March is known as the month of madness in the college sports word. Normally it is basketball that is associated with that familiar catchphrase, but this year Big 12 baseball is making a case of its own.
Kansas State, the preseason favorite of the Big 12 coaches to successfully defend its 2013 conference title, took to the West Coast to open the season a month ago, away from the snow and frigid winter temperatures of the Midwest. The warner weather may have been a welcome relief, but certainly not the welcome they received in their two-week road trip. The Wildcats were rudely slapped with five consecutive losses and seven in their first eight games of the new season.
In the month of March, however, K-State has come howling back, registering nine consecutive wins since the calendar switched over from February and 10 wins in a row. The last seven of those wins have come at home at Tointon Family Stadium.
The Wildcats seemingly took out all of their early-season frustrations over the weekend, slamming Northern Colorado in three straight games, scoring a combined 45 runs on 50 hits. The score of Saturday’s game was more like a football game, with Kansas State putting up three touchdowns and a field goal in a 24-3 victory. The three-game demolition of Northern Colorado also served as a bit of revenge from the basketball season.
The Bears of Northern Colorado handed K-State a home-opening loss to begin the 2013-14 basketball season. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the NCAA Tournament-bound Wildcats reeled off 15 consecutive home victories and did not lose another home basketball game this season until the final game of the regular season.
Kansas State is now 11-7. Despite the 11-game winning streak, however, the Wildcats still find themselves at the opposite end of the league standings from in-state rival Kansas, which is off to a surprisingly strong start. The 14-5 Jayhawks served warning over the weekend that they should not be taken lightly, despite the fact that the league coaches projected Kansas to finish last in the conference in their annual preseason poll. Kansas took two out of three from the Texas Longhorns (15-6) in the conference-opening series for both schools. And that series was played in Austin.
This is the second year in a row that the Jayhawks have taken two of three from the Longhorns. Kansas’ All-Big 12 closer, Jordan Piche, was the winner in the series finale on Sunday after the Jayhawks scored five times in the top of the ninth to break a 1-1 tie. Piche recorded a save in the series opener, his third of the season, in a 3-2 Jayhawks victory.
In the only other conference series over the weekend, Baylor (10-9, 2-1) hosted Texas Tech (16-5, 1-2) and handed the Red Raiders their fourth and fifth loss of the season, winning two out or the three games.
In nonconference games this past weekend, Oklahoma (15-5) swept three games from Belmont, and TCU (12-7) did the same against visiting Dartmouth, allowing the Ivy League team just two runs total in the three games. West Virginia (10-6) exploded for 14 runs on 18 hits to salvage one of two games at Cal State Northridge. The Mountaineers’ ace starter, Harrison Musgrave, went 6.2 innings and gave up three earned runs on Friday but that wasn’t enough as West Virginia dropped a 4-2 decision.
This coming weekend, a couple more Big 12 teams host their 2014 league openers: Texas Tech travels to TCU for a three-game series, Oklahoma entertains Kansas State. Baylor plays host to Oklahoma State, as the Cowboys get their conference season underway. In addition, TCU plays a single game at Oklahoma on Tuesday.
Who will continue to play well in the final few weeks of the season? If you think your team will, now is the time to check out Red Zone Tickets and purchase your College World Series tickets for 2014!