With the Big 12 regular-season title and top seed in the conference baseball tournament already sewn up by Baylor, what remains is the battle not only for second place but, for Kansas and Kansas State, to escape the dreaded bottom of the league standings.
One and a half games separates the ninth-place Jayhawks and cellar-dwelling Wildcats as the two teams meet up for the baseball version of the Sunflower Showdown this weekend in the Little Apple. What's at stake for both teams, aside from avoiding the conference cellar, is the eighth and final spot to qualify for the league championship tournament. With only nine conference schools fielding baseball teams (Iowa State does not participate in baseball), the Jayhawks need to win at least one of the three games this weekend to continue to hold on to the No. 8 seed.
It should be an interesting series, with Kansas State (22-27, 3-15) having won only one of nine home games thus far this year against Big 12 opposition and Kansas (19-29, 4-13) sporting the same record on the road in league competition. In the 114-year history of the series, the Jayhawks hold a slight edge at 177-165-1. Kansas State, however, has won 90 of the 161 games played in Manhattan.
Kansas State ranks sixth in the conference in hitting, with a team average of .260 in Big 12 games, but the Wildcats are at the bottom of the league primarily because of a pitching staff that is giving up more than seven earned runs a game. The Jayhawks haven't been much better in the pitching department, ranking just ahead of their state rivals with a staff ERA of 5.09. Offensively, Kansas is averaging just 4.4 runs a game in Big 12 action behind a league-worst .219 team batting average.
To finish the regular season, K-State goes on the road against Texas Tech, currently seventh in the league standings, and Kansas finishes up at home at Hoglund Ballpark in a three-game series with Missouri in what will be Missouri's final regular season games as a member of the Big 12. The Tigers will become members of the Southeastern Conference on July 1 along with another soon-to-be-former Big 12 school, Texas A&M.
The only other Big 12 series this weekend features No. 2-ranked Baylor (39-8, 18-0), riding a conference-record, single-season 18-game winning streak against fifth-place Oklahoma (30-19, 10-10) in Norman. Not surprisingly, given their league dominance from the start, the Bears lead the conference offensively, with a team batting average of .327 in league play, and a pitching staff ERA of 2.66.
The all-time series between these two schools is tied at 29 wins apiece. Of note, however, with Baylor in hot pursuit of a first-ever undefeated Big 12 season: There have been only two three-game sweeps between the Bears and Sooners, and Oklahoma recorded both: at OU in 2004 and in Waco in 2009.
This will conclude the Big 12 regular season for the Sooners, who thus far have won three of six series against league foes and split one two-game series. Baylor finishes out its conference schedule next weekend at Texas.
With just two weeks to go in the regular season, three conference teams - Texas, A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas - are tied for second place with identical league records of 13-8. That will all get decided next weekend when Texas hosts Baylor and Texas A&M travels to Stillwater, Okla.
The remaining Big 12 schools play out of the conference this weekend. Oklahoma State (29-19 overall), fresh off of taking two out of three from Bedlam rival OU plus a win earlier this week over Ohio State, entertains Alcorn State, top-10-ranked Texas A&M (34-14) hosts San Diego State, Missouri (26-22, 9-12) takes on Memphis in Columbia, and Texas (27-18) and Texas Southern meet for a three-game set in Austin. Texas Tech has a bye this weekend.
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