OKLAHOMA CITY — Seven years ago, the Kansas baseball team celebrated its high point under Ritch Price with shirts, pictures and a dogpile on the infield at Bricktown Ballpark.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
The Jayhawks had surprisingly won the Big 12 Tournament and were headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years. It was a moment Price, who is now in his 10th season at Kansas, will never forget.
But a new memory may be on the horizon.
Kansas will get the chance to duplicate its 2006 achievement at 1 p.m. on Sunday thanks to a 4-0 victory over TCU late Saturday night. By winning all three games of pool play, the Jayhawks advanced to the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament, where they will take on Oklahoma with an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament up for grabs.
For the sixth-seeded Jayhawks, 34-24, it’s a win-or-go-home affair. Their RPI is too low to make the postseason with an at-large bid. But three straight victories have put them within reach of another tournament championship and their first regional appearance since 2009.
A defensive gem against the Horned Frogs, 29-28, got them here.
Behind starter Robert Kahana, who used an assortment of pitches in improving to 5-1, the Jayhawks stymied TCU’s offense from start to finish. Kahana lasted six innings and didn’t allow a run while giving up four hits and striking out two. His time on the mound could help Kansas against fourth-seeded Oklahoma, which used five pitchers in a hard-fought 7-6 victory over Kansas State on Saturday.
While the Sooners were throwing everything they had at the Wildcats, the Jayhawks were able to rest most of their relievers in the night game, though closer Jordan Piche pitched the final 21/3 innings. It was his third appearance in three days.
Kansas didn’t need much offense in this one, but Kevin Kuntz gave the Jayhawks their first lead with a single that scored Ka’iana Eldredge in the third inning, Alex DeLeon hit a double and later scored to put them up 2-0 in the sixth and Michael Suiter blasted a two-run homer in the seventh.
They cruised from there.
TCU was unable to mount a comeback, which wasn’t surprising considering it learned its postseason hopes were dashed before the game started. A West Virginia victory over Oklahoma State earlier in the day eliminated the Horned Frogs from championship contention.
Kansas will face a more determined opponent when it takes the field against Oklahoma, which won two of their three regular-season meetings. It wants to win a trophy and to head into the postseason with momentum.
But the Jayhawks are thinking big, too. They want to finish off another improbable run at the Big 12 Tournament with another unforgettable celebration.