Kansas State baseball (15-13) is on a two-game winning streak heading into Lubbock, Texas, to face No. 4 Texas Tech (24-8). Both wins showcased offensive fireworks and artistic pitching against No. 6 Oklahoma State (21-8) and a tough Creighton (15-8) club.
After the Wildcats’ first Big 12 win, they’ll have to buckle in for another tough road series. The three-game series against the Red Raiders marks the third-straight weekend series against a Top-25 opponent in the Big 12.
K-State was swept against No. 23 TCU (then No. 19) but nearly came back from behind to win Friday’s match-up. Both Saturday and Sunday’s match-up against the Horned Frogs were tied into the seventh innings before giving up one big inning to doom them in both games.
The story against No. 6 Oklahoma State was shockingly similar as the Wildcats ran into pitching troubles in Friday and Saturday’s match-up. K-State presented huge rallies in both, but only won Sunday’s match-up because pitcher Connor McCullough only allowed two earned runs and combined with pitcher Blake Adams for nine strikeouts.
This might sound obvious, but K-State’s bullpen will need consistency for the Wildcats to have a chance against a hot Red Raiders club.
“RAIDER … POWER” echos in Rip Griffin Park when No. 4 Texas Tech bats, and that’s exactly what they’ve been known for year after year — power.
Texas Tech started the season 1-2 at the College Baseball Showdown but has since been nothing but stout, including two walk-off wins against (then) No. 2 Texas. The Red Raiders sit at 24-8, scoring 314 runs — 9.8 per game — and holding opponents to just 155 total runs.
All-American Jace Jung returned for his sophomore season and is once again leading the stampede. He’s hitting for a .407 batting average on 48 hits — 13 of those doubles — 37 RBIs and nine home runs.
Jung is the lone Raider to sit above a .400 batting average, but the roster collectively hits .305, and six starters are hitting above .300.
Along with impressive batting averages is the amount of Raider Power posted in the “HR” column on Texas Tech’s cumulative stats. The Red Raiders have smacked 48 big flies. Meanwhile, they give up roughly one home run per game.
That stat is promising for K-State because the Wildcats are a power-hitting bunch, but Texas Tech still has one of the best starting pitching rotations in the Big 12 with Andrew Morris, Brandon Birdsell and Mason Molina on the bump.
Heading the weekend starters is Saturday pitcher Brandon Birdsell, who has posted a 4-1 win-loss record, with a 2.31 earned runs average (era) and 58 strikeouts. Andrew Morris isn’t far behind with an undefeated 3-0 record but has a 3.72 era with 45 strikeouts.
Tech’s weak spot is its Sunday starter Mason Molina, who has a 4.55 era with a 1-4 record. He’s recorded 35 strikeouts in 29.2 innings pitched, but also walked 17 batters.
The Wildcat’s best chance to win one against the Red Raiders is against Mason Molina on Sunday, but head coach Pete Hughes is looking for series wins.
Friday starter Blake Adams and Saturday starter Connor McCullough will have to pitch well as usual, but the concerns for K-State primarily come out of the bullpen. The big innings surrendered in two losses against No. 23 TCU and two losses against No. 6 Oklahoma State occurred after K-State signaled for the pen.
If the Wildcats want to win one or take the series, they’ll have to avoid the big innings by limiting walks and defensive errors. Meanwhile, the offense assumes the responsibility of keeping the foot on the gas if they jump out to an early lead.
Those key components will ultimately decide if the weekend series is competitive, and who will come out on top.
First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday in Lubbock, Texas. Viewing is available on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.