieces for the Wildcats pitching staff this spring.
Ford and Marolf each finished with a 4.03 earned run average and finished 3-1 and 4-1, respectively. Ford made six starts in 18 appearances totaling 44.2 innings. Marolf pitched in relief in 38 innings over 17 games with 27 strikeouts. Eckberg pitched in 19 relief appearances, posting a 3.16 earned run average. In 31.1 innings, Eckberg struck out 32 and gave up 13 walks.
K-State will finish the tournament when facing Indiana, 2016 national champion Coastal Carolina and Virginia Tech Saturday through Monday.