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K-State Baseball Addresses Media Before Super Regionals

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (KStateSports.com) – K-State head baseball coach Pete Hughes and student-athletes Owen Boerema, Ty Ruhl, Kaelen Culpepper and Tyson Neighbors addressed the media Tuesday in advance of the 2024 NCAA Super Regionals at No. 18 Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.

The Wildcats (35-24) and 12th-national seeded Cavaliers (44-15) open their best-of three series Friday with a 6 p.m. CT contest, while Saturday’s game will hold a 2 p.m. CT first pitch. If necessary, the decisive third game will be played on Sunday at 2 p.m., with the winner advancing to the 2024 College World Series.

All three contests of the NCAA Charlottesville Super Regional will be shown on ESPNU and can be heard on the K-State Sports Network. Tickets are now available for the Charlottesville Regional through the UVA athletic ticket office.

K-State, which enters its second Super Regional in program history and first since 2013, swept through the 2024 NCAA Fayetteville Regional at Baum-Walker Stadium. The third-seeded Wildcats cruised past second-seeded Louisiana Tech, 19-4, before defeating No. 5 national seed and top-seeded Arkansas, 7-6, in front of a crowd of over 11,200.

In the regional championship, K-State scored seven runs in a two-inning span over the second and third innings and received eight scoreless innings from its bullpen to defeat No. 4 seed SEMO, 7-2, and advance to the Super Regional.

Below is a transcript of the press conference.

PETE HUGHES, K-STATE HEAD COACH
Opening statement…
“We represent the best college fanbase in the country. That’s where a lot of the pride and satisfaction comes from, it’s pleasing our community and fans who have supported us over the years. We have the most loyal fan base out there, they show up all the time, whether we’re up five runs or down five runs– they aren’t going anywhere. I have a lot of pride in that and playing well. I’m happy for our guys– everybody [Kaelen Culpepper, Ty Ruhl, Tyson Neighbors, and Owen Boerema] at this table had a chance to go somewhere else last year, but they chose to be with each other and stay as a team to accomplish great things. It’s pretty cool as head coach when you see kids set goals for themselves and accomplish those goals, because they’re great kids. They are great baseball players that are goal-oriented but most of all, they’re loyal to each other– being a teammate is the most important thing to them. They’re great role models for our younger guys in this transfer portal generation. We’ve got guys who know how to stick with the game and to be loyal to a school you love and play with teammates you love. That’s what this next step is all about. We’re focused. We have a new set of goals and it’s to play great this weekend in Charlottesville, excited to move forward to the next step with these guys.

On leading a potential College World Series appearance…
“When I was looking for my next job, I knew I wouldn’t go to a program that couldn’t go to Omaha. That’s what I got in the coaching profession to do. It took one meeting with Athletics Director, Gene Taylor to know that he wanted this program to go to Omaha, and he had the same goal that I had. There’s an “Omaha Standard” sign above my desk— that’s how we go about our business every day. That’s how I want our coaching staff and players to go about their business every day, with the “Omaha Standard”, but you have to raise expectations. When you come into a job and preach the standard, you have to believe in it. We talk about it in our dugout every single day. Our number one goal in this program is to win a national championship and put that on paper. We’ve come a long way you know and it’s not tricking our guys to believe in it–we live it, we prepare for it, and we work for it every day.’

On the resiliency of this lineup over the past season…
“There’s no one that has traveled like us in the country, it wears you out. Baseball is a humbling game; everybody has their highs and lows individually. All of these guys have had a rough season but it’s how you take on those games and how you come out of them. Chuck Ingramis a great example of sticking with the game– respect the game and it’ll come back to you. They’re a resilient group. Getting swept in Norman and then getting on a plane to play at UConn, and then playing Northeastern right after that takes a toll on these guys. Getting back home at three o’clock in the morning and having to play Oklahoma State in the right mindset takes a lot of grit. It doesn’t happen with selfish people either. These guys can handle a lot of adversity–they know how to bounce back. We have quite a few come-from-behind wins this year. That’s just a small example of how these guys are characterized.”

On the bullpen depth that has come out of the postseason…
“We’re going into regional play as deep as we’ve been all year, Ty Ruhl wasn’t even an option for us two weeks ago as the third starter, but we’re as deep as we’ve been and we’re healthy. Ty Ruhl is fresh right now. He understates what he went through. He came back to K-State even though he had the opportunity to play professional baseball last year. Ruhl came back to be a starter for this program, missing the entire year and wanting to be the foundation of our pitching staff– which he has been for the last two years. That wears you down mentally, but he stuck with it. I was excited for our program to win a Regional. I was even more excited to watch what Ty did, knowing his journey and having the success he had in that big moment. The easiest decision I made all weekend was to put Ty Ruhl on the mound Sunday. That’s how much we trust his character and his competitiveness.”

 

KAELEN CULPEPPER, JUNIOR SHORTSTOP
On why choosing K-State was the right fit as a recruit…
“The community and the coaching staff. I mean, from the first day that I talked to Coach [Austin Wates], I knew there was something there—I knew I was going to find a home here at Kansas State and that’s exactly what I did. I think the recruiting process took two years. They saw me my sophomore year, and I wasn’t switch hitting at the time and after two years, we finally pulled the trigger, and I don’t have any regrets.”

On locking in at Arkansas this past weekend…
“I felt comfortable. I was playing with a chip on my shoulder, and I think we played some of the best baseball that we’ve ever played before. We couldn’t do it without each other— we trusted each other all season long, and I think it finally came together in Arkansas. That’s what we’ve been. This is the call that had been drawn on us all season long and it finally came out.”

On competing in Charlottesville coming off of a regional win…
“We know it’s going to be a grind. Virginia is a really good team, and we expect them to put up a battle but, we’re going to do the same thing. We’re a tough team, so it’s going to be a dog fight for the both of us and we’ll see who comes out on top.”

On dialing in and keeping composure in a competitive environment…
“I just had to find ways to adjust how teams were pitching to me, and how they were playing me. I just tried to not psych myself out and stayed with my approach– I just had to focus on believing in myself and staying confident.”

 

OWEN BOEREMA, SENIOR PITCHER
On gaining confidence going into Arkansas over the weekend…
“It was just feeling confidence. We’ve talked a lot about traveling and the tough teams we’ve played this year. That’s really prepared all of us for big moments in the postseason, so that we don’t get overwhelmed. Our coaches have done a great job. Whoever they give the ball to, the whole team trusts to get as many out as we need.”

On what the opportunity to Omaha would mean as a player…
“It would mean a lot. It means a lot to everybody on this team. I’ve played a lot of baseball, and I came to Kansas State for that reason– a chance in the College World Series. I want to help this program go to Omaha. It would just be a combination of both team and personal goals.”

 

TY RUHL, JUNIOR PITCHER
On overcoming adversity and injury in the regular season…
“It was a roller coaster. I’m just glad my trainer and coaches were around me pushing me– I could have easily just caved into my injury. But my coaches and trainers ultimately put pitching back into my mind. That helped me overcome a mental block of trusting in my ability– I was pushing my body every day to get better and I’m just happy I’m able to pitch again and be out there for my teammates and play.’

On the overall performance of the team this season…
“It’s been fun to learn through these highs and lows, just to become one team. We probably started out the year with multiple groups and now I feel like we’re all brothers just playing out there. I think the biggest thing most of us learned is ‘we just got to have fun’ when it really comes to it. We just have fun playing the game we love, and everything just flows better when we do that.”