With 35 days until the first pitch of the 2022 college baseball season, competitive cross-conference tournaments are around the corner. Among the elite baseball tournaments to start the season is the second-year State Farm College Baseball Showdown, a round-robin tournament hosting 2021 College World Series (CWS) contender Arizona, 2019 CWS contenders Michigan, Texas Tech and Auburn, and Big 12 foes Oklahoma and Kansas State.
The K-State Wildcats will begin the campaign against its mascot clone the Arizona Wildcats, Big 10 opponent Michigan on Saturday and SEC opponent Auburn on Sunday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
With all three opponents having recent success, K-State head coach Pete Hughes welcomes the challenge the tournament presents.
“We want to be an Omaha program, and you have to play well in venues like this against great programs that have a lot of success,” Hughes said. “This is a great step and opportunity for us to be a program that’s great in June and playing on the road.”
K-State went 24-7 at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas, this past season but was just 3-12 on the road — enough to keep the Wildcats from participating in the NCAA tournament.
Hughes recognizes that teams who make it to the CWS play consistently well at home and on the road and looks to turn that around by winning at Globe Life Field Feb. 18-20.
“Teams that can go to Omaha play great on the road, and we didn’t do that last year, so that’s an important goal for us,” Hughes said. “What better way to do it out of the gates playing against great programs that go to Omaha with great tradition, that play for national championships, than do it away from our home the first weekend to see where we’re at as a program. I’m looking forward to it.”
While K-State retained pre-season All-American Dylan Phillips, 2021 Big 12 honorable mention shortstop Nick Goodwin and fifth-year senior first baseman Terrence Spurlin, Connor McCullough is the lone returning pitcher in the Wildcats starting rotation.
Despite losing Jordan Wicks, Kasey Ford, Carson Seymour and Tyler Eckberg to the MLB draft, Hughes expects pitching to be “very competitive.”
“You sustain success as you keep recruiting really great players, and you hold a high level of competitiveness in your program every single year,” Hughes said. “The names change, but the standards never change.”
K-State faces Arizona at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. 2022 State Farm College Baseball Showdown games are available for viewing on fuboTV.