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sLATE: Wildcats get back to action this weekend

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BatCats and tennis Cats facing tough foes, plus basketball stuff.

Kansas St. vs TCU baseball Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Baseball

So much for taking a winning streak into Big 12 play. After having Tuesdays game cancelled, the Kansas State Wildcats came out as cold as the weather on Wednesday, falling behind 3-0 early, before coming back to tie the game in though the bottom of the 6th, but then allowed another run in the 7th and couldn’t answer again, falling 4-3 to Air Force on Wednesday. The loss snaps K-State’s 8-game winning streak, and puts the Cats at 11-8 headed into the opening weekend of Big 12 play.

And it’s a very tough start for the Wildcats. K-State is on the road to start Big 12 play, opening in Fort Worth against No. 19 TCU for a 3-game series. Today’s game is set for a 6pm CDT start while Saturday’s contest will begin at 2pm CDT, and Sunday the series will wraps up at 1pm CDT. The entire series will be carried on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, or you can listen to the K-State broadcast online at K-StateSports.com or in Manhattan on News Radio KMAN (93.3/93.7 FM, 1350 AM).

Basketball

Jerome Tang was officially introduced as K-State’s next men’s basketball coach on Thursday. Tang, who becomes the 24th different man to lead the Wildcats (the SID keeps saying 25th, but Jack Gardner left and came back; so Tang is No. 25 in order, but really just the 24th coach). Tang won the press conference, there is no doubt. Fans, writers, interested outside observers all though he nailed it. Hit all the right notes, said all the right things, had confidence and energy, and just had a great air about him. In his own words, he didn’t come to rebuild at K-State, he came to elevate. And he should know, over the course of the past 19 years at Baylor, he’s been able to see first hand what can be accomplished at K-State with the right program in place.

Tang will be the first Black men’s head basketball coach in school history and just the fifth minority men’s head coach in school history, following former baseball coach Dave Baker (1978-83), former football coach Ron Prince (2006-08), former men’s basketball coach Frank Martin (2007-12) and current women’s tennis coach Jordan Smith (2018-present). So that’s pretty cool.

Despite being doing playing for the season, Ayoka Lee certainly isn’t done getting awards for her stellar junior campaign. She was just named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-Region 3 team and is a finalist for All-America honors from the WBCA. Lee is one of 52 finalists and is one of six from the Big 12 Conference. Lee is third K-State player to earn two or more WBCA All-Region honors, joining Kendra Wecker (three times) and Nicole Ohlde (three times). Lee has already graced the All-American First Teams of The Athletic and Sports Illustrated, been named to the Second Team by the Associated Press and USBWA, and is still a finalist for the 2022 Lisa Leslie Award among several other national individual honors.

Football

It’s spring practice time, so that mean’s spring press conferences. K-State assistant head coach Van Malone met with the media on Wednesday, and he is very excited about where things stand for the Wildcats this spring. The Cats seem to be responding well to new wide receivers coach Thad Ward, and the new roster additions seem to be fitting right in with the culture and expectations of the program. Aside from losing RS-freshman DT Brayden Wood to the transfer portal earlier this week (and that was likely pretty mutual), it’s been a pretty great spring set so far for K-State on the gridiron.

Tennis

After dropping a pair of Big 12 contests last weekend, the Wildcats will hope a dip back into non-conference play will return them to their winning ways. But it won’t exactly be easy, as the No. 56 Cats play host to No. 41 Tulsa on Saturday, before facing in-state foe Wichita State on Sunday. Both matches are slated for at 12pm CDT start from the Mike Goss Tennis Stadium.

Track

The Wildcats are competing at two different events in the Lone Star State this week, the Texas Relays in Austin, and the Bobcat Invitational in San Marcos. On day one of the Texas Relays, junior Kassidy Johnson, fresh off setting a school record in the 800 at the indoor championships, picked up a first-place finish in the 1,500-Meter (Section A), and sophomore Kade McCall set a new school record in the hammer throw (finishing 6th in the event). Johnson’s time of 4:20.29 was just .01 seconds off her personal best, and McCall’s throw of 67.56m/221-8 passed the previous school record of 67.14m/220-3 that was set by Mitch Dixon at the Texas Invitational in 2018.

There are more of both events today, but no listing of live stats available for either meet.