Maybe it's because I'm in a warmer place than most K-Staters, but I'm starting to think a little baseball. This could be a good year for the Bat Cats, but it won't be easy. We saw substantial improvement most of last year, only for hopes of an NCAA tournament appearance to go up in smoke with a sweep at Baylor.
Favorites: Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M
Contenders: Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Darkhorse: Kansas State
Some programs might shrug their shoulders at a season where they were listed as a preseason darkhorse for their conference title. Not I. It quickens my heart a tad to hear outsiders tout the Cats as one of the teams that could be in the mix for a conference title come May.
Here is CSTV's skinny on K-State this year...
Kansas State (34-24, 10-16)
The Good News:
KSU made its first Big 12 tournament appearance since 2002 last year. Keep a close eye on these guys as the `Cats welcome back a solid core of seniors, like weekend starters Brad Hutt (9-4, 3.07) and Chase Bayuk (5-6, 5.11) and bullpenner Daniel Edwards (3-0, 2.27, 11svs). OFs Byron Wiley (.366-7-44, 14SBs) and Adam Meunster (.294, 10SBs) are the top two returning hitters.
The Bad News:
Wiley is the only .300-plus hitter returning from a team that hit just 24 round-trippers which shows that improving the bats is a must for '08. Other than that, there's not a lot of bad news, as this is a program on an uptick.
The influence of coach Hill.
Things are slowly, but surely getting better for the `Cats. They've won 26, 30, 31 and 34 games in coach Brad Hill's four years in the Little Apple. As a national championship coach at Central Missouri State, this guy knows how to win.
Look for a tough May. KSU will play eight of its last 11 on the road. And the remaining home games? Just top-ranked Arizona State and in-state rival Kansas. Nothing comes easy.
A lot of the excitement for K-State baseball revolves around two things. First is the addition of hitting coach Lane Burroughs from Southern Mississippi. The Cats need to improve their offense this year, and players like Byron Wiley, Nate Tenbrink and Adam Muenster will be leading. Look also for freshman Carter Jurica (Katy, Texas) to step in and add a little pop to the lineup this year.
As the article mentions, we should have a solid pitching rotation this year. What it doesn't mention is all the preseason awards closer Daniel Edwards has picked up. Get out and see this kid, folks, he's one of the best to wear the purple and white.
So what will the season hold? At this point, I'm hoping that a little luck, K-State can pick up its first NCAA tournament appearance this year. Anything beyond that would be amazing, and because I go to the College World Series every year, I can always dream a little...can't I?
Two final things. Just to rile the Husker fans out there, Jordan Cruz is back for K-State this year, and we have a freshman from Wichita whose last name is Beer. Knowing nothing else about him, he is my new favorite player on the team.
The 2008 K-State baseball schedule is below:
2/22: @ California (Berkeley, Calif.)
2/23: @ Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
2/24: @ California (Berkeley, Calif.)
Cardinal Classic (Note: This is in Beaumont, Texas. There is a very good chance I will be at the game on Friday. Just don't forget, we'll be in that BMT, or "Big Money Texas" as some of the locals like to refer to it. Also known as the "Golden Triangle" although no one is really sure why.)
2/28: Arkansas State
2/29: Michigan State
3/2: Michigan State
3/4: @ UT-San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas)
3/5: @ UT-San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas)
3/7: LeMoyne (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/8: LeMoyne (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/9: LeMoyne (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/11: Washington State (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/14: Nebraska (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/15: Nebraska (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/16: Nebraska (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/18: BYU (Provo, Utah)
3/19: BYU (Provo, Utah)
3/21: Binghamton (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/22: Binghamton (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/23: Binghamton (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/26: Creighton (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/28: Oklahoma State (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/29: Oklahoma State (Manhattan, Kan.)
3/30: Oklahoma State (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/1: Central Arkansas (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/2: Central Arkansas (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/4: @ Texas A&M (College Station, Texas)
4/5: @ Texas A&M (College Station, Texas)
4/6: @ Texas A&M (College Station, Texas)
4/8: Wichita State (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/11: Baylor (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/12: Baylor (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/13: Baylor (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/15: @ Creighton (Omaha, Neb.)
4/18: @ Texas Tech (Lubbock, Texas)
4/19: @ Texas Tech (Lubbock, Texas)
4/20: @ Texas Tech (Lubbock, Texas)
4/22: UC-Irvine (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/23: UC-Irvine (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/25: Texas (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/26: Texas (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/27: Texas (Manhattan, Kan.)
4/29: @ Wichita State (Wichita, Kan.)
5/2: @ Missouri (Columbia, Mo.)
5/3: @ Missouri (Columbia, Mo.)
5/4: @ Missouri (Columbia, Mo.)
5/6: Arizona State (Manhattan, Kan.)
5/9: @ Oklahoma (Norman, Okla.)
5/10: @ Oklahoma (Norman, Okla.)
5/11: @ Oklahoma (Norman, Okla.)
5/16: @ KU (Lawrence, Kan.)
5/17: KU (Manhattan, Kan.)
5/18: KU (Manhattan, Kan.)