Kansas baseball coach Ritch Price likes the idea of playing in an NCAA regional at Eck Stadium. He envisions a stadium mostly full of Wichita State fans, and a good representation by his fans.

"I think Jayhawk fans will turn out for that," he said. "I think it's bound to happen. I think it will be really exciting, too."

That scenario, if not at Eck Stadium then in a regional somewhere, is likely in the near future. Maybe even inevitable.

Regionals are often aligned geographically (conference rivals KU and Kansas State can't meet until the super regional). Wichita State is a consistent regional qualifier. KU and K-State can't say that, but the schools are taking baseball more seriously. If WSU isn't paired in with KU, then it might be Kansas State.

It might happen this season.

"I think it would be huge for the state of Kansas," Price said.

WSU is ranked No. 12 and could play host to a regional June 1-4. KU earned its way into a regional last spring by winning the Big 12 Tournament, its first NCAA appearance since 1994. Kansas State is 0 for 106 seasons as an NCAA qualifier. However, as a Big 12 member a berth is always possible with a decent season.

WSU coach Gene Stephenson isn't 100 percent sure the regional showdown is inevitable. He does know that the Big 12 schools are taking baseball more seriously than ever. That shows in many ways, including the fact all three schools had winning records in 2005 and 2006. That's the first time it's happened in back-to-back seasons since WSU revived its program in 1978.

"They've got good coaches and they do a good job with their players," Stephenson said. "They spend a lot of money. All you have to do is look at the improvements being made. They're making upgrades all the time."

WSU has had 30 straight winning seasons; Kansas State 13 in the past 30 years and KU 12. That underscores the fact KU and K-State still face an uphill battle against the Shockers.

"They're doing what they've been doing for 30 years," Price said. "As we try to build our program to that level."

Price took over at KU in 2003. The program had suffered through five straight losing seasons. He said another Big 12 coach told him the conference champion counted on a sweep of the Kansas schools. A loss to KU or K-State made it difficult to contend.

His biggest challenge in changing that attitude is improved pitching. KU finished fifth in the Big 12 last season and starter Kodiak Quick went 11-4 and reliever Don Czyz led the conference with 12 saves. Both are gone, but Price says his rotation and bullpen are worthy in the Big 12.

"We're solid all three days of the weekend," Price said. "Our biggest gain is that our pitching is significantly better."

On the field -- WSU's injury situation looks brighter after Tuesday's practice, although the good news is not definitive.

Second baseman Damon Sublett played in the scrimmage with a brace on his right knee. Sublett sprained the knee Saturday and sat out Sunday's game against Penn State. "He looked fine to me," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said.

"It will depend how he feels."

Outfielder Andy Dirks served as DH during the scrimmage, although a pinch-runner replaced him when he got on base. Dirks has missed eight games with a strained left hamstring. Dirks won't play today and his return remains uncertain.

"He looks a lot closer," Stephenson said. "But we need to see a lot more than that."

First baseman Danny Jackson, rehabbing his right elbow, threw at full speed for the first time this spring in a scrimmage. Jackson has DH'd against left-handers this season.

"He looked pretty good," Stephenson said. "We'll see (today) how sore he is."
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