WIN-OR-ELSE TIME IN THE BIG 12
By Mark Janssen
Talk about a pack, that's exactly what the Big 12 Conference has become with its lower six baseball teams.
Kansas State enters Big 12 play against Missouri this weekend with an 8-12 record. That's good for only eighth place in the current standings, but also just one-half game in back of the three-way tie for fifth, sixth and seventh where Baylor, Texas Tech and Kansas stand with 9-12 marks.
The flip side is that the Wildcats lead ninth-10th place Missouri and Nebraska (6-11) by just 1.5 games with six conference games to play.
With K-State still having series with Mizzou this weekend and Kansas in two weeks, head coach Brad Hill was asked about whether winning each series was a must for K-State to finish in the top eight and qualify for the Big 12 Championships.
"I haven't looked at numbers as to who's where, but if we win both series, yes, we should be in pretty good shape," said Hill.
Heading into the series with the Tigers (19-26, 6-11 Big 12), Hill said, "We have nothing to lose. We just want to go play. We want to play hard and compete and try to find some consistency that we've lacked all year. We'll play four or five games and show good signs, and then not do what we need to do to be successful."
K-State has struggled since the start of Big 12 play winning only the series against Oklahoma and Texas Tech, but dropping the other five to Texas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Nebraska and Texas A&M.
"We're just trying to get them to realize when we have competed what the results have been, and when we haven't competed very good what the results have been, and why it has happened," said Hill. "I think we're still searching for an identity. We'll show signs of what we want to accomplish, but then fall off a bit."
START TIMES: Friday, 6:30 p.m. - Kyle Hunter (4-4, 3.90) vs. Eric Anderson (0-0, 7.13); Saturday, 2 p.m. - Matt Applegate (4-3, 4.30) vs. Matt Stites (3-3, 3.36); Sunday, 1 p.m. - Shane Conlon (2-0, 2.37) vs. Rob Zastryzny (2-3, 3.90).
BY THE NUMBERS: Kansas State's team batting average is .265 is seventh in the Big 12, while its team ERA of 3.68 ranks sixth in the league. Nick Martini's average of .329 ranks 14th in the league.
Also hitting over .300 for K-State is Ross Kivett at .302. Jason King leads the Wildcats in home runs (8) and RBI (40) and Mike Kindel is tops in doubles (14).
Missouri is the lone Big 12 team to be below .500 on the year with a 19-26 record. The Tigers have been plagued by poor hitting (.261) and a lack of power (15 homers, ninth out of 10 teams), but their 81 stolen bases rank third. On the mound, MU's team ERA was 4.59, which ranks ninth.
The Tigers had a string of nine straight losses in Big 12 play, but in the last two weekends has defeated Baylor and Texas A&M in series, 2-1.
Of the Tigers recent play, Hill said, "Something clicked along the way and they're playing great baseball right now and believing in themselves. They're doing whatever it takes to win. They're throwing strikes, they don't strike out and they'll get hit by a pitch. They just do whatever it takes to score a run.
"It'll be a test of battles," continued Hill. "It will be whoever stays in the battle the longest, whether it's their pitching or our hitters."
Both teams are coming off disappointing games as Tuesday, MU lost to Missouri State, 5-0, while Wednesday, K-State fell to Cal State Bakersfield, 13-10.
ALLEN ON WATCH LIST: James Allen (Kansas State), Corey Knebel (Texas), Joaquin Hinojosa (Texas A&M) and John Neely (Texas Tech) have been named to the midseason watch list for the seventh annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.
Allen currently has an ERA of 0.88 with a 2-1 record, plus 15 saves. Teams are hitting just .152 against Allen this season. He has pitched 30 2/3 inning in his 22 appearances.
SOUTH DOMINATES: Only four teams from the Big 12 are ranked among the Top 25 teams in the nation and all of those are entries from the South: No. 6 Texas, No. 9 Texas A&M, No. 14 Oklahoma and No. 16 Oklahoma State.
BIG 12 STANDINGS: Texas 15-6, Texas A&M 15-6, Oklahoma State 12-8, Oklahoma 10-9, Texas Tech 9-12, Baylor 9-12, Kansas 9-12, Kansas State 8-12, Nebraska 6-11, Missouri 6-11
THE REST OF THE WAY: With a record of 27-18, K-State has 10 games remaining. That includes hosting Missouri this weekend, entertaining New Orleans on May 13-15, traveling to Wichita State on May 17, and hosting Kansas on May 20 before traveling to Lawrence on May 21-22.
The top eight teams from the league advance to the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City on May 25-29.
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.