No. 21 Jayhawks Ready for Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the second-straight year, the No. 3-seeded Kansas baseball team will face off against West Virginia, the sixth seed, to kick off the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, Wednesday, May 21, at 9 a.m.
Joining KU (34-22, 15-9 Big 12) and WVU (27-24, 9-14 Big 12) in Division Two of the championship bracket are No. 2-seeded TCU (38-15, 17-7 Big 12) and No. 7-seeded Baylor (24-29, 8-15 Big 12). Division One of the championship bracket includes No. 1-seeded Oklahoma State, No. 4-seeded Texas Tech, No. 5-seeded Texas and No. 8-seeded Oklahoma.
All games leading up to the championship game can be watched on FOX College Sports, while the title matchup can be seen nationally on FOX Sports 1. Chad McKee and Brett Dolan will rotate the play-by-play duties alongside Jay Payton and Keith Moreland.
All the games in the championship can be heard on Jayhawk Digital Passport through KUAthletics.com/Showcase with play-by-play man Tom Hedrick calling the action alongside Scott Heitshusen. Select games can also be heard on the airwaves on KLWN 1320 and are yet to be determined. Subscription prices for Jayhawk Digital Passport are as follows: $2.95/day, $6.95/month or $49.95/year.
- For the second-straight week, Kansas ranks in the top-25 on the Baseball America poll, moving up to No. 21.
- The Jayhawks closed out Big 12 play winning nine-straight games against conference opponents, a first since 1978 when KU won nine in a row against Big Eight opponents.
- Kansas has won 11 of its last 13 games, including three-consecutive conference series sweeps (at Baylor, vs. then-No. 19 Texas Tech and vs. West Virginia).
- The three sweeps in a row in league play was a first since 2012 when Baylor started off Big 12 play 18-0 and was the first time KU has swept three weekend opponents consecutively in the Ritch Price era.
- The three sweeps over conference opponents was the first time since 2009, when Kansas swept then-No. 1 Texas (March 20-22), then-No. 17 Oklahoma State (April 10-12) and Nebraska (April 24-26).
- The third-place finish for KU in league play was the highest for the Jayhawks in the 18-year history of the conference and highest in any league since 1994 when Kansas finished third in the Big Eight.
- The previous highest finish in the Ritch Price era was fifth in 2006 and 2009, with both seasons spawning a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
- KU has took home the title one time (2006) in the history of the Big 12 Championship, having advanced to the finale two times (2006, 2013).
- Updated RPI for the conference has the Jayhawks with the sixth-best RPI (record against opponent): 11– Texas Tech (3-0); 14-TCU (1-2); 15-Texas (2-1); 21–Oklahoma State (0-3); 31–West Virginia (3-0); 36–Kansas.
MATCHUP: The Jayhawks will face the Mountaineers Wednesday for the eighth time in school history and fourth time this season. Earlier this year, Kansas swept West Virginia at home to close out the conference slate and solidify the No. 3 seed in the championship. Last year, WVU swept KU in Morgantown, before the two squads met to open up the 2013 Big 12 Championship. Kansas has the edge in the all-time series, 4-3, having won that opening round matchup of the tournament last season, 7-2, to go along with the three-game sweep in 2014.
POSSIBLE BRACKET MATCHUPS: With a guaranteed two games to be played at the championship, Kansas will either see TCU or Baylor in round two, depending on the outcome of both contests. The Jayhawks swept the Bears to begin their nine-game conference winning streak to close out league play, while the Horned Frogs got the better of KU at home, winning two games of the three-game set.
KU and BU have met 61 times, with the Bears leading the all-time series 45-16. The first time the two teams met was April 6, 1957, with Baylor coming out on top, 6-1, in Waco. In the Ritch Price era, Kansas is 14-24 against BU, and has lost every meeting in Oklahoma City since 2005 (0-3).
Kansas and TCU first played one another in 1990, and have played 12 times since, six times league play. The Horned Frogs lead the all-time series 7-6, having won two out of three against the Jayhawks at home this season. In the Ritch Price era, KU is 5-5 against TCU, as the Jayhawks won three out of the four meetings in 2013, including the lone one in Oklahoma City.
SCOUTING REPORT: West Virginia enters the Big 12 Championship on a seven-game losing streak, including back-to-back conference sweeps to close out league play (at Kansas and at Texas Tech). As a squad, the Mountaineers hold the second-best batting average in the conference (.289), including 83 doubles, eight triples and 22 home runs. Three WVU players grace the top-10 list in individual batting average, with centerfielder Bobby Boyd (.360) and second baseman Billy Fleming (.352) holding down the top-two spots.
On the bump, West Virginia has one of the top-10 arms in the conference in left-handed ace Harrison Musgrave, who Kansas will face in the opening round of the championship. Musgrave holds a 2.32 ERA and a 5-3 record. The last time the Jayhawks faced the hurler, Musgrave tossed seven and one-third innings, allowing three runs off six hits and three walks in the no decision.
TCU treks to Oklahoma City having won three of its last five games after snapping a 13-game winning streak. Not particularly known for their offense, the Horned Frogs hold the third-best team batting average in the conference (.285), including 82 doubles, 12 triples and 12 home runs. Leading the offense are left fielder Boomer White and right fielder Dylan Fitzgerald. White ranks fourth in the confernce with a .343 average, while Fitzgerald rounds out the top-10 with a .330 average, including two dingers.
In addition, TCU has three of the best power arms in the league and leads the Big 12 with a 2.27 team ERA. RHP Preston Morrison leads the conference with a 1.18 ERA in 99 and one-third innings pitched, while LHP Brandon Finnegan (2.16) and LHP Tyler Alexander (2.17) rank sixth and seventh, respectively.
KU scored two runs and pounded out eight hits in Finnegan’s five innings in the Jayhawks’ 5-2 Friday night loss (April 13), while Morrison held Kansas to just one run off four hits in eight and one-third innings of work to pick up the win Saturday (April 12).
Baylor is last in the conference with a .231 team batting average, 34 points lower than No. 8-ranked Texas (.265), while holding the No. 7 spot with a 3.80 team ERA. The Bears have won five of their last nine, following the three-game sweep by the Jayhawks (April 25-27). BU has no one ranked in the top-10 in either batting average or ERA, but is led by left fielder Adam Toth (.303), offensively, and RHP Austin Stone (2.32) on the bump.
LAST TIME OUT: The Jayhawks split a two-game set at Michigan to close out the regular-season with a record of 34-22, matching their win total from 2013.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Junior righty Drew Morovick picked up his league-leading ninth win on the bump against Michigan (May 17).
- Junior right fielder Dakota Smith blasted a three-run shot in the ninth inning against Michigan (May 17) for his second dinger on the season.
- All four KU starters: Jordan Piche’, Frank Duncan, Robert Kahana and Jon Hander, were held to 60-pitch pitch counts this past weekend against Michigan (May 17-18), to prepare for the conference tournament.
- Senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp blasted a two-run bomb in the bottom of the eighth inning in his final Friday night at Hoglund Ballpark against WVU (May 9) to lift Kansas to the 5-3 win.
- Junior left fielder Michael Suiter dropped the hammer in the first inning Friday night (May 9) against the Mountaineers to give Kansas the early 2-0 lead.
- Senior right hander Jordan Piche’ tossed seven innings Friday night (May 9), allowing just two runs off eight hits in the no decision.
- Dakota Smith posted a 3-for-4 effort against West Virginia (May 10), driving in three runs and scoring once to have his hands involved in four of the five KU runs on the day.
- Junior righty Robert Kahana tossed six and one-third innings Saturday (May 10) against WVU, giving up two runs off six hits for his fourth win on the season.
- Freshman closer Stephen Villines made three-consecutive appearances on the weekend against WVU (May 9-11), a first for him, picking up two saves to move his season total to eight.
- Senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge and Tucker Tharp combined for six two-out RBIs in Sunday’s finale against WVU (May 11), leading Kansas to the 9-8 victory on Senior Day.
- Dakota Smith added two more RBIs in Sunday’s contest (May 11), moving his weekend total against the Mountaineers to five.
- Michael Suiter led all hitters against West Virginia with a .538 batting average (7-for-13), including a home run, three RBIs and six runs scored.
- Sophomore first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk was hit twice in the sixth inning in Sunday’s game vs. WVU (May 11) and he has now been hit by a pitch nine times, which ranks third on the team.
- Senior Tom Hougland made his first career-start Sunday (May 11), debuting at first base for the Jayhawks.
- Junior shortstop Justin Protacio scored four times against the Mountaineers before scoring another against Michigan to rank second in the big 12 with 47.
- Michael Suiter‘s name is all over the conference charts as he ranks tied for seventh in batting average (.333), third in hits (72), fifth in on-base percentage (.425) and tied for sixth in runs scored (43).
- Frank Duncan ranks first in the Big 12 in innings pitched (102.2), third in strikeouts (75) and tied for first in complete games (4).
- In conference play, Justin Protacio leads the league with 20 walks and ranks tied for second with 18 runs scored.
CONFERENCE HONORS 11: The Big 12 Conference announced that 11 Jayhawks earned all-conference honors for their performances in 2014. Senior right-handed ace Frank Duncan earned first team honors, while senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge, sophomore second baseman Colby Wright, junior left fielder Michael Suiter and junior right fielder/designated hitter Connor McKay each earned second team recognition.
In addition, junior righty Robert Kahana, senior hurler Jordan Piche’, senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp, junior right fielder/designated hitter Dakota Smith and freshman closer Stephen Villines were named honorable mention. Villines was also named to the All-Freshman Team.
BLACKJACK: For the second-straight week, the Kansas baseball team finds itself ranked among the top-25 in the nation, moving up to No. 21 in the Baseball America national poll. In addition, KU was ranked No. 25 this week by Collegiate Baseball for the third time this season, having been ranked No. 26 (March 3) and No. 18 (March 17), respectively, earlier in the year.
KU is the sixth Big 12 Conference team, out of nine, to appear in the rankings this year, and No. 21 is the highest national ranking for the squad since March 2003 when it was ranked No. 20.
34 WINS: The Jayhawks split a two-game set at Michigan to close out the regular-season with an overall record of 34-22, matching the squad’s win total from 2013 in less games played. In the Ritch Price era, KU has tallied 34 or more wins in six of his 12 seasons, reaching a high of 43 wins in 2006. The last time the team won at least 35 contests was in 2009 when Kansas finished with a record of 39-24.
THREES ALL OVER THE PLACE: For the first time in school history, the Kansas baseball team swept three-consecutive Big 12 conference opponents in a three-game series, ending the league slate on a nine-game winning streak. Those nine wins pushed KU’s record in the conference to 15-9, solidifying a third-place finish, the highest in school history in the Big 12 and highest in any league since 1994, when the Jayhawks took third in the Big Eight.
UP NEXT: Depending on the outcome of the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, the Jayhawks will await their fate to see if they will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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