Just two weeks ago, the BatCats were coming off a series sweep over a decent Southeast Missouri team, holding on to a tie for second in the Big 12 standings with first place still a possibility, and looking to lock-in their first NCAA Regional berth since 2013.
And then the Cats went to Stillwater.
Kansas State opened up the series with a big Friday win to move past Oklahoma State to take sole possession of second, and give the Cats a much needed resume booster headed down the stretch. But then the wheels fell off, as K-State lost the next two by a combined 21-7. Saturday’s game saw the Pokes put of innings of 5 & 6 runs on the way to a 19-5 blow-out win to even the series. Sunday was somehow worse, as the Pokes rode a 7-run 3rd on the way to a 12-2, 7-inning run-rule win on Sunday.
And so the Cats headed home to start last week limping a little, but still with a chance to hang on to a top 3 finish.
TCU was on tap this weekend for the regular season finale. Again, the Wildcats were victorious in the opener, on Thursday to end the season, this time thanks to a 9th-inning rally that saw Brady Day hit a walk-off single into the gap in left-center field. But that was where the heroics would end. Again, the Wildcats were roughed-up in the middle-game, on Friday, as the Horned Frogs grabbed an 8-1 win to even the series. Then in the closer on Saturday, K-State entered their half of the 9th inning with a 4-1 deficit, but managed to grab two runs and had the tying run at the plate. But Kyan Lodice’s deep hit to center field just wasn’t quite high enough, as TCU’s centerfielder was able to make a leaping grab at the fence for the final out, robbing the Wildcats of the chance to keep the game going.
Overall, K-State finished the regular season at 33-22, and 13-11 in Big 12 play. That puts them in a tie with TCU for fourth place in the standings, but thanks to the head-to-head gives the Frogs the 4-seed and the Cats the 5-seed at the Big 12 Baseball Championships — which means the pair has to square off again today, Wednesday, to open the Big 12 Baseball Championships.
K-State’s game today versus TCU is at 9am CDT from Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX (home of the Texas Rangers), and that game will be aired on ESPNU. Winner plays tomorrow at 4pm on ESPNU, loser plays tomorrow at 9am on ESPN+. In case you don’t remember, the Big 12 Baseball Championships are a double-elimination format, so all eight teams in the field get at least two games. Baylor gets to sit at home this season as the 9th-place team, and there aren’t 10 teams because Iowa State is
too scared to doesn’t field a baseball team.
Seven BatCats were named to All-Big 12 Teams, headlined by First Team selection sophomore pitcher Tyson Neighbors. The righty picks up post-season honors for the first time in his career, and earned the nod while leading the Big 12 in saves (10) while ranking sixth in strikeouts (78) this season. Neighbors has also been ranked as the nation’s top reliever by D1Baseball.com and boasts a team-low 2.01 ERA, picking up a decision in 16 of his 24 appearances with a 5-1 record. He was joined by fellow pitcher, and regular Friday starter, senior Owen Boerema, who earned Second Team honors, after the lefty has gone 7-1 this season, and helped power the Cats to the series-opening victory over Texas with an impressive 12 strikeouts. Rounding out the selections, Nick Goodwin, Brady Day, Raphael Pelletier, Kaelen Culpepper, and Brendan Jones received honorable mention accolades. Not bad.
It’s in the relatively quiet season for football, so it’s okay if you missed it, but late last week Chris Klieman and Joe Klanderman made two big additions to the Wildcats secondary. First up, it was Tyler JC defensive back Daniel Cobbs who committed to K-State as a late member of the 2023 class. The 5’11”, 190lb Keller, TX native played just one season at Tyler JC, and will have four years to play three seasons at K-State. Cobbs was a cornerback at Tyler, but projects to safety at K-State.
Not long at all after Cobbs announced, Southeast Missouri transfer Tyler Nelome also announced he was headed to Manhattan. Nelome quickly drew comparisons to recent 2nd-round draft pick Julius Brents, as Nelome checks in a 6’3” and has great speed and rapidly developing coverage abilities. Nelome was a hot name in the transfer portal, and the Wildcats beat out several Power 5 schools for his services. The Atlanta, GA native heads to K-State as a covid junior, and has three years to play two seasons.
It just wasn’t meant to be for the K-State men’s golf squad, who again fell short of their bid for the first team appearance at the NCAA national championships. The Cats played well, and hit a respectable 7-under for the tournament, but were passed on the last day by a hard-charging Florida squad, as the Gators posted an 8-under final round to knock K-State from the Top 5.
But it wasn’t all bad news, as junior Luke O’Neill survived a couple of late pushes from competitors to advance as an individual to the NCAA championships becoming just the fifth player in school history to advance to the NCAA Championship — the first since current PGA TOUR member Robert Streb did so in 2006. The other three Wildcats to advance were Jim Colbert in 1964, Richard Laing in 1992, and A.J. Elgert in 2004. O‘Neill will begin play at the 2023 NCAA Championship this Friday, May 26, with three single rounds of stroke play on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then a cut will be made before Monday’s final round.
Track & Field
The baseball team isn’t the only K-State squad in action today, as the Wildcats men’s and women’s track and field teams will start competition in the four-day NCAA West Preliminary today, Wednesday, in Sacramento. The West Preliminary runs from Wednesday (May 24) through Saturday (May 27) and helps determine the field for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, which are set for June 7-10 at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas. Over a dozen Wildcats will be looking to earn their place in the championships...but without an entrant in the men’s high jump :-(