Jake Scudder is a confident baseball player.
Ask the Kansas State junior infielder how he led the Big 12 with a .407 batting average in conference games this season, and he will give you a simple answer.
“I have a batter’s mentality,” Scudder said. “I put in the work, then I go out there and compete harder than the other guy.”
That approach was a big reason why Scudder was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year on Tuesday, a day before the start of the conference tournament in Oklahoma City.
Still, he wasn’t always so sure life as a K-State baseball player would go this well. When he arrived in Manhattan as a junior-college transfer from Iowa Western, he had legitimate fears about how his bat would hold up against Big 12 pitching.
“The arms you face on a daily basis in junior college aren’t nearly as good as what you run into at the Division I level, especially the Big 12,” Scudder said. “The difference is huge. You are facing guys who can throw in the mid 90s every day. In junior college, there were games where you knew you were going to get hits, because the pitching just wasn’t quality.”
Scudder wasn’t fazed by the step up in competition. Now he hopes he can help K-State handle a step up in intensity at the Big 12 Tournament.
The Wildcats were the final team to qualify for the event, and they open against No. 1-seed Texas Tech at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. It will be a difficult matchup, as the Red Raiders won the regular-season league title, sweeping the Wildcats along the way. But K-State is motivated to pull an upset or two this week.
Coming off a regular season in which it went 26-29 and finished eighth in the Big 12 standings, it has only one path to a NCAA regional berth. It must win the Big 12 Tournament.
K-State coach Brad Hill is quick to admit that won’t be an easy task. But it’s not impossible.
“It’s a possibility for anybody if you go in and play well,” Hill said. “We will probably have to play extremely well and hope we catch some teams when they are not playing their best. But if we score some runs we can give ourselves a chance.”
Offense doomed K-State during its final series of the regular season. It lost three straight to TCU by scores of 3-2, 2-1 and 9-3.
The Wildcats were encouraged to receive quality pitching throughout most of the series, but they know they will need more in Oklahoma City.
“We have shown signs that we are a quality team,” Scudder said. “Sometimes we come out and we hit the ball really good. Some days we come out and our pitching staff is really good. If we go out there and play well and put a complete game together, I think we can cause some damage and win some games in this tournament.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
Big 12 Tournament
At Oklahoma City
- No. 5 Oklahoma (28-25) vs. No. 4 West Virginia (33-21), 9 a.m.
- No. 8 Kansas St. (26-29) vs. No. 1 Texas Tech (40-14), 12:30 p.m.
- No. 6 Baylor (24-27) vs. No. 3 TCU (38-14), 4
- No. 7 Texas (22-30) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma St. (35-18), 7:30
- OU-WVU loser vs. KSU-Tech loser, 9 a.m.
- BU-TCU loser vs. OSU-UT loser, 12:30 p.m.
- OU-WVU winner vs. KSU-Tech winner, 4
- UT-OSU winner vs. BU-TCU, 7:30