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K-STATE VS. KU: IT'S ALL ON THE LINE

K-STATE VS. KU: IT'S ALL ON THE LINE

By Mark Janssen

When it comes to Big 12 baseball, 10 is normally the magic number of league wins that it takes to get a team to the Big 12 Tournament.

But that's normally.

Last year Missouri placed eighth for the final tournament position with a 10-16 record, while Nebraska missed by one-half game with a ninth-place 10-17 record.  Since the league went to a 10-team format, it's the only time that a team won at least 10 games and did not advance to the Big 12's postseason event.
 
Now one year later, it could very well happen for the second time as going into the final weekend of the year only 2.5 games separates fifth-place Baylor (11-13) and ninth-place Kansas (9-15).  In between are 10-13 Missouri, 10-14 Texas Tech and 9-14 Kansas State.
 
"Usually double-digit wins will at least make the conference tournament, but it may not be the case this year," said K-State coach Brad Hill.  "Teams have shown great resiliency and great toughness, which is what we will need to do this weekend."
 
In eighth place, K-State will play ninth place Kansas with the series winner guaranteed a spot in the league's eight-team tournament in Oklahoma City starting on Wednesday.  The teams will play in Manhattan at Tointon Family Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Friday, before traveling to Lawrence to complete the series on Saturday and Sunday with games starting at 6 p.m.
 
Of leading the Jayhawks by one-half game in the standings, and trailing Texas Tech by one-half game, Hill said, "We need to play one pitch at a time, take one at-bat at a time, and face one hitter at a time. That's all we can really do.
 
"We can't start talking about 'what ifs.'  We just have to try to do the things that allow us to be successful on the field," said Hill.  "We need to compete as hard as we can, play one pitch at a time and one hitter at a time, and try not to look too far ahead."
 
Hill admits that can be tough, but adds, "It depends on where your focus is.  You can't get caught up with what you're playing for.  You can only get caught up with what allows us to be successful.  Our talk will only be about competing and taking a positive energy and passion to the field, instead of talking about 'having to win.' "
 
But, here are some of the "what-ifs" for K-State (31-21, 9-14 Big 12) and Kansas (26-27, 9-15 Big 12):

If K-State sweeps KU, it makes the Big 12 Tournament field.

If K-State goes 2-1 in the KU series, it makes the Big 12 Tournament field.

If K-State goes 1-2 in the KU series, the Wildcats would need Oklahoma State to sweep Texas Tech.

If K-State goes 1-2 in the KU series, the Wildcats would need Missouri to go at least 1-2 with Nebraska.

If K-State goes 0-3 in the KU series, the season ends.

Both the Wildcats and the Jayhawks are coming off lop-sided series, as last weekend K-State defeated New Orleans in a three-game series by a combined score of 34-5, while KU blasted Alabama A&M 46-5.
 
On the flip side is the fact that KU is 0-6 in its last two league series against Oklahoma and Texas Tech, while K-State is just 1-4 in its last two Big 12 series with Oklahoma State and Missouri.
 
INSIDE SOURCE? Does K-State have an advantage in the fact that John Szefc was a mid-year hire by coach Brad Hill from the Kansas staff?
 
"It can be, but if you don't execute it doesn't matter," said Hill of Szefc's inside information on the Jayhawk players.  "We've had great scouting reports all year, but you still have to execute pitches, execute plays and execute offensively."
 
BIG 12 STANDINGS: Texas A&M 18-6, Texas 17-7, Oklahoma 13-9, Oklahoma State 13-10, Baylor 11-13, Missouri 10-13, Texas Tech 10-14, Kansas State 9-14, Kansas 9-15, Nebraska 7-16
 
BIG 12 FINAL SERIES: Texas vs. Texas A&M, Oklahoma at Baylor, Missouri at Nebraska, Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, K-State vs. Kansas
 
BIG 12 TOURNAMENT: The league tournament will be staged at RedHawks Field at Bricktown in Oklahoma City, Okla., on May 25-29.  The title game will take place at 1 p.m. on the 29th.
 
IN THE POLLS: In this week's Top 15, Texas is No. 5, Texas A&M No. 11, Oklahoma No. 13 and Oklahoma State No. 22.


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