The Kansas University baseball team’s goal for this weekend’s three-game series at Kansas State is simple: Win enough games to worry only about one scoreboard next week.
In the nine-team Big 12 (Iowa State does not field a baseball team), KU sits in eighth place with a 4-13 conference record. Kansas State is in ninth place, 11⁄2 games back at 3-15.
The top eight Big 12 teams make the conference tournament. So if the Jayhawks win the series against the Wildcats, they will need just one victory in a three-game home series against Missouri next week to guarantee a spot.
“The last thing you want to do is play and worry about what other teams are doing,” KU senior catcher James Stanfield said. “You’ve got to keep your head as clear as you can, so if we can just come away with a series win, play three good games against K-State, it’ll just make everything a lot easier.”
With a series sweep, the Jayhawks would clinch a spot in the conference tourney without having to worry about next week’s results.
Lose the series, though, and KU will need to get victories against Missouri or hope for some help from Texas Tech, which hosts Kansas State next week.
“I think obviously whoever wins this series this weekend puts themselves in the driver’s seat going into the final weekend of the year,” KU coach Ritch Price said.
KU will throw ace Frank Duncan in today’s 6:30 p.m. series opener, which will be televised on Cox 22 and Metro Sports.
The sophomore right-hander leads KU’s starters with a 3.14 earned-run average while also striking out nearly one batter per inning (85 strikeouts in 912⁄3 innings).
The Jayhawks (19-29) once again will be without third baseman Zac Elgie, who injured his hand in a game against Oklahoma last month. The senior leads the team in slugging percentage (.493) and doubles (11) and is tied for the team lead in home runs (five).
The Wildcats (22-27), who have lost 10 straight conference games dating back to March 31, have posted a league-worst 5.52 ERA.