OKLAHOMA CITY | Kansas State is going to the finals. Missouri is going home.
In the biggest game in K-State baseball history, the Wildcats defeated Baylor 3-2 on Saturday night in the Big 12 tournament at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. Today, though, now replaces what happened Saturday as the most important game K-State has played.
That’s because for the first time in school history, the Wildcats are playing for first.
K-State, the No. 7 seed, faces No. 5 Texas at 1 p.m. in a game that will be televised by Fox Sports Net. If the Wildcats prevail, it’s more history. They would secure the conference automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.
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Yes, that would be another first for K-State.
Both K-State and MU had destiny in their hands. When Texas opened play Saturday by rallying with three runs in the bottom of the ninth to edge Oklahoma 11-10, the Tigers just needed to beat Texas A&M to reach the finals. The Aggies spoiled it, though, winning 6-2.
The Wildcats knew they controlled their fate, too. Oklahoma State’s 11-6 triumph over Nebraska meant K-State only needed to beat Baylor to move on.
K-State, 29-28, has not yet indicated who it will throw today. Texas indicates it will go with 6-3 sophomore Riley Boening, who is 3-1 with a 6.45 ERA.
Here’s how the Wildcats got there. They fell behind 2-1 in the top of the sixth but regained the lead with two of its own in the bottom of the inning, receiving RBI singles from Drew Biery and Byron Wiley.
Baylor, on the NCAA bubble at 32-26, threatened. The Bears loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs, but reliever Ben Hornbeck coaxed Shaver Hansen to foul out to catcher Rob Vaughn. In the eighth, Baylor had a runner on second with two outs when K-State closer Daniel Edwards struck out pinch hitter Jon Ringenberg.
Edwards retired the side in order in the ninth for his 12th save this season, a single-season record for K-State. K-State starting pitcher Justin Murray went six innings to get the victory. Murray, 3-2, scattered seven hits, walked three and struck out three.
While K-State seeks to qualify for the NCAAs, MU knows it is in the field. Still, the Tigers were disappointed they won’t play today. They watched the dramatic conclusion of the Texas-OU game on the TV in their clubhouse, so they knew their goal remained attainable.
“It was pretty exciting,” MU first baseman Steve Gray said. “It gave us a chance to control our own destiny. We all had that feeling like, ‘Here we go, we’re going to pick up a W and get ourselves in the championship game.’ So much for that.”
Texas A&M coach Rob Childress, whose team snapped an eight-game losing streak, said: “There was pressure in both dugouts, obviously for different reasons. They (MU) wanted to play in the championship. We obviously wanted to get that dirty taste of losing out of our mouths.”
Failing to play Sunday partly had to do with another less than inspiring effort at the plate. MU had just six hits against the Aggies, and in three games totaled 20.
“Tip your hat to their starting pitcher (freshman Barret Loux, who allowed four hits and no runs in six-plus innings). I don’t think we took but maybe one good swing on him the entire game,” Tigers’ coach Tim Jamieson said.
The Aggies, 43-16, broke it open with a four-run fifth. Jose Duran belted a three-run homer in an inning MU pitcher Ian Berger committed two errors.
“I wasn’t trying to make an error, but I did, and when I had to overcome it, I didn’t,” Berger said. “I hung a breaking ball, and Duran’s a good hitter, one of the best in the Big 12, and he made me pay for it.”