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SLATE: Kansas State bats explode, blow Baylor out of Big 12 tourney

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Non-conference football schedule set, and you’re going to be mad.

When THIS picture was taken, most of the BatCats weren’t even in kindergarten yet.
When THIS picture was taken, most of the BatCats weren’t even in kindergarten yet.
Photo by Peter Aiken/WireImage

Two and a half weeks ago in Waco, Baylor scored 17 runs in one inning against Kansas State on the way to a 23-3 victory.

Yesterday, the BatCats got revenge, albeit without the tens digit. A seven-run seventh inning erased a Baylor lead and propelled K-State to a 9-4 victory in the Big 12 Baseball Championship.

Wednesday night, TCU had dashed K-State’s hopes in the opening round. The Wildcats took a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Cameron Thompson — who, when he stepped to the plate, became K-State’s all-time leader in games started — celebrated by drawing a five-pitch walk. Three batters later he scored on a Nick Goodwin single, and that was followed by a three-run shot by Dylan Phillips.

K-State ended up taking a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth. In the process, Jordan Wicks struck out nine, claiming the K-State career strikeout record with his third. But Wicks got in trouble in the sixth, and Eric Torres came on to try and bail him out.

He did not. TCU tied the game, but Torres pushed on to the ninth without allowing any more damage. Unfortunately, K-State wasn’t able to do any further damage either; TCU got seven innings of three-hit relief from three pitchers, giving up only the lone Wildcat run in the sixth.

In the bottom of the ninth, TCU’s Hunter Wolfe doubled to lead off the ninth against Tyler Eckberg (4-5). Wolfe moved up to third on a flyout, then a Phillip Sikes single resulted in a 7-6 walk-off win for the Frogs.

That heartbreaking loss, alas, probably condemned K-State to needing to win the championship to reach the NCAA tournament. But they’re either going to get another shot at TCU or a crack at #5 Texas Tech, and a win in that game tomorrow would mean one or two more chances against the winner of that game. It’s still possible for K-State to earn the committee’s respect if their next loss is to Texas, but it’s by no means assured.

K-State isn’t the only team sweating, however. Baylor, having bowed out meekly with last night’s loss, may have cost themselves a chance to play in a regional. Interestingly, that game was the first meeting between K-State and Baylor at the Big 12 tournament since 2013.

Mmm-hmm.

Baylor jumped out to a 3-0 lead, with Jared McKenzie leading off the third with a solo homer then driving in two runs on a single with two outs in the fourth. But in the sixth, K-State went to work. Zach Kokoska and Goodwin hit solo homers to make it 3-2, and then the BatCats erupted in the seventh. Four RBI singles by Thompson, Phillips, Terrence Spurlin, and Kokoska put K-State into a 6-3 lead, and then Caleb Littlejim drove the dagger into the Bears with a three-run jack to cap the inning.

Baylor got one run back in the seventh, but Carson Seymour (3-4) provided six innings of solid relief. The senior struck out six and only allowed five baserunners.

Because of bad weather later in the day, K-State remains unaware of who their opponent today will be. However, they will have the benefit of playing the loser of the TCU/Texas Tech game right after that game, with the start time moved to 12:30pm CT on ESPN+. The Frogs and Raiders will take the field at 9:00am, meaning that not only will the loser have to come right back for a second game, they’ll have been forced to get an early start on the day.

Of course, should the BatCats win today, the shoe will be on the other foot, as they’ll have to play at 9:00am Saturday and then come back for a repeat at 4:00pm if they win.

Track and Field

Two days of the NCAA West Preliminaries are in the books down in College Station, and thus far four Wildcats have advanced to the NCAA Championships. On Wednesday, Jullane Walker qualified in the men’s long jump, finishing ninth; Logan Wolfley, meanwhile, won the men’s javelin to earn his berth. Thursday, two more Wildcats guaranteed their places in Eugene. Taishia Pryce finished fourth in the women’s long jump, and Taylor Latimer took fifth in the women’s shot put. The women’s hammer competition is ongoing, as the second flight won’t take place until today; Helene Ingvaldsen (seventh) and Shaelyn Ward (twelfth) currently stand to advance, but neither are secure. Ashley Petr will be throwing in the second flight today.

Also on today’s schedule: other than the women’s hammer, only men’s events will be finalized as far as K-State participation is concerned. Those include the high jump, discus, triple jump, 800m, and 4x400m relay. The quarterfinals of the short-track races will also take place, which will include several Wildcats entries.

Basketball

Jeff Mittie has filled the vacuum caused by the departure of Chris Carr by promoting Ebony Gilliam to assistant coach. Her former position as coordinator of recruiting operations will be filled by former director of student-athlete development Sadie Thramer; her old position will in turn be taken over by director of video operations Staci Gregorio, who will also retain her old duties as video coordinator.

Gilliam returns to the sideline after four years managing recruiting; she was a bench assistant during Mittie’s first three seasons in Manhattan, following him over from TCU.

Football

And now, the controversy. K-State has announced gametimes and network assignments for its non-conference slate this fall. The season will open September 4 against Stanford at 11:00am on FS1. Both the early start and the network assignment are frustrating; after all, Texas gets to open with an afternoon kickoff against Louisiana-Lafayette, so why is a high-profile Power 5 game being shunted to what will be a 9:00am kickoff for Stanford’s home audience?

Oh, we know the real answer.

Both of K-State’s other non-conference games will be consigned to ESPN+. The September 11 game against Southern Illinois (6:00pm kickoff) is no surprise. The Nevada game, at 1:05pm on September 18, is.

In other words, K-State will not appear on a flagship network until the first time they get drawn for a conference contest.

Also announced, however, is a Good Thing. On Friday, November 26, K-State will be the guests at the annual Day After Thanksgiving game at Texas. That’ll air on FOX, and should draw a lot of eyeballs just by virtue of its timeslot and network in the rare case where playing at 11:00 is beneficial.


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