Owen Boerema’s journey to baseball stardom at Kansas State began in an unusual place

The Kansas State baseball team will put its faith in senior pitcher Owen Boerema when it takes the field for its first NCAA Tournament game in over a decade later this week.

Few, if any, could have seen that coming when Boerema began his college career a long way from both the Wildcats and this annual postseason event that ends at the College World Series.

Unlike most transfers that are currently playing for K-State coach Pete Hughes, Boerema did not start out at the Division I level. When the Wildcats recruited him they did so after he had already played three seasons for the University of Northwestern ... just not the one you’re probably thinking of from the Big Ten.

His former school is located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and resides in Division III.

Boerema is now an ace pitcher for K-State who posted a 6-3 record with 99 strikeouts this season. He is also coming off a gem of an outing at the Big 12 Tournament in which he lasted all nine innings and struck out 10 in an important win over West Virginia. The Wildcats are once again expecting big things from him when he gets the start against Louisiana Tech on Friday.

His journey from humble beginnings to this point truly epitomizes the Drake lyric: Started from the bottom now we here.

“He’s a great all-around pitcher,” K-State infielder Kaelen Culpepper said. “He spots and locates pretty well. He has what we like to call a funky delivery that gets a lot of guys off with their timing and things like that. But he has a lot of pitches that work well for him, and he can throw them pretty much wherever and whenever he wants.”

His release point is a bit unusual, as he throws the ball from a more horizontal angle than many other Big 12 pitchers. But he is also 6-foot-5, so it still comes in from a high point. And it gets the job done.

At the Division III level, it was hard for opponents to put the ball in play against him. Boerema maintained a 1.88 ERA while throwing 240 strikeouts during his three seasons there. Those numbers were too good for K-State to ignore when they recruited him as a transfer before last season.

Obviously, the competition is much stronger in the Big 12. That explains why his ERA has dipped to 4.98 over two seasons with the Wildcats. But the transition wasn’t too much for him, as he has posted a 13-5 record and earned second team All-Big 12 honors.

Radar guns clock his fastball around 90 mph, and he also knows how to fool hitters with a wide array of other pitchers.

Hughes said it was an easy decision to start him against Louisiana Tech.

“He competes and throws strikes,” Hughes said. “He’s never going to beat himself and loves the big moment.”

Perhaps the best part about his game is that little seems to faze him. He gave up three runs in the first inning his last time out against the Mountaineers, but he settled in and went on to throw 131 pitches in an 8-4 victory.

Boerema hasn’t surrendered more than four runs in any of his past six starts, and K-State found a way to win all six games.

Much like when he made the jump from Division III to Division I, his approach won’t change much when he pitches his first game in the NCAA Tournament.

“Our coaching staff has really done a good job of helping us prepare mentally for each game,” Boerema said. “When you look at our schedule, there’s been a lot of high quality games against teams that are in regionals now. You don’t really change your mentality from facing Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in season. Those are regional hosts that we were playing three times in a weekend. That has prepared us all year to be where we’re at now.”