Cats host No. 21 Texas for three-game series

By Brady Bauman

The Kansas State baseball team is hoping this Friday can turn out like last Friday.

Last week the Wildcats opened their weekend series in College Station, Texas with a win Friday night over the No. 8-ranked Texas A&M Aggies. It was a fireworks show, too, as K-State held on to win 15-12.

This weekend the Wildcats host No. 21 Texas for its Big 12 home opener at Tointon Family Stadium with a first pitch at 6:30 p.m.

The Wildcats lost the series 1-2 to the Aggies last weekend, but K-State head coach Brad Hill hopes his club can find that Friday night moxy again.

“We want to keep pointing back to Friday night,” Hill said, while the rain fell and ultimately canceled K-State’s Tuesday contest with Creighton Tuesday afternoon. “I thought it was just a great, mentally tough effort — to have a big lead, then lose it and get down by two, and then be able to come back and win.

“We can point to Friday and say, ‘Hey, we can be a very, very good ballclub — especially from an offensive standpoint.’ Hopefully we can utilize that against Texas, because we are going to see good arms again.”

The Wildcats go into this weekend’s series with a 12-8 record, while the Longhorns come to Manhattan with an 11-8 mark — with a 3-0 start in conference play. Texas swept Oklahoma in Norman last weekend, and defeated Stephen F. Austin 9-1 in Austin on Tuesday.

Junior infielder Tanner Witt, who totaled six hits in the A&M series, said he feels like he’s in a groove going into this weekend, and that the Longhorns’ pitching is always something to be concerned with.

“I feel comfortable,” he said. “This is the first time this season in the spring that it’s felt real fluid and comfortable, so it feels good going into the weekend.

“I know (Texas) has always had good pitchers and I’m sure they have good pitchers now. You always hear about how Texas has good pitching staffs, so hitters have a challenge. It will be a good test.”

Witt, who is hitting .350 with 12 RBIs this season, said the energy level is always special for Friday night games — especially at home.

“Friday night is the biggest game,” Witt said. “Getting that first ‘W’ and being up one game is always huge. It’s important to get that one under your belt.”

K-State goes into the three-game series as the top hitting club in the Big 12 with a team batting average of .310 and a league-leading on-base percentage of .427.

The Longhorns, meanwhile, are currently last in the conference in hitting with a .252 average. Texas is better in pitching though, ranking sixth. Texas has a team ERA of 3.62, while K-State is last in the Big 12 with an ERA of 5.50.

Hill says the baseball tradition with the Longhorns starts with head coach Augie Garrido, who has led Texas since 1996 and has guided the team to seven College World Series appearances — two of which UT was crowned national champions.

“You start with the coach,” Hill said. “He’s one of the greatest coaches in college baseball history. He makes unbelievable adjustments inside the game and he sees things that other coaches don’t see inside the game. He develops his kids that way and they buy into it.

“That’s why Texas is who they are. Augie does a tremendous job.”

Hill will give the nod to senior right-hander Matt Applegate on Friday, while Joe Flattery and Kayvon Bahramzadeh will see starts Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Saturday’s contest will have a 2 p.m. first pitch.

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