We’ll get to the sports in a second, but we’d be remiss to not mention the passing of former K-State President Dr. Jon Wefald on Saturday, April 16th. Dr. Wefald came to Kansas State University in 1986 as the 12th president, and dealt with declining enrollments and a lack of enthusiasm at the university in his early years in Manhattan. He, of course, was the president that approved the hire of Bill Snyder, and pushed for money to improve the football facilities at K-State.
But he wasn’t just an athletics president. During his 23 years at K-State, he oversaw major growth on the academic side, seeing enrollment increase from 16,000 to over 23,000 during his time (and before online students could rapidly inflate those numbers). New buildings were also added across campus, and old ones renewed, including the major rebuild and expansion of Hale Library. He was also instrumental in increasing philanthropy from $6 million a year to nearly $100 million annually and growing research funding from $18 million annually to nearly $134 million.
Of course a lot of that was tied to the successful football program (especially the enrollment and philanthropy), and Wefald deserves a lot of credit for not folding on that program early in his tenure when it would have been very easy to do so to save on costs (like they did at Wichita State during the same period). Instead, he doubled-down and re-invested in the worst football program in college football, and helped Bill Snyder build his legend.
On a personal note, Wefald was also a huge supporter of the Pride of Wildcatland Marching Band, and helped the band program whenever possible, usually out of his own budget or resources. Of course, we also fondly remember the jokes about Wefald famously never calling snow days on campus. As the story goes, Wefald, who grew up in Minnesota, wouldn’t cancel classes if he could walk from his house to Anderson Hall. But as a man who grew up where it generally snows a lot more than northeast Kansas, that was never an issue for him, even on really bad days.
Feel free to share you favorite Wefald story in the comments.
The K-State baseball team might finally be turning a corner. Incredibly, after the historic comeback on Thursday night to capture game one of the series against No. 7 Texas, the Wildcats lead wire-to-wire in game two on Friday night, beating the Longhorns 8-1 to take claim to their first Big 12 series victory this season. Blake Adams pitched a gem, who along with reliever Blake Corsentino who came in for Adams in the 8th, limited Texas to its lowest hit total of the season. Adams gave up just three hits and three walks in 108 pitches facing 26 batters, while recording six strikeouts and giving a lone run in the 7th with the Wildcats firmly in control. Corsentino faced the minimum in his two innings to complete the game.
On Saturday, despite an early lead, the Wildcats were unable to complete the sweep of the Longhorns, falling 4-2 in the get-away game. Connor McCollough, Thursday night’s hero out of the bullpen, did get the start as scheduled and held the Longhorns to just two runs in his five innings of work to give his squad a chance, leaving the game with the score tied 2-2. But despite a strong showing on Friday night, Saturday was not Corsentino’s day, and he gave up the winning run in the top of the 6th before settling down, and then gave up one more run in the top of the 9th before giving way to Tyler Ruhl. The BatCats offense wasn’t much help on Saturday, as after grabbing 21 hits over the first two games, they managed just 5 in the finale.
For his efforts last week, Adams was named both the Co-Big 12 Pitcher of the Week, and Co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, marking the first weekly honors of Adams career. He also becomes the 3rd & 4th weekly honoree for K-State this season, joining Josh Nicoloff (Newcomer) and Dylan Phillips (Player of the Week).
After the series with the Longhorns, the Cats sat at 17-17 overall and 3-9 in Big 12 play, and gave themselves some new hope for the postseason if they can sustain this elevated performance. And boy, did they get this new week started off right.
The Wildcats headed to Wichita on Monday to take on the Shockers at Eck Stadium, and it was all K-State as the BatCats exploded for a 12-1 victory over a not-good WSU team. The Cats grabbed one in the first, then grabbed 4 in the 2nd and 5 in the 3rd to blow the game open, and added two more in the 4th for good measure. Sophomore German Fajardo picked up his second win of the season, giving up just two hits and one walk in five complete innings of shutout work. Landry Jurecka gave up the only run of the day in the 9th, where he gave up three hits to the home team in the final frame of the game.
The Cats return to action tonight, as they take on the Mavericks of Omaha tonight at 6pm CDT from Tointon Family Stadium. That game will of course be available on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ if you can’t make it out to the ballpark on what should be a cool, but sunny evening in the Little Apple.
Jerome Tang and company finally have their first transfer in of the offseason, officially announcing the addition of Jerrell Colbert for the 2022-23 season. Colbert was a 4-star recruit out of high school in 2021, and the 6’10 216lb center spent his first collegiate season at LSU. He saw action in 4 games as a true freshman, logging 27 minutes of playing time for a team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, but was part of the mass exodus from Baton Rouge after Will Wade was fired before the NCAA Tournament started. Colbert, a Houston native, was recruited by Tang and new assistant Ulric Maligi at their previous schools, and has known Tang since Colbert was in middle school.
Colbert’s addition briefly brought K-State’s 2022-23 roster to five athletes, including incoming freshman Taj Manning, but not long after Colbert signed with K-State, freshman forward Logan Landers announced his departure. Landers was the last remaining Weber-era player with a free transfer left, and had been rumored for several weeks now that he was planning to depart.
The MittieCats have also picked up two transfers this spring. Gabby Gregory was added last week, as the former three-time OU letterwinner was officially announced as a Wildcat. Gregory, a 5’11 guard, joined OU in 2019 after a standout prep career that earned her the nod as the 2019 Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year. Gregory started 22 games for the Sooners as a true freshman in the COVID-shortend 2019-20 season, and all 24 games of the 20-21 season, where she dropped in almost 400 points. This past season she struggled with injury, but still managed to appear in 18 games. Prior to her injury, she was shooting over 40% from the field and nearly 35% from behind the arc while averaging double-digit points per game in her first two season.
Then yesterday, former Arizona forward Gisela Sánchez announced that she was also headed to Manhattan. Sánchez, a 6’3 native of Barcelona, Spain, joins K-State after spending her first season in the USA at Arizona, where she was the only true freshman to see extended minutes for those Wildcats. She appeared in 20 games, logging just 7.2 minutes a game, but recording 15 points in 19 minutes in a win of Rutgers in November. She is efficient scoring, shooting at a 44% clip in his limited minutes, and also has range, going 7-16 from behind the arc.
Another week, another Top 5 finish for the Wildcats men’s golf squad, as they concluded the Hawkeye Invitational with a fourth-place finish at 15-over 879 thanks to a pair of top-10 finishes from Will Hopkins and Laurenz Schiergen. The Cats managed to stay ahead of South Dakota State on the final day with a 3-under 291, but couldn’t quite catch Creighton for 3rd after a 6-over 300 in Round 2 set them back pretty far. Hopkins tallied an 8th-place (tied) finish, as the Lincolnshire, England native carded a 1-under 215. Schiergen, the German who had led the Wildcats in the last two matches, finished one stroke behind in a tie for 10th at even 216.
The Wildcats will be off until April 25th, when they head to Trinity, TX for the Big 12 Championship.