It wasn’t a great weekend overall for the BatCats, as Kansas State dropped two of three to #24 West Virginia to fall to 19-11 and 5-4 in the Big 12. But it was a great week for Roberto Pena, as the senior transfer had an incredible week at the plate, posting a .571 batting average with 14 RBI (including two games with five), as well as an incredible 2.208 OPS, with a 1.571 slugging percentage and .636 on-base percentage. Fire. For his efforts, he was tabbed as the Big 12 Player of the Week, as well as Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Week.
As for the weekend series with the Mountaineers, on Friday night, the Cats took an early 2-0 lead that was quickly answered by WVU, and then it was all-’Eers as the visitors pushed their lead out to 7-2 before the Cats finally answered with their final run in the 6th. But WVU tacked on an insurance run in the 8th, and grabbed the opener with an 8-3 victory, their first Big 12 win of the season (in their first Big 12 game of the season). The hosts and visitors combined for 5 home runs on the evening, including two of K-State’s three runs.
Saturday, German Fajardo pitched a gem, giving up just one run on three hits and tossing six strikeouts to just three walks in seven complete innings as the Cats grabbed game two with a 7-1 win. Five of K-State’s seven runs came via solo-shot homeruns, but the Cats managed just nine hits overall on the afternoon. In a rare appearance, K-State never trailed, and after taking a 1-run lead in the 2nd never let WVU tie things up.
Sunday, it looked like the Cats might have a chance to take the series, as despite a 3-run 2nd for WVU, K-State answered with four runs of their own, three off a bomb over the left-center fence by Pena, in the bottom frame to take an early 4-3 lead. But then the ‘Eers rattled off seven more runs to take a 10-4 lead into the bottom of the 9th. With one last burst, Pena grabbed his first two-homer game of the season and grabbed two runs for the Cats in the process, but it wasn’t enough as K-State fell 10-6 to give WVU the series win.
Next up for K-State is a visit from Nebraska tonight to Tointon Family Stadium for a single mid-week game. The Cats and the Huskers are set to square off at 6pm CT, and if you are in Manhattan it should be a GORGEOUS night to go sit outside and watch some baseball. If you can’t make it to the ballpark, the game will be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
The college basketball season may be officially over now, but that doesn’t mean that we’re done seeing headlines that involve Kansas State basketball.
Of course, the biggest news came over the weekend, as Jerome Tang took his place atop the pantheon of K-State legends by being named the 2023 Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year. With the honor, Tang becomes just the third K-State coach to earn a national coach of the year award, joining Tex Winter (1958) and Jack Hartman (1980). Yeah, that’s some elite company, and he did it in his first season. He’s also the first non-KU Big 12 coach to win the Naismith award since it’s inception in 1987, though Jamie Dixon did earn the award while at Pitt.
Also over the weekend, Markquis Nowell was named the winner of the 2023 Bob Cousy Point Guard Award by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as the top point guard in Division 1. Nowell is the 20th winner of the award, and joins Acie Law, D.J. Augustine, and Frank Mason as award winners for the Big 12 since the award’s inception in 2004. Nowell was a force all season, and ended 2023 with the 2nd-most assists in Big 12 history, sandwiched between two seasons from Doug Gottlieb. He also gathered the 3rd-most assists in NCAA Tournament history with 54, despite not playing in the final two games. It’s a well-earned honor for a future K-State Hall of Famer.
Friday was K-State’s pro day, and several Cats had standout performances. Ekow Boye-Doe clocked in the low-4.3 range in his 40 time, and appeared like he had gained muscle mass since starting to get prepared for the NFL. Deuce Vaughn also ran at the Pro Day despite not doing so at the Combine, and clocked in the mid-4.4 range. And taking some advice from Darren Sproles, Vaughn also showed his versatility by taking punts outside on a windy day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The lone sour note of the event was Eli Huggins needing to be carried off the field after suffering a lower leg injury, which may limit his ability to garner much attention both in the Draft and in the UDFA market after the Draft.
Despite the obviousness of his decision, it was still a struggle at the end for Deuce before he finally decided to forgo his last year at K-State to pursue his NFL dreams. But that leaves K-State with a major hole in the backfield, one that will hopefully be filled by the duo of DJ Giddens and Treshaun Ward. Giddens, of course, was Vaughn’s understudy this past season as the Junction City native put on a couple shows of his own during the season. Ward comes to K-State after a couple of really good seasons at Florida State, and will look to be more of the lightning to Gidden’s thunder.
There was also a coaching addition down the river that has caused some consternation among K-State fans for various reasons. It’s hard to begrudge a man for wanting to take a job close to home, especially when his career so far has been entirely in D1 football and it’s the next-closest place with a D1 football program (jury is still out on if they are fully back to D1 status...). But the optics of it still aren’t the best, especially as the son of the man whose name graces the football stadium at Kansas State. Oh well.