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K-State Baseball Addresses Media Before 2024 NCAA Tournament

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (KStateSports.com) – K-State head baseball coach Pete Hughes and student-athletes Owen Boerema and Kaelen Culpepper addressed the media Tuesday in advance of Friday’s opening round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament against Louisiana Tech in Fayetteville, Ark.

K-State (32-24) received an at-large bid and was selected as the No. 3 seed in the Fayetteville Regional, hosted by No. 5 national seed Arkansas, and will take on the second-seeded Bulldogs (45-17) at 7 p.m. at Baum-Walker Stadium. The winner of the K-State-La Tech game will play the winner of top-seeded Arkansas (43-14) and fourth-seeded SEMO (34-25) on Saturday, June 1.

Tickets are now available and can be purchased through the Arkansas athletic ticket office. The Fayetteville Regional will be broadcast on ESPN+ and the ESPN app, while radio coverage is available on the K-State Sports Network. A free, live streaming audio is available for all games at KStateSports.com/watch and on the K-State Sports app.

Below is a transcript of the press conference.

PETE HUGHES, K-STATE HEAD COACH
Opening statement…
“This is the fun time of the year – I told our guys it’s not work time anymore, there’s no more pressure or unknowns, it’s time to have fun and compete. That’s what it’s all about when you play important baseball in the month of June, it’s really nice to be here at this point. I’m grateful we’ve got a great group of guys who took on the challenge of our schedule. The travel just wears you out physically and academically and then you ask them to play 56 games on top of it. Not one of my guys ever complained about that schedule as grueling as it was, because they never lost sight of the big picture– what that schedule has allowed us to do. We were able to achieve this with the right group of guys, and it put us in a position to play in June, and hopefully get hot in the tournament.”

On key components to be successful this time of year…
“Well, we’ve already laid the groundwork. That schedule has built a pretty strong foundation to head into the postseason anywhere. It’s just time to compete and have fun. You know, it’s worry-free baseball, you don’t have to worry about academics, schools over, it’s the greatest time of year in college baseball. So soak it in and have fun, it’s pressure-free ball.”

On Louisiana Tech’s depth facing off in the first round…
“Their top four guys each had over fifteen home runs, that’ll make you pause and think a little bit. It’s a really good program for those guys. No one-hit wonders. They have won a lot of games for some time now. They’re playing good baseball, they’re hot and they’re well coached. They are pretty physical, and they pitch it well too, the back end of their game is as good as it gets in the country. We’ll see their top starting pitcher Luke Nichols, no one ever said it was going to be easy, but it’s that time of year when you’re going to have to run through some arms to go where we want to go. They’ve got a really good coach, Lane Burroughs is one of the most respected coaches in the country, so I look forward to playing against his team – I’ve always admired his team from afar.”

OWEN BOEREMA, GRADUATE, LHP
On changing the mentality of pitching in the regular season to the postseason…
“I think it doesn’t change that much. Our coaching staff has really done a good job helping us prepare mentally for each game. When you’ve looked at our schedule, there’s been a lot of high-quality games against teams that are in regionals now, and you don’t really change your mentality from facing those teams in season. There are regional hosts that we were playing three times a weekend. That’s prepared us all year to be where we’re at now, so we don’t really have to change our mentality. We’ve been there – we’ve prepared.”

On his complete game in the Big 12 Championship and pitching in postseason…
“At the end of the day, whatever is going to help our team, get the win, whether that means I go the whole game or I handed off at the end. We just want to win that first game.”

On how Brendan Jones sets the tone for the game at the top of the batting order…
“He really sets the tone, and he plays with a lot of energy. It’s always going be tough out–even if he hits a ground ball it puts a lot of pressure on the defense. When he gets on first base, it puts a lot of pressure on the pitcher which allows the rest of our offense to elevate. He just gets everything going.”

KAELEN CULPEPPER, JUNIOR, INF
On how the schedule difficulty prepared them for the upcoming postseason…
“It was definitely a tough schedule for us and prepared us for what we’re about to face going into the postseason. I think Coach Hughes and the rest of the coaching staff did a really good job of helping us prepare for really tough baseball we’re about to play in a couple of days.”

On the emotions during the selection show…
“I was pretty excited in that video – I wanted to jump out of my shoes because this is the first regional I’ve ever gone to.  A lot of energy and emotions I wanted to show, but I had to keep my composure. So I was just laughing it out with the guys and we celebrated in the locker room. I was happy for the guys. I think this is going to be another step towards our goal.”