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Archive for Saturday, May 17, 2003

Kansas Baseball: KU can’t snag Big 12 berth against hapless KSU

May 17, 2003

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— Kansas University wasn't worried about the emotions surrounding Kansas State's final home baseball game of the season Friday.

The Jayhawks had other things to play for.

But despite both Texas Tech and Oklahoma losing, KU couldn't solidify a berth in the Big 12 Conference tournament, falling 4-3 to KSU in front of 781 fans at Tointon Family Stadium.

The loss dropped the Jayhawks to 8-17 in Big 12 play. Oklahoma -- which lost to Missouri, 6-1, Friday -- dropped to 9-16. Tech, an 11-7 loser to Oklahoma State, fell to 7-17. All three teams have two games left in the conference season and all three are fighting for the final two spots in the tourney, which starts Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

"We have to take care of business ourselves," KU coach Ritch Price said. "If we're going to watch the scoreboard and hope they lose all three games this weekend, we're not going to get it done."

With the wind blowing in Friday, Kansas (34-25) hit 16 fly balls that were killed by the breeze and put to rest in Kansas State gloves. Eight isolated hits led to just two earned runs -- the Jayhawks scored after a Travis Metcalf RBI single in the second and a Lance Hayes sacrifice fly in the fifth. Junior Ryan Baty doubled and scored on an error in the eighth.

"K-State's been struggling fielding all year," said junior Matt Tribble, who was 2-for-4 with a run. "We were trying to hit balls hard on the ground, but we hit a lot of fly balls. It wasn't our plan."

KU's inability to adjust led to a happy ending for KSU coach Mike Clark, who was coaching his final home game after 17 years at the Wildcats' helm. He resigned May 5, partly because of the Wildcats' struggles this season. With the victory, the Wildcats improved to 14-36 overall and 4-21 in Big 12 play and KSU is the only team with no shot at the postseason.

"They're not going to lay down for us, and nobody else is going to win it for us," Price said. "We need some clutch hits and big pitches."

Senior Kevin Wheeler started for KU, pitching a complete game and striking out four. He looked shaky at times, most notably in the fourth inning when he surrendered a three-run home run to Pat Maloney. But with reliever and Free State High graduate Brandon Johnson sidelined because of a sore elbow plus a thin KU bullpen, Wheeler was forced to work out of his jams.

"Our starters have found their rhythm," Price said. "Wheeler gave up the three spot in the fourth and then put up four more zeroes. He gave us the chance, we just didn't get it done."

The series now moves to Hoglund Ballpark, where the two teams will battle at 7 tonight. KU has lost six straight conference games, but the Jayhawks insist they hardly are down for the count.

"We're pretty excited," Tribble said. "We haven't had the chance to play for something in the last homestand, and now we do. We need to go out and capitalize on that and hopefully get into the tournament."

Kansas State 4, Kansas 3

Kansas 010 010 010 -- 3 8 1

Kansas State 100 300 00x -- 4 8 1

W--Kevin Melcher (1-7). L--Kevin Wheeler (6-5). S--Eric Rollins (6)

HR--KSU: Pat Maloney (8).

KU highlights: Ryan Baty 2-for-4, 2 doubles, run; Matt Tribble 2-for-4, run; Sean Flynn 2-for-4, triple.

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