Rounding out the preview of the Fullerton Regional, here's a closer look at Stanford's opponent today (4 p.m., ESPNU and ESPN3), the Kansas State Wildcats. Look for a Game Thread later today.
Record: 36-23 RPI: 41
How They Got Here: The Wildcats earned their third consecutive NCAA regional bid by winning 8 of their last 11 games and finishing sixth in the Big 12. Despite the strong finish, head coach Brad Hill said he wasn't convinced his team would receive a bid after going 2-2 in the Big 12 Championship. "I didn't feel as good after Saturday's ballgame," Hill said. "You figure that if Missouri won (the Big 12 Championship), there was no way they were going to take seven teams out of the Big 12, and six might be a stretch. It was a long 48 hours, no question." (In the Saturday game that Hill refers to, the Wildcats had leads of 5-0 and 8-4, only to lose to Texas A&M, 9-8, in 11 innings.)
Overview: Like Illinois, Kansas State appears to have hit its stride at the right time. The Wildcats have hit .305 as a team over their last 25 games to raise their team average to .280. K-State's pitching (4.21 ERA) has been up and down throughout the season. The Wildcats lost to California, 8-1, back in February in their only game against a Pac-10 opponent this season. Kansas State is 7-13 against ranked opponents this season.
Players to Watch:
- Kyle Hunter: The junior left-hander gets the start today against Stanford. Hunter is 5-4 with a 4.26 ERA this season and is coming off one of his most impressive performances of the year (7 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 9 K against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship). Hunter struck out 78, walked 25, and allowed only two home runs in 86.2 innings pitched this season.
- James Allen: Allen, who is 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA and 17 saves, was named a Third Team All-America by Collegiate Baseball. The junior right-hander has limited opponents to a .179 batting average.
- Jason King: K-State's third baseman hit .333 with 10 home runs, 19 doubles, 6 triples, and 57 RBI (all team-highs). King, who is slugging .608, also had 16 stolen bases in 18 attempts. He's been especially hot of late, batting 10-for-16 in the Big 12 Championship.
- Jared King: Jason's younger brother, a freshman, blasted 8 home runs and drove in 40 while hitting .314 and slugging better than .547.
Notable: The Wildcats lost their only previous meeting with Stanford, 8-7, on March 22, 1971.