Matt Baty doesn't like to admit it, but he feels a little more fired up when playing his hometown team.
"I try to say that I play every game the same way, but Wichita State is different," said Baty, a Kansas University junior outfielder. "I have a little more fire for them because they're from my backyard."
The Shockers will make the trip to Lawrence for a showdown at 7 tonight at Hoglund Ballpark.
"I can't think of a better midweek game," said KU coach Ritch Price, whose 22-11 team will take on the 23-9 Shockers four times this season -- including another home date April 20, and travel to WSU's Eck Stadium April 13 and May 4.
"When you have two programs from the state of Kansas, you got kids being recruited by both programs and have picked one place over the other. That just lends to the rivalry," Price said. "Now that we've gotten better trying to become a top-25 program, that has only made the rivalry even better."
The two squads split last season. The Jayhawks routed WSU, 13-6, in Lawrence, then the Shockers won, 6-5, on a walk-off home run in Wichita.
Wichita State began the year 15-1 but is 8-8 in its last 16 games. The Shockers dropped two out of three games in extra innings to Evansville last weekend at home in its Missouri Valley Conference opener.
Wichita State holds a 34-19 advantage in the series. Senior outfielder Phil Napolitan is hitting .353 with one home run and 13 RBIs for the Shockers, and senior catcher Joe Muich leads WSU with four homers. As a team, though, the Shockers only have hit nine round-trippers.
Freshman left-hander Max Hutson, who sports a 1-0 record with a 4.22 earned-run average, will start for the Shockers.
Freshman designated hitter John Allman leads the Jayhawks with a .377 average, and he has compiled 16 hits in his last 35 at bats.
KU is hoping to find momentum after back-to-back series losses to Nebraska and Texas A&M.
While 29 players from both teams are from Kansas, even Missouri native A.J. Van Slyke said tonight's contest should be special.
"Coach really builds it up and wants to win every time we play them because of the recruiting battles and importance within the state," Van Slyke said.