The last time a Kansas State baseball team opened their season with a 4-game sweep of a single opponent was 1984...against NAIA Baker University. The one other time it happened was in 1976...against D2 Wayne State. But finally, your BatCats have opened the season with a 4-game sweep of a NCAA Division 1 opponent, taking all four against Stephen F. Austin at their home field in Nacogdoches, TX from Friday trough Monday.
The opener was a little shaky, but a 2-run 8th inning was enough to stay ahead of the Lumberjacks for a 7-6 win for just the second season-opening win in Pete Hughes’ tenure at K-State. Once the season-opening jitters were out of the way, the bats really woke up as the Cats rode four homeruns on Saturday to an 8-4 win that marked Hughes’ 100th at K-State. On Sunday, despite just one homerun, the Wildcats converted 13 hits and 12 walks into a 14-8 victory to secure the series victory. Then on Monday, the Cats blasted 5 homeruns, including two grand slams, on the way to a 16-5 victory that ended up going the distance because K-State couldn’t pull far enough ahead to run-rule SFA on get-away day.
It’s the best start to a season since the 2011 team started with a 3-game sweep of Pacific before taking down #17 Coastal Carolina to open the season 4-0. Sure, the Lumberjacks are not exactly a good team — they finished last year at 15-36 and were picked to finish last in the WAC this season — but beating any team in four straight games, especially on their home turf, is nothing to scoff at. Especially considering some really good K-State teams haven’t started the season nearly as well (for example, the 2013 team that won the Big 12 opened the season 3-3, beating High Point, George Mason, and #8 Kentucky, but losing to The Citadel, Coastal Carolina, and Elon).
Next up, the Wildcats will head over the Beaumont, TX to face off against Lamar on Wednesday evening at 6pm. You should be able to catch that game on ESPN+, but you might just want to listen online to the K-State radio feed. The Cardinals opened the season with a 3-game sweep of Oakland (MI), and face off against #5 Texas A&M tonight in College Station.
It’s really tough to win road games in the Big 12. Just ask Iowa State (17-9, 8-6), who has struggled on the road in conference as your Wildcats. Of course, K-State (20-7, 8-6) played much better at home than it did the last week, on the way to a 61-55 win over the visiting Cyclones on Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t exactly pretty for the Cats, who actually trailed by 8 points at halftime, but Markquis Nowell came alive in the second half to score 18 of his game-high 20 points to push the Cats to their 20th win of the season.
But really, it was defense that was the star of the show. After letting OU catch fire on Tuesday night, the Cats limited the Cyclones to an opponent season-low 30.6% (19-62) shooting from the field, including 18.5% (5-27) from 3-point range — and the icing on the cake: 55 total points being fewest allowed by the team in Big 12 play. The Cats also gave up just 11 turnovers on the afternoon, while forcing 14 from Iowa State and turning those in 19 points.
Perhaps the biggest change from the last couple games was that the Wildcats looked fresher than they had in a couple weeks. Coach Tang said in the post-game that he noticed the lack of effort and took feedback from his team, and decided to modify practice to help the team regain their energy. Looks like it worked. Also in a major shift, Desi Sills got his first start of the season, though it wasn’t before Tang called the Big 12 office to make sure Desi would still be up for the 6th Man of the Year award.
Speaking of Jerome Tang, he becomes the 5th* coach in K-State history to lead his team to at least 20 victories in his first season. He joins Lon Kruger, Bob Huggins, Frank Martin, and Bruce Weber. He needs one more win to match Martin’s 21-win mark from 07-08, and three more to hit Huggins 23-win mark from 06-07. Weber’s 27-win total from 12-13 is still in-play, though the Cats would need to win some games in March to get there.
*The K-State Sports article omits Weber for some reason, listing Tang as one of four. Weird.
The men are back in action tonight against Baylor in Manhattan. The Bears are coming off a come-from-ahead loss to KU in Allen Fieldhouse, and will be looking to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Wildcats. Game time is 6pm CST, and will be broadcast on ESPN2.
With the TangCats and BatCats winning on Saturday, it was shaping up to be a very pleasant Caturday. And it was expected to continue with the MittieCats, who were in Fort Worth to face the last-place Horned Frogs on Saturday evening. But poor shooting out of the locker room, in both the 1st and 3rd periods, helped TCU (7-18, 1-13) off to a 75-62 upset win over K-State (15-12, 4-10), giving TCU it’s first win in Big 12 play and breaking a 13-game losing streak for the Horned Frogs. The loss effectively shuts the door on K-State’s chances to make the NCAA Tournament, though the Cats need just one win in their last four before KC to make sure they aren’t shut out of postseason play entirely.
Next up for the MittieCats is the second half of their portion of the Sunflower Showdown, with the Cats hosting the Jayhawks on Wednesday night at 6:30pm. KU won the game in Lawrence 85-72, and K-State will be looking to avoid the sweep. That game will be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.