Record: 36-20, 14-12 Big 12 Conference
Coach:- 6th year at Kansas State (229-165-3)
How they got here: At large bid after finishing third in the Big 12.
NCAA Tournament history: This is Kansas State's second appearance in the tournament. 2009 was their first ever trip.
The season in a nutshell: The Wildcats feasted on their non-conference and early part of their Big 12 schedule, starting the season on a 20-3 tear. Once conference play got into full swing, they cooled off considerably. You could say they "backed into" the NCAA tournament, losing four of their last five. In conference, like the Cougs they picked up most of their wins at home, going 10-4 there against 4-8 on the road.
Standing in the batter's box, you don't want to face ... James Allen. The sophomore right-hander acted as the teams closer and could easily be described as "lights out." He led the team in ERA, WHIP, FIP, and average against. Allen has put a solid K/BB ration at nearly 3 to 1. He also pulled off the impressive feat of not allowing a single homer in 44 1/3 innings. I would recommend to WSU, GSU, and Arkansas to get their runs while the rest of the staff is in, because this guy is tough.
Looking down from the hill, don't give anything to hit to ... Carter Jurica. This is the hitter on the team who is most likely to crush a hanging breaking ball. He posted an impressive .247 ISO to go along with 1.048 OPS and .455 wOBA. He is a threat to steal as well, swiping 18 bags in 23 attempts.
This team is full of patient hitters, led by Nick Martini's ridiculous .507 OBP. In total, there are six K-State regulars who post OBP over .400. Once they get on they are likely going to take an extra base as well, as four different guys posted double-digit steal totals. WSU's Chad Arnold will have to be on top of his game, or this guys could put out a big inning in a hurry.
The Wildcats could win the regional if ...they excel in their small-ball approach, taking lots of walks and wreaking havoc on the basepaths. Even though these guys don't hit a lot of home runs, I would be just as terrified with a late one-run lead against them. With their speed and aggressiveness, all it takes is four bad pitches and seeing eye single and your lead is gone.
The Wildcats will be 0-2-barbecue if ... their patience at the plate and aggressiveness on the basepaths backfires. Opposing pitchers are around the zone and KSU finds themselves frequently behind in the count while rallies are being killed by poor decision-making on the bases.
I absolutely love KSU's approach at the plate, but I might not come Friday. Chad Arnold can be wild at times and he needs to be around the zone or the Wildcats will make him pay. One might look at WSU and KSU's numbers and find them to be very similar, but the one very big difference is in KSU's plate discipline. They give the other team trouble by forcing them to throw a lot of pitches and work deep into counts, while the Cougs are looking just to put the ball in play and see what happens.