By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Three up, three down; three strikes, you’re out. Nine (three times three) innings.
Three is a good number in baseball. For Kansas State, it’s a magical number when facing Sunflower State rival Kansas.
The Wildcats kept their Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship game hopes alive with a 10-5 victory over Kansas Friday. Kansas State will face Oklahoma at 4 p.m. Saturday while Kansas, after two losses here, will face Baylor at 7:30 p.m.
Kansas State had three three-run innings against the Jayhawks. The last time these teams played, the Wildcats clinched the three-game series with an 8-5 victory that saw Kansas State post two three-run innings.
The Wildcats manufactured runs like Hershey manufactures chocolate. The three-run second inning included runs scored on a squeeze bunt and a wild pitch. In the third, a hit batsman (the 106th plunk of a Wildcat) and a sacrifice fly were key to the proceedings.
Kansas State had success against Kansas starter Cameron Selik, who had pitched a strong game when the teams met earlier this month.
““We told ourselves we were going to try to be a little more aggressive and we knew he was going to come at us with a fastball,” Kansas State’s Adam Muenster said. “When he threw it over the plate, we weren’t going to miss it. I think we were really aggressive. Overall, I think we had a much better approach today.”
Kansas took a two-run lead in the bottom of the first but poor base running prevented more production. Tony Thompson failed to score on a double and was held up at third base; he was then caught in a run down on a sharp grounder to the pitcher.
Trailing 7-2, the Jayhawks scored three times and had Brian Heere, their top hitter, at the plate with the bases loaded. Kansas State Justin Lindsey induced a fly ball to center for the third out.
The Wildcats plated three insurance runs in the ninth. In its last five games, the Jayhawks have been outscored 24-0 in the ninth inning. Kansas has lost those five, the team’s longest losing streak since 2005.
With two losses here, Kansas is now a long shot to be selected as an at-large team for the NCAA tournament.
“I think we probably eliminated ourselves Wednesday night,” coach Ritch Price said. “I thought coming in to the thing, after we lost the two games with the lead in the ninth inning earlier against Oklahoma, that we had to win two out of three to get in.”