The Kansas State baseball team has already received some early licks to start off the season, but head coach Brad Hill is hoping the 3-4 start for his ball club has taught the Wildcats some early lessons.
K-State will play its home-opener against Pacific Friday with a 3 p.m. first pitch in Tointon Family Stadium. The series will be continued Saturday with a first pitch at 2 p.m. and will conclude Sunday with a noon start.
“We have some work to do,” Hill said following Wednesday’s practice. “You don’t like coming home 3-4, but again, we’d like to see some improvement over last week. It’s a big day and we should be excited getting to play at home.
“We have some things to work on. We’ve been working on them and the guys know areas we have to get better at, but I know we are excited to be at home, no question.”
K-State opened the season with a 7-5 win in extra innings at CSU Bakersfield in California Feb. 18, but dropped the final two games in the weekend series 7-3 and 8-1.
The Wildcats then took part in the San Diego Tournament and came out of it 2-2, with both wins coming against San Diego State 7-2 and 15-7. The losses came against San Diego in a lop-sided 15-1 defeat, and to Oregon State in a 13-5 thrashing.
Hill again reiterated the focus on improvement with this weekend’s series against Pacific, which comes to Manhattan 1-8.
The Tigers, who hail from the Big West Conference, are fresh off a 13-10 home win against Sacramento State.
“We’re disappointed (with our start),” Hill said. “But as a coach, you are like, ‘okay, nobody is happy with 3-4, but are we going to see improvement this week? Are we going to see some of the relieving corp throw more strikes… compete through some pressure situations? Are we going to be better offensively this week than we were before? We’ve seen guys taking some better swings and understanding some situations a little bit better.
“There are a lot of areas for us to get better in right now, so what we want to see this weekend is some improvement.”
Sophomore slugger Jared King, who is currently batting .467 with four RBI’s through the first seven games, said he is ready to get the season going at Tointon.
“We’re definitely very excited to be home,” King said. “We have learned some things about the team throughout the first week and we are excited to open this Friday. We are pretty pumped.
“The offense is getting a lot better. The first weekend we were a little shaky, but we are getting better. We did well against San Diego State last week and had 21 hits (in the 15-7 win), so we feel strong offensively right now. I’m feeling good. I’m not trying to think too much. Hitting, as hard as it is… I just try and keep it simple. I just try and watch the ball.”
K-State senior pitcher Kayvon Bahramzadeh got the win on the mound against San Diego State in the 7-2 victory and allowed just one run on four hits with a walk and two strikeouts in six innings of work against the Aztecs last Saturday.
The right-hander said the key for the pitching staff is consistency.
“The big thing for us is stopping big innings,” Bahramzadeh, who has an ERA of 3.12 in two appearances, said. “If you look at the games we lost it’s always been like a four or five-spot on the scoreboard. We need to minimize that to one or two to keep our team in the ball game.”
The big innings surrendered were also a concern for Hill.
“We just did not do a good job of stopping big innings,” he said. “That’s always the thing in baseball and guys talk about, that successful teams don’t give up big innings, and we did. We could never recover from those offensively.
“So, again, how do we get those stops? That comes from executing on the mound, making good pitches when we have to, getting ahead in the count, trying to get the hitter to hit our pitch, so those are things we are going to have to get better at.”