The Texas baseball team sure has a lot going for it right now. Let us count the ways:
The Longhorns are the No. 1 ranked squad in the country. They boast an overall record of 39-7. At 19-2 in Big 12 play, they stand one win away from locking up a regular season conference title. They have the best pitching staff in the nation. They are on a 21-game winning streak.
Whew, that’s a long list. Some might call it intimidating.
But Kansas State fans shouldn’t. Lately, some of their best memories have come while the Longhorns were at their best. Just think back to Jan. 18, which was the last time a Texas squad had so much going for it. On that day, the Texas basketball team took a 17-0 record and No. 1 ranking to Bramlage Coliseum.
Behind the (then) highly touted trio of Avery Bradley, Damion James and Dexter Pittman, Texas appeared rock solid. But the Wildcats handed it a 71-62 defeat on national TV. All of a sudden K-State had the nation’s respect, and it went on to make the Elite eight.
Texas, on the other hand, fell completely apart. By season’s end, the Longhorns dropped out of the national rankings and were ousted from the NCAA Tournament in the first round by Wake Forest.
No matter what happens on the baseball diamond this weekend between the Bat Cats and the Longhorns (they begin a three-game series at Tointon Family Stadium today) it’s highly unlikely that Texas will once again go downhill so quickly. After all, the most likely scenario is a UT sweep.
As K-State coach Brad Hill said yesterday: “There are a lot of teams that have lost three games to Texas this year.”
But it is entirely possible that K-State could score another marquee victory or two against the favored Longhorns.
The Wildcats’ recent success over them has spread across multiple sports. In football, K-State is on a two-game winning streak against Texas. During Colt McCoy’s great career, K-State was the only Big 12 team he was unable to beat.
In basketball, the Wildcats have won each of their last two trips to Austin. The Frank Erwin Center is where Denis Clemente went off for 44 points.
And in baseball, K-State has defeated Texas in each of the past three seasons. Last year, it won twice in Austin while the Longhorns were ranked second.
Of course, this matchup should be interesting for other reasons than the past.
Texas may have a team ERA so low (2.13) that it leads the nation by a huge margin, and it may have a coach that has been to Omaha countless times, but K-State has a lineup that can really hit. Nick Martini owns the Big 12’s best batting average, and the Wildcats have had little trouble scoring runs throughout much of the season.
Both teams also have plenty to play for. A sweep by Texas earns the Longhorns a trophy and keeps their amazing winning streak alive. Every K-State win will earn the Wildcats big-time respect, and move them a step closer to the NCAA Tournament.
Once again, stakes are high.
And when that’s the case, recent history is clearly on the Wildcats’ side.