Kansas State baseball heads into the Sunflower Showdown against Kansas following a two-game winning streak against Oklahoma and Wichita State. However, the streak is deceiving because the Wildcats lost the weekend series at OU in a crushing defeat by a combined score of 20-43.
Starting pitcher Connor McCullough got roughed up in his five innings on Friday, giving the Sooners a 5-0 advantage on their way to a 14-2 thumping. Then on Saturday, the Wildcats got thumped even worse, 22-10, giving the loss to Griffin Hassall.
Despite the comeback 8-7 victory on Sunday and 3-1 win over a 15-30 Wichita State team, it appears the Wildcats are trending backward. Luckily for K-State, KU is at the bottom of the Big 12 standings and hasn’t won a three-game series since hosting Illinois State, April 8-10.
The Jayhawks have four players who can rake at the top of their order: Maui Ahuna, Nolan Metcalf, Caleb Upshaw and Tavian Josenberger. Three of the four players hit above a .300 batting average, but nobody sticks out like Maui Ahuna.
Toward the beginning of the season, Ahuna was among the nation’s leaders in batting average and is now second in the Big 12, hitting a .405. Along with impressive Ted Williams-like numbers, the Hawaii-native totes a .643-slugging percentage with 43 RBIs, 38 runs scored and six homers.
Overall, the team struggles at the plate, hitting .278 compared to its opponent’s .297 — close to K-State’s .284 team batting average.
In some good news for a cold K-State team, KU’s pitching is last in the Big 12.
Between its five starters — including mid-week starters — KU averages a whopping 7.33 earned run average. It seems Daniel Hegarty is the best pitcher on the roster, who’s hurled a 4.53 era in just six starts.
Hegarty’s most recent appearance was against West Virginia and was the only win KU captured in the three-game series. Hegarty was an impact, pitching a complete game and only allowing three earned runs, two coming in the eighth inning.
With K-State’s unusual win-loss advantage at home compared to visiting games, the Wildcats should retain their superiority against the Jayhawks in their backyard.
If the Wildcats stay hot at home by taking advantage of runners in scoring position and using their north-point wind for homers to left field, K-State will dominate.
The only concerns are starting pitcher Daniel Hegarty and hitters Maui Ahuna, Nolan Metcalf, and Caleb Upshaw. Otherwise, this is a perfect opportunity for the Wildcats to knock the rust off and ride into a winning streak toward the back half of the schedule.
Game one of the Sunflower Showdown kicks off at 6 p.m. on Friday at Tointon Family Stadium. Tickets are available at K-State Sports, while viewing is on Big 12 Now on ESPN Plus.