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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Sports Potpourri: Upcoming slate critical for KC's playoff hopes

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  • Kansas City’s baseball team is in an enviable position so far as the races in the American League Central and second wild card are concerned.
    After the Royals finished a four-game series against Minnesota on Monday, the team now has eight games in a row against last-place teams: two games at Colorado, three at Texas, and three at home with Minnesota.
    Naysayers will take the stance that it’s still Major League Baseball and last-place teams are just as hard to beat as league leaders, and that’s true to some extent. But logically, Kansas City will never have a better chance to tighten its grip in the two races; the Royals have superior talent compared to the aforementioned teams on the immediate schedule.
    The addition of designated hitter Josh Willingham in a trade with Minnesota paid dividends against the Twins. On Friday, with the bases loaded, Willingham hit a base-clearing double that was the key hit of the game. He also hit a home run Sunday.
    Willingham is adding much-needed power in the batting order.
    It’s unrealistic to expect KC to continue the red-hot pace they’ve been on in the last three weeks, but they can’t afford any lengthy losing streaks from here on. The one issue that has plagued KC all season is hitters consistently swinging at bad pitches. In Saturday’s loss to Minnesota, KC’s players were guilty of that sin in numerous at bats.
    Kansas City doesn’t need great hitting, but the Royals can’t afford to have the batting order go into one of its swan dives just when the schedule is so favorable. The next three weeks will go a long way in determining whether the Royals are going to be in the playoffs.
    Excitement is growing for long-suffering Royals’ fans and it looks like the chase for a playoff berth is going right to the wire.
    Turning to college foobtall …
    Kansas State’s football season begins Aug. 30 with a home game against Stephen F. Austin.
    K-State has played poorly in some of its recent openers, but don’t expect that this time around.
    SFA plays in the Southland Conference and the Lumberjacks had an awful season in 2013, with an overall win-loss record of 3-9 and 1-6 in league play. SFA played Texas Tech last season in Lubbock and lost 61-13.
    No matter how conservative Coach Bill Snyder plays it, the Wildcats will romp in the opener.
    During the Snyder era, K-State has had terrific football teams whenever the Wildcats had a talented and experienced quarterback. This season is promising indeed with Jake Waters returning at QB and a supporting cast that could become special.
    Page 2 of 2 - K-State’s second game, at Iowa State on Sept. 6, is a trap game if ever there was one. Throughout the summer, Wildcats fans have talked about little but the nationally prominent game with Auburn on Sept. 18.
    Players are not immune to looking too far ahead.
    Playing a conference game on the road in the second game of the season is a recipe for disaster. Iowa State is well-coached and dangerous at home.
    Snyder knows this and he’ll do everything in his power to convince the Wildcats they are in for a tough game at Ames.
    K-State has many experienced players who were on the 2013 team that lost the home opener, 24-21, to North Dakota State.  That will help. And, Iowa State can’t match K-State in talent.
    The Wildcats should defeat the Cyclones and that will set the stage for arguably the biggest nonconference game in K-State’s history against Auburn. Snyder Family Stadium will be rocking and rolling on national TV.
    Kansas doesn’t open its football season until Sept. 6 at home against Southeast Missouri State. Head coach Charlie Weis is on the hot seat; if KU has another substandard season, Jayhawks fans are going to demand changes.
    Preseason predictions by the media are almost unanimous in picking Kansas to finish dead last again in the Big 12.
    Weis said he has the best group of players — by far — that he has had since becoming head coach at KU. But, Jayhawks fans have heard that tune before.
    What most KU followers don’t realize is that this year’s team is going to be dominated by seniors. In other words, next year will be another of those dreaded rebuilding years.
    Even if Kansas wins more than expected this season, the program’s recruiting hasn’t prepared for 2015 and beyond. KU football is a slumbering giant that seems determined to die in his sleep.

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