Jayhawks Highlight 2006 Season With Big 12 Title, Return to NCAA's

June 8, 2006


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Heading into the 2006 season the University of Kansas baseball team was loaded with seven returning starters, two starting pitchers, closer Don Czyz and greeted with high expectations. It’s safe to say in his fourth season at the helm of the Kansas program, head coach Ritch Price met those expectations head on and moved the Jayhawks into uncharted territory.

Playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, Kansas rattled off a 43-25 record to garner the second most victories in program history. After winning KU’s first Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City, Okla., the Jayhawks earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994.

After finishing the regular season in a tie for fifth place in the Big 12 – KU’s highest finish in the 10 years of the conference – the Jayhawks entered the Phillips 66 Championship as the sixth seed. Kansas proceeded to grab the attention of the college baseball nation by knocking off four-straight perennial powers to win the Big 12 Championship.

In game one of the Championship, senior ace Kodiak Quick picked up his school-record 11th win of the season to lead KU past #13 Oklahoma, 7-2. After a day off, KU used five sixth inning runs to break a 5-5 tie and cruise past #12 Oklahoma State, 11-6, to set up a Border Showdown with Missouri for the right to advance to the championship game. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, KU needed an eighth inning run to defeat the Tigers, 4-3, and move on to face #14 Nebraska. Freshman Nick Czyz picked up the victory while older brother Don earned the save in leading the Jayhawks to a 9-6 win over the Cornhuskers. KU never trailed during its four game run at the Big 12 Championship to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament where the Jayhawks tallied a victory over #25 Hawaii before dropping a game to host and fourth-ranked Oregon State and then Hawaii to conclude the season.

KU’s tough schedule included playing its first 14 games on the road and 23 of its first 27 games away from Hoglund Ballpark. The Jayhawks won the first two games of a three-game series against #8 Stanford at Sunken Diamond Stadium and knocked off #2 Clemson in South Carolina. When KU beat #2 Nebraska, 7-6, on Sunday, March 25 in Lincoln, it snapped the Cornhuskers’ 21-game home winning streak. The Jayhawks played a string of 17 consecutive games against ranked opponents from March 10 to April 9. During the season, KU tallied two eight-game winning streaks. All together, KU played 34 games against ranked foes and faced 11 teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

Senior closer Don Czyz became KU’s first All-American since 1996 when he was named Louisville Slugger All-American First Team by Collegiate Baseball newspaper. Czyz was also named the 2006 winner of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s Stopper of the Year Award. In its second year, the award honors the top relief pitcher in college baseball. The Overland Park, Kan., native capped his senior season with an NCAA leading 19 saves and finished the year with a 6-0 record and a 1.56 ERA while striking out 60 batters in 63.1 innings. Over the course of the season, Czyz became the Big 12 and KU all-time leader in appearances (128), as well as the single season record holder for appearances (37), saves (19) and career saves (30).

Czyz was one of six players to earn All-Big 12 honors as voted on by the league’s head coaches. Second baseman Jared Schweitzer and Czyz were named All-Big 12 First Team, shortstop Ritchie Price, outfielders John Allman and Gus Milner earned second team honors while Kodiak Quick was named honorable mention.

Over the course of the season, Ritchie Price set four new career records. The shortstop became KU’s all-time leader in games played (255), at-bats (1,022), hits (312) and runs (204). As a team, the Jayhawks’ 75 home runs and 698 hits set a new high.

For their efforts during the Big 12 Championship, Matt Baty, Erik Morrison and Ryne Price were named to the all-tournament team. Baty was named the Championship’s MVP after hitting .421 with three doubles, three RBI and two home runs. Jared Schweitzer was named to the Corvallis All-Region Team after hitting .583 with two home runs and four RBI during the NCAA Tournament.

At the conclusion of the season, a record-tying six Jayhawks were selected in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. Don Czyz was selected in the 7th round by the Florida Marlins, becoming the highest KU player selected since Brandon O’Neal (6th round) in 2000. Junior Sean Land was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 9th round, senior Gus Milner by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 14th round, senior Ritchie Price by the New York Mets in the 18th round, senior Jared Schweitzer by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 30th round and senior Kodiak Quick by the Detroit Tigers in the 33rd round. KU’s six picks were the most by any school in the state of Kansas

Season Recap Quick Hits
-Kansas joined Houston, Oklahoma, UCLA, Clemson, Virginia, South Carolina, Nebraska, NC State, Florida State, Michigan, Texas, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Miami (Fla.) and Alabama as the only schools to make the postseason in baseball, basketball and football during the 2005-06 season.

-This season marked KU’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1994.

-KU’s Big 12 Championship game victory was its first conference tournament or regular season win since claiming the regular season Big Seven crown in 1949.

-The University of Kansas baseball and softball teams both won their Big 12 postseason tournament this year, becoming the fourth set of teams from the same school to do so. Both teams entered the tournament as the sixth seed and both became the lowest seed to win the tournament.

-KU’s 43 wins were the second most in school history, and two behind the school record of 45 set in 1993.

-KU’s fifth place finish was its best regular season showing since the league was formed in 1997.

-Don Czyz became KU’s first All-American since 1996.

2006 Individual Awards

John Allman
-All-Big 12 Second Team

Matt Baty
-Big 12 Championship Most Valuable Player
-Big 12 Championship All-Tournament Team

Don Czyz
-NCBWA Stopper of the Year
-Louisville Slugger First Team All-American
-College Baseball Foundation All-America Team
-All-Big 12 First Team
-Big 12 Pitcher of the Week (Feb. 14)

Ryotaro Hayakawa
-Academic All-Big 12 First Team

Gus Milner
-All-Big 12 Second Team
-Big 12 Player of the Week (Feb. 14)
-CollegiateBaseballInsider.com Co-National Player of the Week

Erik Morrison
-Big 12 Championship All-Tournament Team
-Academic All-Big 12 Second Team

Ritchie Price
-All-Big 12 Second Team

Ryne Price
-Big 12 Championship All-Tournament Team

Kodiak Quick
-All-Big 12 Honorable Mention

Trey Randa
-Academic All-Big 12 First Team

Jared Schweitzer
-Corvallis Region All-Tournament Team
-All-Big 12 First Team

Brock Simpson
-Academic All-Big 12 Second Team