With last night's loss to the Rice Owls in the Houston Regional, the greatest season in 109 years of K-State baseball came to an end. The way the season ended, with K-State unable to eliminatre Rice in two tries to move on to the Super Regionals, may be a bitter pill to swallow, but should not at all overshadow what was accomplished this season by Brad Hill and the Wildcats.
On the season, K-State won 43 games, eight more than the previous best in 1976. The Wildcats qualified for their third-straight Big 12 tournament, posting their best conference finish (fourth). They won more conference games, 14, than any prior K-State team. They took the series from, and nearly swept, Texas in Austin, which needless to say, doesn't happen very often. They qualified for the program's first NCAA Tournament. In that first tournament appearance, they very nearly advanced to the Super Regionals.
Individually, A.J. Morris was named Big 12 pitcher of the year, an All-American, and is still in the running for national pitcher and player of the year honors. Brad Hill was named Big 12 coach of the year.
Alas, the Regional matchups with Rice proved that K-State, for all its improvements, is still an elite pitcher and a few batters shy of Rice's level. With A.J. Morris on the mound, K-State was a match for anyone this year, which was proven definitively with Saturday's victory. Established programs such as Rice have stockpiled talent over years of recruiting, which they showed when a freshman pitcher, for a team facing elimination, threw a three-hitter against K-State on Sunday. Ultimately, Rice's consistent batting lineup and deep starting pitching wore down K-State. In a classy gesture, Rice's fans proved their knowledge of the game by giving a standing ovation to four of K-State's key players when Hill substituted them out late in the game Monday.
Many thanks go to seniors Drew Biery, Jordan Cruz, Lance Hoge, Rob Vaughn, Todd Vogel and Dane Yelovich. Now is also the appropriate time to salute A.J. Morris, as he has played his last game in purple with the MLB draft beckoning. Justin Bloxom is also draft-eligible and, should he decide to leave, should be saluted for his play in Manhattan.
Despite these losses, don't fret for the future, Wildcat fans. With returning pitchers like Thomas Rooke, Evan Marshall, James Allen, Kayvon Bahramzadeh and Matt Applegate, we should have a solid pitching staff for years to come. In the lineup, Carter Jurica, Nick Martini and Jason King return. We will need some of the younger players to step up, but that's true of every team in the nation. Given the vast improvement shown by Morris from last season to this one, I have the utmost confidence in Brad Hill, Andy Sawyers and Sean McCann to get the most out of these guys next season. Let's do it again next year, folks.