K-State Opens Sunshine State Classic with Ohio State

The Kansas State baseball team opens its 2017 campaign Friday at the D9 Sunshine State Classic in Kissimmee, Florida, with a four-game opening weekend against Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Delaware at Osceola County Stadium.

The Wildcats will face off with Ohio State Friday at 11 a.m. CT as redshirt sophomore Bryce Ward will make his first career Opening Day start. Saturday, K-State will have a doubleheader against Pitt (10 a.m.) and Delaware (4 p.m.) with junior right-hander Justin Heskett and sophomore righty Brogan Heinen getting the nods, respectively.

The Cats will close out their trip to the Sunshine State against Ohio State on Sunday at 10 a.m., with senior left-hander Parker Rigler taking the mound. Rigler led K-State with 15 starts in 2016.

All four games will be broadcast on local radio at KMAN 1350 AM and 93.3 FM, with John Kurtz (play-by-play) and Christopher Brown (analyst) calling the action. Saturday's second game will be joined in progress immediately following coverage of the K-State women's basketball game. Audio of every K-State baseball game streams free online at k-statesports.com.

A LOOK AT K-STATE

Kansas State enters 2017 with 15 returning letterwinners (9 seniors) and 21 newcomers ... Key returners include All-Big 12 selections Jake Scudder and Josh Rolette ... Scudder was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year while Rolette was earned Freshman All-America honors by Collegiate Baseball ... K-State qualified for the Big 12 Championship for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons and was picked eighth in the Big 12's preseason coaches' poll.

A LOOK AT OHIO STATE

Ohio State (44-20-1) made its 20th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2016, finishing second in the Louisville Regional ... The Buckeyes retain 17 letterwinners but just a pair of starting position players along with two starting pitchers ... Senior SS Jalen Washington and junior OF Tre' Gantt highlight the Bucks' returners ... K-State owns a 3-1 lead in the all-time series with OSU and have won the last three meetings ... The Cats and Buckeyes last played in 2007.

A LOOK AT PITT

Pitt (25-26) ended the 2016 season in 13th in the ACC standings and enter the new season picked seventh in the Coastal Division ... The Panthers brings back five position starters from last season to go with two starters and four relievers ... K-State leads the all-time series, 1-0, taking the only previous meeting in 2015 (7-0).

A LOOK AT DELAWARE

Delaware (32-22) finished 2016 tied for seventh in the Colonial Athletic Association and were picked fourth in the CAA preseason coaches' poll ... The Blue Hens bring back eight starters from a season ago, led by preseason All-CAA selections OF Kyle Baker, OF Jordan Glover, 1B Nick Patten and LHP Brandan Walter ... The Wildcats and Blue Hens have only met once, an 11-5 K-State victory in 2010.

OPENING DAY

Redshirt sophomore Bryce Ward will make his second career start Friday vs. Ohio State ... Ward missed all of 2016 with an injury and will be making his first appearance since May 3, 2015 ... Ward will be the 10th different Opening Day starter for the Cats since 2008.

LEADERS RETURN

For the fifth time in six seasons, K-State returns at least one of its top hitters in terms of overall or conference-only games ... Jake Scudder led the Cats in hitting both overall (.333) and was the conference leader during Big 12 play (.407).

SEASON OPENERS

K-State is 9-4 in season openers under head coach Brad Hill ... The Wildcats have won seven of their last eight season openers, including a 1-0 victory at UC Riverside last season ... This marks the 14th straight season K-State opens its season on the road.

AT THE PLATE

K-State concluded the 2016 season with its ninth trip over the last 10 years to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship ... The Wildcats ended with a 26-31 record and 8-16 mark in the Big 12 - which placed them in eighth in the regular season standings ... K-State was forced to bounce back from a 0-8 start to the Big 12 schedule - as part of a 2-13 stretch from March 18-April 9 - by winning 13 of its 20 games through mid-May to insert itself into the conference postseason tournament ... Three Wildcats earned All-Big 12 honors, highlighted by Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Jake Scudder, while the team as a whole experienced gains in pitching and offense from the previous season.

HIGH-CLASS INFIELD

K-State starts the 2017 season with a senior-filled infield: Jake Scudder (1B), Josh Ethier (2B), Quintin Crandall (3B) and Jake Wodtke (SS) ... The foursome has combined to play 260 game (218 starts) in a Wildcat uniform.

OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE

The K-State offense experienced gains in nearly all of the major statistical categories compared to 2015 ... The Wildcats hit .284, which was up 25 points from last season and their highest team batting average since 2013 (.322) ... K-State also averaged its most runs per game (5.9) since 2013 (6.4) ... In other categories, the Wildcats had 550 hits (2015: 484), 101 doubles (69), 30 home runs (8) and 300 RBI (260).

BIG 12 RANKS

K-State was one of the Big 12's top offenses as its .284 team batting average in overall games was fourth best in the league while the .372 OBP and .400 SLG were both fifth ... In conference-only games, the Wildcats finished third in team batting average (.284), fourth in OBP (.363) and fourth in SLG (.412) ... It was the first time K-State finished in the top-four in all three categories for conference-only games since 2013.

ON THE PITCH

From a pitching perspective, the K-State hurlers registered the most strikeouts for the program since 2011 with 440 ... It was also the first time K-State had 400+ strikeouts in a season since 2012 ... The Wildcats averaged 7.9 strikeouts per 9 innings, which was the best mark for the team since 1976 (8.2) ... Also, Wildcat pitchers held opponents to a .279 batting average against - their best clip against since 2013 (.262) - and turned in a 5.06 ERA - which is 8th best in program history during the aluminum bat era (since 1977).

WE'RE GOIN' STREAKING

Senior infielder Jake Scudder enters the 2017 campaign on an 11-game hitting and on-base streak while fellow senior infielder Quintin Crandall ended 2016 with an eight-game on-base streak.

APPROACHING HISTORY

Entering his 14th year as the Wildcat skipper, head coach Brad Hill is just 20 wins from becoming the program's all-time winningest coach ... Last season, Hill became just the second K-State head coach to reach the 400-win mark (Mike Clark) ...Clark is author of 435 career wins and Hill enters 2017 with 416 victories.

ALL-BIG 12 HONORS

A trio of Wildcats garnered All-Big 12 honors following the regular season, led by senior outfielder Clayton Dalrymple who earned first team honors ... Jake Scudder was named All-Big 12 Second Team while Josh Rolette was tabbed All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and All-Big 12 Freshman Team ... Dalrymple was the first Wildcat since Tanner Witt in 2013 to pick up his first career All-Big 12 honor as a senior ... Rolette was the first K-State freshman to earn at least All-Big 12 Honorable Mention since Jake Matthys in 2013 ... Scudder was the first Wildcat newcomer to earn All-Big 12 honors since Matthys in 2013.

AWARD CABINET

In addition to the 3 All-Big 12 honors, the Wildcats picked up 4 Big 12 player of the week awards and 7 Academic All-Big 12 accolades ... Tyler Moore was also the first Wildcat to be named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List (nation's top catcher) since 2014.

POWER SUPPLY

After a program-low eight home runs in 2015, K-State broke out for 30 homers last year, its most in a season since 2011 ... The 30 roundtrippers were K-State's second most in a season during the BBCOR era (35 in 2011) ... Eleven different Wildcats hit a home run, the most for K-State since 2011 when it also had 11.