Top 10 Moments of the 2000s: No. 3

Cats Advance to First Big 12 Title Game

Note: This is the eighth edition of a 10-part series chronicling the top 10 Kansas State Baseball moments of the 2000s, counting down to the Wildcats' 2010 season opener on February 19 against Delaware. The events were voted on by an eight-person panel consisting of: Head Coach Brad Hill; former Head Coach and Director of Development Mike Clark; Associate Athletics Director Casey Scott; Director of Baseball Operations Justin Tadtman; Sports Information Director Kenny Lannou; Baseball SID Ryan Lackey; and the Voices of K-State Baseball, Brian Smoller and Matt Walters.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Heading into the season, Kansas State expected it. It just took until the final weeks of the regular-season for the talent to come to fruition.

The 2008 Wildcats returned 22 letterwinners, including 11 pitchers from the previous season, and were expected by many to have one of their better seasons in recent memory. But with two weekends left in the Big 12 regular-season, the Cats were flirting with the possibility of no postseason play.

That all changed as the Cats won four of their final six conference games -- including a sweep of in-state rival Kansas -- to finish tied for sixth in the conference and earn their second-straight conference-tournament berth.

Much like the 2002 season, Kansas State's great play continued in the Big 12 Championship.

The Wildcats drew sixth-ranked Oklahoma State in their first game of the tournament as a pair of K-State pitchers tied school records. Brad Hutt, the ace of the 2008 pitching staff, shut down the top-hitting club in the league. He allowed just one run in 6.2 innings while spraying six hits -- three of which were infield singles -- and struck out a season-high six batters.

In the meantime, Nate Tenbrink hit a two-run homer, while Dane Yelovich hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth to push the Cats ahead 3-0.

That would be all Kansas State needed as Daniel Edwards pitched dominant eighth and ninth innings to earn his 11th save of the season, tying the single-season record for the second-consecutive year and giving the Wildcats a 3-2 victory.

Following an off-day, K-State took on Nebraska in its second game of pool play. The seventh-ranked Huskers scored two runs in the third inning on a double and a sacrifice fly, but Kansas State tied the game in the fourth. After Nebraska tallied one run in the fifth, the Huskers came back with a pair of runs in the seventh to put the game away and go on to win, 5-2.

With the loss, the Wildcats needed help to keep their championship dreams alive. That help came from Oklahoma State, as the Cowboys defeated Nebraska before K-State's game against Baylor, setting up a "win-and-get-in" scenario for the Cats.

Down 2-1 after a two-run Baylor sixth, the Wildcats took back their one-run lead in the bottom half of the inning as Tenbrink and Justin Bloxom hit back-to-back singles to lead off the frame. Following a strikeout, Drew Biery hit a pitch up the middle to plate Tenbrink and tie the game at two. Byron Wiley was next and hit another single back up through the box to score Bloxom and give the Cats their 3-2 lead.

But the Bears would not go down easily as starting pitcher Justin Murray walked the first man he faced in the seventh and was lifted for Trevor Hurley. The junior proceeded to strike out Raynor Campbell for the first out, and Kansas State went back to the pen to bring in Ben Hornbeck.

The tall left-hander gave up a hit to Beemer Weems but forced Ben Booker to fly out. Following a walk to put runners on first and second, Shaver Hansen fouled out to end Baylor's last scoring threat of the night.

Edwards did the rest for the Kansas State pitching staff as the senior threw a hitless 1.2 innings to pick up his school-record 12th save of the season and send the Cats to their first-ever title game on the heels of a 3-2 victory.

Although the Wildcats dropped the championship game to Texas, everyone associated with the program believed that their performance in the 2008 Big 12 Championship was not the ending but a beginning. Kansas State's 2008 Big 12 Championship run set the stages for a historic 2009 season.

Top 10 K-State Baseball Moments of the 2000's
No. 10: Into the Bottom of the 20th We Go... (2/9)
No. 9: Cats Top KU Before Record Crowd (2/10)
No. 8: Hill, Morris Garner National Awards (2/11)
No. 7: K-State Advances to First Big 12 Tournament (2/12)
No. 6: Cats Take Two at No. 2 Texas
No. 5: Clark Retires as Winningest Coach in School History (2/14)
No. 4: Brad Hill Hired as Head Coach (2/15)
No. 3: Cats Advance to First Big 12 Title Game (2/16)
No. 2: February 17
No. 1: February 18