Clement enjoying Kansas State’s ride to Super Regionals
That is the one word former Marshalltown Bobcat Mike Clement used to describe the run that the Kansas State baseball program is on.
And even though the Wildcats’ ride to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., has one more detour, Clement feels like it’s already been a dream season for the baseball program that plays their home games in Manhattan, Kan.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride,” said Clement, the Kansas State hitting coach. “This town is a great place to be and there is a ton of purple out and about right now.”
Kansas State has recorded a school-record 44 wins this season, claimed its first-ever Big 12 championship and won just its second conference title overall.
Add to that the fact that the Wildcats will be playing in their first-ever NCAA Super Regionals, and dream season is the best way to describe the 2013 campaign.
“It was our fourth-ever regional and the only time in school history that we hosted the regional,” said Clement, who helped guide the Wildcats to the second-best offensive output in the nation. “We have never played in a super regional so we are getting into areas this school has never been before.”
Kansas State (44-17) went 3-0 after wins over Wichita State, Bryant and Arkansas in the regional tournament this past weekend and will next travel to Oregon State (48-10) for a best-of-three series against the Beavers in Corvallis, Ore.
That series will start at 6 p.m. (CT) Friday, continue at 9 p.m. Saturday and could also have an “if necessary” game at 6 p.m. Sunday. The games will be aired on ESPNU and the winner advances to the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
“I got flooded with a bunch of text messages and phone calls after we beat Arkansas, and one of the first people to contact me was (brother) Jeff,” Mike Clement said. “He said the Clement family has some unfinished business to settle with Oregon State. Hopefully we can go up there and help him get some revenge.”
Jeff Clement’s USC Trojans lost to Oregon State in the super regionals during his junior season in Southern California.
Mike Clement is hoping for a different result this time around.
“The College World Series is about a two and a half hour drive from Marshalltown, so my family and I have seen lots of games from the outfield in the old Rosenblatt Stadium,” said the elder Clement. “I dreamt about playing there someday but was never good enough as a player to accomplish that. It was an unbelievable experience coaching there when I was at Texas A&M two years ago.
“I can tell you this, if we make it there, there will be a ton of purple in the stands.”
The Kansas State offense is the primary reason for the Wildcats’ success this year. Eight of the nine starters are hitting .300 or better.
“They believe in what we are doing and they don’t care who gets the credit,” Mike Clement said. “We have been down a lot this year but there is no panic in the dugout. They believe that this is their time and right now, it is their time.”
Clement and the rest of the coaching staff will need the Wildcat offense to be at their best against Oregon State, which features three outstanding starting pitchers and a sound defense.
“Oregon State has won two national titles under the current coaching staff and won a lot of games,” Clement said. “Our league has prepared us for the kind of pitching we will see the rest of the way though.”
The Wildcats already beat Arkansas, who led the country in earned run average, as well as Big 12 rival Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma. Gray is expected to be one of the first two picks selected in this year’s Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.
“Teams are going to have to pitch well to beat us,” Clement said. “If we get a lead though, our bullpen has been tremendous and has put up a lot of zeroes late in games.”
The Wildcats won their first-ever Big 12 Conference title when they won game one of a three-game series with Oklahoma earlier this season. It was the first conference championship since 1933 for Kansas State, which lost to the Sooners in extra innings in the Big 12 Conference Tournament final.
Not bad for a roster that was predicted to finish seventh in a vote by the league’s coaches during the preseason.
“The support we have gotten this year has been unbelievable,” Clement said. “This town is a lot like Ames in the sense that everything is wrapped around how well the school’s athletic teams do.”