For the second consecutive game in the Louisville Regional of the NCAA Tournament, the Kansas baseball team found itself in a hole it couldn’t escape.
Unfortunately, an 8-6 loss to Kentucky on Sunday meant an end to the Jayhawks’ season in the double-elimination regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Jayhawks, 35-26, making the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009, trailed 8-0 before making a game of it against Kentucky, 37-24.
Kansas scored five in the bottom of the sixth and one in the eighth but couldn’t scratch anything else across against UK’s bullpen.
“When we got down early in the game, it was too early to give up,” Kansas catcher Ka’iana Eldredge said. “We were down seven in the fourth inning and there was a lot of the game left to be played, so we didn’t give up.
“When you are in an NCAA Tournament anything can happen. Any comeback can happen, so you just have to keep playing. We put ourselves in a position to be back in the game but fortunately for Kentucky they won the ball game.”
Kansas made three errors and starter Robert Kahana, 4-7, gave up five hits and five runs — four earned — in three innings of work. He also hit a batter and walked two, giving the Jayhawks only 58 pitches.
KU coach Ritch Price also saw reliever Drew Morovick, who was solid in a 10-6 win over Kentucky on Friday, give up four hits and three runs in three innings.
“Obviously, we didn’t pitch as good as we needed to pitch to win the baseball game, and they took advantage of power counts,” Price said. “They were really physical with the bat and their short-game execution was really good.
“We just didn’t pitch it well enough to win.”
Kansas was making its fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the third under Price, who said he feels the experience will pay dividends in the future. The Jayhawks lose some key players but have 10 “really good freshmen,” Price said.
“For the seniors, this is our first time in the NCAA Tournament,” Eldredge said. “It’s been an awesome experience. As we said to the younger guys, now it’s all a learning experience. They know what to do. Coach Price is going to have a lot more NCAA Tournament appearances if these young kids continue to work.”
Price said the program is in great shape and he’s hoping the young guys will help the Jayhawks get back to the NCAA Tournament, perhaps even a berth again into the College World Series like in 1993.
“When I was hired my (athletic director) asked me to make the NCAA Tournament every four years and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” he said. “We bring freshmen into our own program, we develop our own guys. We’re one of the few BCS programs that doesn’t run our guys off, run guys in and out. We make a four-year commitment and we want our players to graduate and be first-class citizens on and off the field and be Jayhawks for life, that’s really our mission statement.
“And we’re really excited about our recruiting class.”