By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The month of May has been an elevator ride for Kansas. The Jayhawks have been up, down and now they’re back up.
“We’ve been grinding all season,” coach Ritch Price said. “We swept Baylor and thought we’d play our way in (to the NCAA tournament) then we lost six in a row and played our way out. We came here determined to play our way back in.
I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get in now. I have a hard time believing they won’t take four teams from our conference. That would be a crime.”
Kansas (34-24) is now in position to leave no doubt. The Jayhawks defeated TCU, 4-0, Saturday night, to finish 3-0 in Pool Two and advance to the title game Sunday in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship. KU will try to become the second straight No. 6 seed to win the title. The Jayhawks will face Oklahoma, making its second consecutive appearance in the championship game.
The Jayhawks were in a win-or-go-home situation against the seventh-seeded Horned Frogs (29-28). A TCU victory would have created a three-way tie – West Virginia, the Frogs and the Jayhawks all would have been 2-1. The tiebreaker would have gone to the Mountaineers.
Instead, Kansas responded with a crisp performance and its third consecutive victory at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Robert Kahana pitched six solid innings for the victory and Jordan Piche’, the Big 12 newcomer of the year, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh and closed it out for his 12th save.
Kansas took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when shortstop Kevin Kuntz singled home a run. The Jayhawks added a run in the sixth on a wild pitch but failed to take advantage of a first-and-third situation with no outs. Michael Suiter’s two-run homer in the seventh provided more breathing room.
TCU came here having won 11 of its last 16 and hoping to make a run to Sunday to win the Big 12’s automatic bid. Instead, the Horned Frogs’ season is over.
“It’s not the way you want to go out,” TCU senior third baseman Jantzen Witte said. “This was my last game as a Frog and I tried to treat it as such. How I’m feeling? Not great.”
“This is uncharted territory, for our program and me personally,” said TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, who has had a team reach the NCAAs every year since 2002. “It was a meaningless game for us but I told our players if you love this sport there are no meaningless games. The results weren’t good, we competed and played hard. We couldn’t get a big hit.”