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Cats open Big 12 tourney with Tech

By Joel Jellison

The Kansas State baseball team ascended to the top of the Big 12 this season, almost out of nowhere.

The Wildcats (39-16) struggled to finish the end of the 2012 season, putting them out of position for the postseason. Now, a season later, the team projected to finish seventh in the league, won the entire thing.

After taking a series against Oklahoma this past weekend, K-State hitting coach Mike Clement said they were ready to go for more.

“(We’re) really proud of the championship,” he said. “Now the second season starts and it’s time to go get a few more championships.”

The No. 1-seeded Wildcats have never entered the tournament higher than a three seed prior to this season. And it’s just their eighth appearance in the tournament since the Big 12 began.

It will all begin with a game against Texas Tech on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. inside of Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

The Red Raiders are the No. 8 seed in the tournament field, and just narrowly edged Texas for the final spot with a final weekend series win over Baylor.

Texas Tech is no slouch, despite their 25-28 record, featuring pitcher Trey Masek, who is projected to be taken in the top three rounds of the MLB Draft this June.

Masek is expected to open the tournament for Tech against K-State, meaning the Wildcats will have their hands full with one of the best pitchers in college baseball.

“Tech has played really well here lately and got themselves into the tournament,” Clement said. “We’re not going to look past that first game.”

Junior outfielder Jared King said they hope the Big 12 tournament will give them a chance to add a second ring to the collection they started on Friday when the Wildcats clinched the Big 12 regular season title with a walk-off win over the Sooners.

But King cautions that they have to remain resilient with the attitude they’ve carried all season as they move forward in the tournament.

“We just want to keep it rolling,” he said. “We don’t want to stop at the Big 12, we want to win that too, and host a regional here for the fans at K-State, and try not to let all the hype get to us — take it 24 hours at a time.”

The Wildcats play this past weekend positioned them to have a more favorable road through the Big 12, in comparison to the other side of the bracket in the double elimination tournament.

With a win over Tech, the Wildcats would face the winner of Baylor and Oklahoma. The teams who K-State struggled more with, are on the opposite side of the bracket.

Clement said the Wildcats also made this past weekend’s series against Oklahoma easier by winning the opening game of that series.

“I think if you lose on Friday, everyone is going to get a little more tense,” he said. “It was great to get that out of the way on Friday and play loose, because that’s what this team does a really good job at.”

The Wildcats made the trip down to Oklahoma City on Monday, but avoided the bad weather that struck the area, specifically in the suburb of Moore, Okla. K-State is scheduled to practice today on the field at Bricktown Ballpark.

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