SE: K-State BSB’s Big 12 Championship Chances Lie in Final Regular Season Series

K-State’s baseball team has been here before — backed against a wall, fighting for a spot in the Big 12 Championship, and running out of time. It’s not an ideal position, as any of the Wildcats will admit, but it’s one they have experience overcoming.  

Last year, the Wildcats pulled out a much-needed series win over Kansas in the second-to-last Big 12 series of the regular season to move into the final spot of the conference tournament. 

K-State looks to make some late-season movement up the Big 12 standings again when it faces off with Baylor in a three-game series, starting on Thursday in Waco, Texas. 

“Having that knowledge that we’re still in it, we’re going to keep fighting and not give up. We just have to keep finding a way until we make it,” senior infielder Josh Ethier said. “That’s been our attitude all year, just keep fighting.”

The Wildcats currently sit a half game behind Oklahoma State for the final spot in the Big 12 Championship. To extend its season past Saturday’s regular-season finale, K-State will need to pick up one more conference win this week than the Cowboys, who face in-state rival Oklahoma. 

“It’s kind of the same situation,” K-State senior infielder Jake Wodtke said. “We’ve been here before. We know what we need to do. We just have to keep winning. That’s what’s on everybody’s minds and it’s what we’re prepared to do.” 

K-State (27-25, 6-15) dropped its series to Kansas last weekend but ended it on a high note. The Wildcats won Sunday’s game in convincing fashion, capping the series with a 10-3 victory that not only cut a game off of Oklahoma State’s lead for eighth place but also boosted spirits in the locker room. 

“It’s good to get a win both for the standings, as we’re trying to move up and get into the tournament, but also to carry some momentum into the weekend,” Wodtke said. “To get everybody on the same page and get that feel of winning again in the conference, it’s huge going into the weekend.” 

“It was huge for confidence,” Ethier added of Sunday’s win, in which freshman starter Kasey Ford tossed seven shutout innings to earn Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors. “Going into this weekend, we still have a chance to make the tournament, so that was a big win. Baylor is very beatable, so I think we have a chance to make some moves and hopefully make the tournament.” 

Baylor (33-17, 11-10) entered the final week of the regular season in a three-way tie for third in the conference standings but could potentially move as high as second before next week’s Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

While the Wildcats’ all-time record with Baylor stands at 23-43, they have won their last three series against the Bears and seven of their last 10 games overall. This past success definitely gives K-State confidence, Ethier said, but it’s not the team’s only source for it.  

“They’re a much different team than they were last year. We’re very confident in who we have on our team and we think we can hang with anybody in the country,” Ethier said. “We showed it against TCU when we took them to extra innings twice and we’ve beaten Texas Tech, so we think we can hang with anybody in our conference.” 

With the Big 12’s second-best batting average (.293) and third-best team ERA (3.81), this Baylor team brings balance to the field. At the plate, seven Bears have recorded at least 25 RBI. On the mound, five pitchers have thrown more than 20 innings with an ERA below 3.50, highlighted by starter Montana Parsons (5-2, 2.49 ERA) and closer Troy Montemayor (12 saves, 0.84 ERA). 

“We know what kind of ball club they are,” Wodtke said. “Knowing our own identity and bringing that confidence from the win on Sunday is big for us going into the weekend.” 

Ethier and Wodtke, two of nine Wildcat seniors playing to extend their K-State careers, have been prime examples on how to balance the stress of knowing the end is near while not trying to do too much. 

“That’s where we fall back on the leadership of the older guys,” said Wodtke, hitting .500 (12-for-24) in his last two conference series. “We know the more we press, the harder it’s going to be on ourselves. By just taking it one day at a time and not putting too much pressure on ourselves, we should be in a good spot.”

“You can’t take these games for granted,” added Ethier, who went 6-for-11 with four RBI in last weekend’s series with Kansas. “Right now, we’re only guaranteed three games, so we’re trying to build our way and play for those tournament games… and just keep the jersey on a little longer.”

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