OPINION: Expect to see K-State baseball in the NCAA tournament

Third baseman Kaelen Culpepper celebrates after a double against then-No. 14 ranked Texas Tech. Kansas State won the series 2-1 and was later ranked No. 22 in the nation. (Jersey Johnson | Collegian Media)

In a historic year for Kansas State athletics, K-State baseball might be the latest program to succeed where few expected. For the first time since 2013, a postseason berth to the NCAA Regionals could be on deck for the Wildcats.

Following a series victory over then-No. 14 Texas Tech, K-State rose 10 spots in the rating-percentage index — one of the deciding factors in ranking teams. The series also moved K-State into a tie for second place in the Big 12.

Few will argue against the SEC being the pinnacle of college baseball. All but one national champion has come from the conference since 2017. However, the next-best conference is up for debate, and the conversation starts with the Big 12 and the ACC. 

The Big 12’s RPI just edges out the ACC for the second highest over the last three seasons. A high Big 12 finish would make K-State deserving of making the postseason.

College Sports Madness projects K-State as one of the last four teams to receive a regional berth. Collegiate Baseball is higher, ranking the Wildcats as the 22nd-best team in the nation.

In each of its three remaining series, the opportunity presents itself for K-State to turn more heads and perhaps cement its place in regionals.

The path starts with this weekend’s series against Southeast Missouri State, which has a spot in regionals as the first-place team in the Ohio Valley Conference. K-State has seen trouble with non-conference play at times but could right the ship against the Redhawks. 

In its final two conference series, K-State takes on Oklahoma State and TCU. Each team is rated above K-State by RPI despite neither having a better conference record than the Wildcats. 

“My message to our guys every day is, ‘Prove them right, or prove them wrong,’” head coach Pete Hughes said to K-State Athletics. “We were ranked ahead of Texas Tech in the RPI before the weekend and we were ranked ahead of them in our conference, and they were ranked No. 14 and K-State doesn’t receive any votes. … What better than to play a series against them and then you can prove people wrong.”

Hughes and the team have already proven themselves to the other head coaches who picked the Wildcats to comfortably finish bottom three in the conference preseason poll. With a strong finish to the season, K-State could surprise the nation by claiming their spot in the postseason.