Latrobe grad Kokoska finds his ‘place’ with Kansas State baseball
Feeling wanted on a team and knowing you’re in its future plans can do plenty for any baseball player’s confidence.
The opposite seemed to happen for Latrobe’s Zach Kokoska, though, when he arrived at Virginia Tech last year.
A new coaching staff came in with little to no knowledge of who Kokoska was, let alone that he was a former Gatorade Player of the Year in Pennsylvania, or that he helped lead his high school team to WPIAL and PIAA titles as a senior.
That led to an impasse.
“They gave me limited opportunity to show what I can do,” Kokoska said.
The new staff and Kokoska eventually were like two ships passing in the night. Kokoska started over, transferring to Kansas State to recharge his college career and try to find his place at another Division I program.
The sophomore appears to have found contentment with the Wildcats of the Big 12 Conference.
The team-leading sixth home run he launched earlier this week against Omaha is proof of that. The two-run shot helped the Wildcats to a 9-2 win.
“It has been awesome,” he said. “I am getting a lot more playing time, and I have my coaches and teammates that care about me.”
— K-State Baseball (@KStateBSB) April 23, 2019
Kokoska had planned to leave for Palm Beach State College before Kansas State inquired, a development that sent him on his way. A former Virginia Tech coach, Ryan Connolly, left to become the director of baseball operations at Kansas State. He did not forget about Kokoska, who did not have to sit out a year when he reunited with Connolly.
A 6-foot-2, 190-pound lefty, Kokoska was brought in as an outfielder and pitcher. He only played in 14 games at Virginia Tech with just one start.
He hit .267 and had four RBIs but did not pitch.
He has started 41 of 42 games for Kansas State (19-22, 5-7 Big 12), mainly in right field.
Kokoska leads the Wildcats in batting average (.329), total bases (74) and hit-by-pitch (6).
“I think I am doing just fine with how I am playing,” he said. “I just have to stay consistent with what I’m doing.”
He is tied for the team lead in homers (6) and has 27 runs scored and 24 RBIs.
“Zach has fit right into the K-State way,” Kansas State coach Pete Hughes said. “He has been one of our most consistent players since Day 1. This was a good move for everyone involved. We are glad that he is wearing the purple and white.”
Kokoska has 12 multi-hit games, including a 6-for-7 effort that saw him rip two triples and a homer in a two-game set against Northern Illinois. He drove in three and scored five in that series.
He went 3 for 4 against Texas Tech. And he had hit safely in 11 straight games heading into Friday’s game against Oklahoma.
The toughest part of playing halfway across the country, a sacrifice he knew he would have to accept, is missing friends and family.
“Just the adjustment of being so far away from anyone I know has been tough,” Kokoska said.
But he added, “This is my place.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .