This will be a big weekend for our local Kansas teams in Big 12 baseball. The Kansas Jayhawks will be in Waco, Texas, to do battle with the co-conference leaders, the Baylor Bears, while Kansas State will host the resurgent Texas Longhorns, who swept nationally ranked Oklahoma last weekend and are tied at the top of the league standings with Baylor.
Kansas opens it conference season at Baylor. The Bears (15-7, 3-0), swept a three-game set a week ago at Texas Tech to jump to the top of the league standings along with Texas. The Jayhawks and Bears have met 45 times in the past, with Baylor winning 39 times. Kansas, however, has won the last two series between the two schools, including its first series ever over the Bears the last time the Jayhawks were in Waco.
If the Jayhawks are going to win against the Bears this weekend, they are going to have to get good outings from their starters and relievers. Baylor is batting .291 as a team, fourth best in the Big 12, and the Bears are getting strong pitching to go with their productive offense. Baylor pitching has posted a team ERA of 3.43, which also ranks fourth in the conference, led by senior Trent Blank, who is 5-0 in five starts with a 2.06 ERA..
Kansas is averaging 4.4 runs a game and is averaging .264 at the plate. Only Texas has a lower team batting average than the Jayhawks. Kansas pitching has been solid, however. The Jayhawks 3.62 team ERA ranks right behind the Baylor pitching staff.
This will be the second week in a row that Kansas State has gone up against the conference leader. The Wildcats won one of three last weekend vs. Texas A&M, which was 14-4 coming into the three-game series with the Wildcats. K-State won a 15-12 slugfest in the series opener, but came up short in the next two games to go 12-8 on the season.
The Wildcats get Texas (11-8, 3-0), ranked 21st this week by Collegiate Baseball, at home at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan. Four of the last six games between the two schools have been decided by a single run. The Longhorns are 16-4 in games played in Manhattan, however, and own a commanding 42-11-1 edge in the overall series with Kansas State. The last time Texas visited K-State, in 2010, the Horns were No. 1 in the country. The Wildcats won the opening game 2-1, registering their first-ever win over a No. 1-ranked team.
Kansas State is second in the conference in hitting with a .310 batting average as a team. The Wildcats feature two of the Big 12's top three hitters in sophomore outfielder Jared King (.431) and senior infielder Wade Hinkle (.408). K-State is last in the conference in pitching, however, with a staff ERA of 5.50.
The Missouri Tigers, 12-7 overall so far this season, open their conference schedule for the final time this weekend, hosting Oklahoma State (12-9) in a three-game set in Columbia. The Tigers hope to be able to reverse a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cowboys last season, three at Stillwater and one in the Big 12 postseason championship. OSU owns a 129-66 advantage in the overall series between the two longtime rivals. The Cowboys lead the conference in long balls, pounding out 19 home runs in 21 games. Missouri ranks third in the league in round-trippers, slugging 14 on the year heading into conference play. This is a marked improvement for the Tigers, who had hit only 4 home runs in the first 19 games last season and only 22 for the entire year.
Junior outfielder Dane Opel leads the Tigers in hitting with a .356 average, including a team-leading five home runs.
The only other game on the conference schedule this weekend has Oklahoma (13-9, 0-3) at Texas Tech (14-8, 0-3), both looking for their first Big 12 win this season.
Texas A&M (16-5, 2-1) stays out of the conference with a three-game series at Pepperdine over the weekend.
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