Brad Hill: Legend in the making?
Bill Snyder and Frank Martin can be linked to one thing, turning programs that were considered to be at the very bottom into legitimate championship contenders. Snyder took a team who had been to one bowl game in school history on an incredible ride which included 11 consecutive bowl games, 4 Big 12 North championships, and won the Big 12 title in 2003. Martin, who started his stint at K-State as an assistant for Bob Huggins, is in the process of reviving a sleeping giant of a program after taking the Wildcats to the Elite 8 for the first time since 1988. Now, another coach deserves the same amount of respect as these two great coaches: head coach of the baseball team, Brad Hill.
The K-State baseball program began in 1897 and during those 102 seasons, prior to 2009, the Wildcats had never made the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship tournament. K-State only had 8 players ever play in Major League Baseball. Enter head coach Brad Hill. Hill took over a program that prior to his arrival had a record of 15-37 in 2003. He instantly changed things around. Kansas State played a little bit of a softer schedule and in 2004 the Wildcats finished with a record of 26-30 (an 11 win improvement).
In 2004, Hill had his only losing season during his stint at Kansas State. In 2005, Hill led K-State to their first winning season (30-25 record) since 2002. The Bat Cats also beat #1 ranked, and eventual National Champion, Texas, giving K-State their first ever win against a #1 team in school history. Hill never quit building, as in 2006 the Wildcats improved again finishing the season with a 31-20-2 record and giving K-State back to back winning seasons. K-State narrowly missed the Big 12 Conference Tournament.
The line of historic accomplishments kept rising for coach Hill, who in 2007 led Kansas State to the conference tournament for only the third time in 11 years. With a record of 34-24 Kansas State was eliminated in the first round, but it was a huge leap for the program to make the tournament. Then in 2008 Kansas State was one game away from being crowned the Big 12 Champions. K-State shocked the conference in the Big 12 Tournament as they made it to the finals, only to lose to Texas. They finished their season with a record of 29-29 (ending the three year streak of winning seasons) but returned a lot of players for the 2009 season.
A year later in 2009 the Wildcats had the best season in school history. K-State once again made it to the finals of the Big 12 Tournament, where they lost to Texas yet again. AJ Morris was the leader for the Wildcats and he was the runner up for National Pitcher of the Year (Stephan Strasburg rightfully won the award). Kansas State also made the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship tournament for the first time in school history. K-State didn’t want their historic season to end just by making the tournament as they defeated Xavier in the first round. Then in the first game of the series against perennial power Rice, K-State outlasted the owls 7-6. Rice, however, proved to overmatch the Wildcats because in the next two games of the series Rice out scored K-State 21-4. Brad Hill was named 2009 Big 12 Coach of the Year.
After having such a successful season it is hard to imagine it getting any better in 2010, especially with AJ Morris going pro (drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 4th round). But the Bat Cats have proven that they are not a one-hit wonder. Kansas State has started the 2010 season with a very impressive 21-5 record. They swept their Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State, and beat college baseball powerhouse Wichita State for the 4th consecutive time. KSU is 4-2 in Big 12 play and looks to improve that record with a home series against a very tough Nebraska team starting Friday.
What Hill has done at Kansas State is remarkable, yet should come as no surprise. While at Central Missouri State, Hill won 8 regular season conference championships and 7 MIAA tournament championships in 9 seasons. He also won the Division II National Championship in 2003 and was runner up in 2001. Before his impressive career at Central Missouri State, he was an assistant at Kansas as well as the head coach at Hutchinson Community College where he holds the record for most wins in a season (34 in 1989) and highest winning percentage in a season (32-9 in 1990). Brad Hill has turned the program at Kansas State around, and Wildcat fans should expect the future to be even brighter with Hill as the skipper.