Don’t look now, but Kansas State is very close to adding its first regular-season baseball crown to its football co-championship from last fall and the regular-season basketball title the Cats share with Kansas. The Wildcats are in complete control of their diamond destiny with a three-game series against their biggest challenger, the Oklahoma Sooners.
The most amazing thing about this title run by K-State is the fact that they finished in a tie for seventh place in the standings just a year ago with only seven conference wins. They’ve doubled that total so far this season with three more conference games to go.
Kansas State (37-15, 14-7) holds a two-game lead over both the Sooners and West Virginia, the two teams with which the Wildcats were tied a week ago. The Cats have a four-game winning streak after sweeping their Sunflower series over the weekend against Kansas. The Jayhawks were in the hunt as well a week ago, just a half-game back of the leaders.
The Wildcats have done it all year with smoking hot bats and lots of offense, but over the weekend they complemented their offensive strength with timely pitching.
Oklahoma 35-16, 12-9), ranked 15th in the country last week in the USA Today Coaches Poll, came perilously close to being swept in its Bedlam baseball series with in-state archrival Oklahoma State. The Sooners managed to hold on in the series finale on Sunday, however, thanks to some timely offensive production from a several unlikely heroes. OU won one of three from the Cowboys, who moved ahead of the Sooners in the USA Today poll, claiming the 18th spot in the latest rankings. Oklahoma fell to 20th, one spot ahead of Kansas State.
West Virginia (30-22, 12-9) suffered the same fate as the Sooners over the weekend, dropping two games at home to TCU. The Mountaineers had won six of its last nine conference games before the Horned Frogs came to town.
That sets up the crucial three-game set this weekend between Kansas State and Oklahoma in Manhattan. (See our “Spotlight Game of the Week” preview later this week.) So far this year, the Sooners have not beaten K-State in football or basketball, and it remains to be seen if they will be able to break that mold this weekend on the diamond. All Kansas State must do to assure itself of no worse than a share of the Big 12 baseball crown is to win two of the three games with OU.
The Sooners, picked as the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 by the league coached, must win all three and hope that West Virginia drops two games at Oklahoma State to win the conference title outright. The Sooners, Mountaineers and Wildcats are the only teams with a chance to win the regular-season championship depending on the outcome of this weekend’s games.
“We’ve got a motto about being mentally tough,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said after winning the series finale with OSU. “I believe that’s what wins in college baseball. We’ve won 40 games for four straight years. There are only seven teams in America that have done that.”
Besides Kansas State hosting Oklahoma, the final weekend of regular season play finds West Virginia at Oklahoma State, Texas taking on TCU in Ft. Worth and hoping to escape the Big 12 basement, and Baylor, the defending conference champion, at Texas Tech. Kansas completed its conference schedule this past weekend against K-State. The Jayhawks will travel to Salt Lake City for three games with Utah, Friday, Sunday and Monday.
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