Kansas State University

Texas-sized test awaits Wildcats

MANHATTAN — Kansas State's baseball team is ready for its biggest test yet.

K-State opens a three-game series against Texas, the top-ranked team in the Collegiate Baseball poll, at 6:30 tonight at Tointon Family Stadium.

At 31-13, the Wildcats are well-positioned for a second straight NCAA Tournament berth, but coach Brad Hill believes they need a few more wins to truly feel safe.

How many more? Hill won't say. All he knows for sure is any victory that comes this weekend will count double in most college baseball circles.

Texas (39-7, 19-2 Big) has won 21 consecutive games and is running away with the regular-season conference championship. It will clinch the title with one more win. K-State is the next closest contender, five games back in the loss column.

"Our team, obviously, is excited for this opportunity," Hill said. "We're excited to play Texas. They're the hottest team in the country and their pitching is better than any team in the country. Never in my seven years in the Big 12 have I seen a team dominate everyone in the conference the way they are right now."

The Longhorns have been dominant largely because of their pitching. Texas boasts a nation-leading 2.13 ERA and has allowed an average of 1.7 runs per game during its winning streak. Cole Green is 9-0, Brandon Workman is 9-1 and Chance Ruffin has 10 saves.

That staff could pose problems for the Wildcats, who are coming off a 3-0 loss to Minnesota (20-26) on Wednesday.

But K-State is statistically one of the top hitting teams in the Big 12, and, after a day off, players say they are ready to redeem themselves.

"We're not going to get too high or too low on anything that happens in one game," K-State catcher Daniel Dellasega said. "We've got our legs back underneath us, and I think we've bounced back and shown some toughness in multiple situations this year. This will just be another one of those times."

Hill is confident his players will bring their best efforts to the series. With so much to play for, he figures there are no other options. The Wildcats are eyeing a top-three finish in conference play, and would love to get a favorable seed when the brackets are revealed in June.

It will take a strong finish for either scenario to occur, but if K-State can take down Texas anything is possible. For that to happen, Hill said he has told his players to stay patient at the plate, focus on what they do best in the field and limit mistakes.

Sophomore pitcher James Allen doesn't think that will be a problem. For the biggest series of the season, he envisions K-State playing its best baseball of the year.

"This is what you play in the Big 12 for," Allen said. "You want to play the best competition."