K-State baseball features local players

By Brady Bauman

The Kansas State baseball team has historically featured its share of local Manhattan High talent.

This year, the Wildcats roster features four MHS graduates.

But there’s more to the simple fact that K-State head coach Brad Hill has a large high school in his own backyard to pull from.

These players earn their spot.

“It’s so important for us when we have kids that are local that we feel that can fit into our program,” Hill said earlier this week. “They fit a need that we have.”

As K-State prepares for this weekend’s four-game series with Hartford at Tointon Family Stadium — with the first game having kicked off today at 3 p.m. — Hill said the latest roster requirements make recruiting even tougher and makes it an even greater accomplishment to make the cut.

“It’s something you have to look at today in the NCAA with our roster limits, because it does make it a little more difficult sometimes,” Hill said. “If you look back, there are two or three kids that could fit in our program, but now that you only have 35 slots you can’t be quite as lenient in letting kids in.”

Currently, the MHS alums include senior infielder Matt Giller, sophomore catcher Blair DeBord, freshman infielder Dusty Maas and outfielder Kyle Speer, who is also a freshman.

In the past K-State has featured Manhattan High standouts such as pitcher Justin Murray, infielder Derek Bunker and Brett Scott, another infielder.

Murray was selected in the 29th round by the Oakland A’s in the 2008 Major League Amateur Draft.

“I think the big thing from high school to the college game is the mental game,” Giller said. “There’s more pressure on you in college and there’s more at stake.

“But it’s cool growing up and seeing those guys ahead of you come here and excel. I looked up to Justin Murray, Derek Bunker and Brett Scott. They were three to four years ahead of me and it kind of set my goals, to follow in their footsteps.”

Hill praised the MHS baseball program, which has been a league — and often state contender year in, year out.

“Tradition is big, and (MHS) has tradition,” Hill said. “They know about winning and they are used to winning at Manhattan High, and that’s a big factor when you come into (division one baseball). Those kids don’t expect to lose and they expect to win, and that’s a product of head coach Don Hess and what he’s done with that program.

“Matt Giller came in as a walk-on and worked himself into a prominent role on this ballclub. He’s a leader on this team and we feel like Kyle and Dusty are going to be very good players as they go and Blair has been a leader for us as well.”

Speer, who has seen seven at-bats so far in his rookie season, credited his coaching at MHS.

“The coaches are great people and they know the game,” he said. “They do what they can to make you better.

“Having a college baseball team in your backyard (is big). Everybody wants to play for their hometown — especially a D-1 baseball program.”

Giller has started six games and is batting .263 for the season with two runs batted in and DeBord, who has started every game, is batting .300.

Maas has seen action in seven games and has a double.

Saturday will be a double-header for the Wildcats with a noon first pitch and the series will conclude Sunday at 11 a.m.

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