K-State baseball’s top players finding extra gear in big moments

K-State baseball’s top players finding extra gear in big moments

MANHATTAN (KSNT) – K-State baseball is heading to the NCAA super regionals but it wouldn’t be possible without its top players stepping up in the biggest spots.

K-State had two players on Team USA’s collegiate team in the 2023 offseason: Tyson Neighbors and Kaelen Culpepper. Unsurprisingly, those two were huge pieces of the Wildcats’ regional upset in Fayetteville.

Culpepper had seven hits and seven RBI in three regional games, including a home run off one of college baseball’s best pitchers in Arkansas’ Hagen Smith.

“I’m a competitor at heart, I’ve always been a competitor,” Culpepper said. “I’ve always found ways to dig deeper and just find my potential. I’m not where I want to be at but the ceiling is still high for me. Looking back, all the hard work that I’ve put in is starting to pay off and I feel like it’s going to continue to do that. I’m just excited for the future.”

Meanwhile, Neighbors came in for the ten-out save against the Razorbacks, throwing a season-high 67 pitches out of the bullpen.

“I think it’s just being a competitor and loving the game,” Neighbors said. “I’ve grown up in a competitive household. Me and all my siblings played multiple sports growing up. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing cards at a table, or it’s a video game or we’re playing Arkansas in a regional. I’m going to do everything I can to win. I think emotion comes with that, and excitement, and just doing everything I can to help the team win.”

“I can tell when he’s dialed in,” head coach Pete Hughes said of Culpepper. “It’s usually in the big moments, too. He likes the big stage [and] has embraced that since his first start in [the postseason.]”

While the regional title goes well beyond a handful of guys, head coach Pete Hughes also talked about left fielder Chuck Ingram and pitcher Ty Ruhl in-depth during Tuesday’s press conference. Ruhl started for the Wildcats in the regional championship on Sunday, after an injury-riddled 2024 campaign. Meanwhile, Ingram overcame a nearly six-week long slump to be one of the Wildcats’ best hitters in Fayetteville.

“He can carry a team,” Hughes said of Ingram, saying he’s constantly working closely with associate head coach/ hitting coach Austin Wates.

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