Kansas State adds to its trophy haul

The Manhattan in Kansas is commonly referred to as the "Little Apple," but these days, the home to Kansas State University has been going by another nickname: "Title Town."

It's been a magical year in Manhattan, as the Wildcats have captured Big 12 titles in football, men's basketball and, most recently, baseball.

In the BCS era, only Stanford (1999-2000), Texas (2005-06) and Louisville (2012-13) have accomplished the same feat.

"Winning a championship is very difficult, and a lot of things have to go right," said John Currie, who's been K-State's athletic director since 2009.

"So I'm very pleased and very proud."

The football team got the winning rolling in the fall. Spearheaded by hard-nosed quarterback Collin Klein, the Wildcats steamrolled to their first conference title since 2003. In the spring, K-State earned a share of the men's basketball regular-season championship -- its first since 1977.

Then in May, the baseball team clinched its first regular-season league title in 80 years.

This weekend, K-State will host a baseball regional for the first time, too. Because of expected attendance, the school has put in portable bleachers around Tointon Family Stadium, and standing-room-only tickets are all that remain on sale.

"I'm not gonna lie, there's a lot of buzz around here," said baseball coach Brad Hill, who, along with football's Bill Snyder and basketball's Bruce Weber in their respective sports, was voted Big 12 Coach of the Year -- the first sweep of those awards by one school in Big 12 history.

The Wildcats captured three of the other six major baseball awards, as well. Second baseman Ross Kivett was named Big 12 Player of the Year; relief pitcher Jake Matthys earned Freshman of the Year honors; and outfielder Jared King was selected Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year. Catcher Blair DeBord, first baseman Shane Conlon, shortstop Austin Fisher and closer Tanner Witt were also named to the first team.

K-State dominated the Big 12's football awards, too, with Klein winning Offensive Player of the Year and linebacker Arthur Brown earning Defensive Player of the Year honors.

"I think positive peer pressure is a great tool for success," Currie said. "When our student-athletes see others have success, I think that can certainly be a motivator."

Defying external expectations has been another motivator in Manhattan.

Like the football and basketball teams -- which were picked sixth and fifth respectively in preseason conference polls -- the baseball squad was not given much of a shot by the league's coaches.

But after being picked to finish seventh, K-State went 16-8 in the Big 12 and 41-17 overall, driven by a .323 team batting that's second-best in the country. In winning the Big 12, the Wildcats also made the biggest leap from a preseason selection in conference history.

"We pride ourselves at this university as being a blue-collar organization, hardworking, always competing -- even if no one expects anything out of us," DeBord said. "These three teams not being picked to do anything, then at the end of the year to be holding the trophy -- it's been really sweet."

The winning might not be done just quite yet in Title Town.

True, the Wildcats have never advanced to a super regional, much less the College World Series.

But Kansas State has defeated Friday's opponent, Wichita State, in both their meetings this season. And, like the football and basketball teams, the Wildcats have been especially tough at home, with a 24-7 record in Manhattan, where they'll be playing at least for this weekend.

"It's strange how this works, but when other teams here have success, you kind of feed off that," Hill said. "Hopefully that continues … and we do what we've done all year."