Top 13: Baseball Advances to Big 12 Tournament Title Game

Kansas Athletics and Jayhawk student-athletes had numerous successful athletic and academc accomplishments during the 2013 calendar year and will relive the top 13 moments in a nearly two week series leading up to New Years Eve. One crowning moment will be posted to and across the department’s social media platforms. Like, favorite or vote for your favorite 2013 moment and a top three, based on fan votes, will be revealed on New Year’s Eve. Check back daily for video highlights, a recap and your chance to weigh in on your favorite moments of 2013.

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Kansas starter Robert Kahana scattered four hits over six scoreless innings and combined with three other Jayhawk pitchers to shut-out TCU, 4-0, at Bricktown Ballpark May 26 and clinched a spot in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship Game, before losing to 2013 Big 12 Champion Oklahoma. The sixth-seeded Jayhawks made their second Big 12 title game appearance, having previously won as the No. 6 seed in 2006.

Kahana (5-1) and relievers Drew Morovick, Junior Mustain, Jordan Piche’ combined to limit the Horned Frogs to six hits while logging the third shutout of this year’s tournament and just the 12th in Big 12 Tournament history. The shutout was also the ninth for this year’s pitching staff, tying the Kansas single season record set in 1978.

The Jayhawks’ pitching effort most certainly wasn’t perfect as TCU stranded 11 runners throughout the game, but the Kansas arms found a way to make the pitches when they had to. Kansas retired the side in order just twice, with Kahana mowing down TCU in the second and Piche’ following suit in the eighth. Twice, the Jayhawks wriggled out of bases loaded jams, first with Kahana pitching in the fourth, then again in the seventh when Morovick, Mustain and Piche’ all seeing time.

“Obviously, I’m thrilled with the way our kids played tonight,” Kansas head coach Ritch Price said. “I think that anytime you are trying to accomplish something special and get yourself to a championship in such a good conference, like the Big 12, it starts with your starting pitching. I thought Robert Kahana grinded out six good innings for us. He got into trouble, but made some big pitches to leave runners stranded on base.”

Kansas scratched across a single run in the third inning on an RBI single by Kevin Kuntz, then looked to add more in the sixth with runners at the corners and nobody out, but only managed to score one more on a wild pitch. Leading 2-0 in the top of the seventh, Morovick got two quick outs before the Horned Frogs singled and walked to put two men on. Mustain entered the game and couldn’t stop the surge, walking Jantzen Witte to load the bases before Kansas looked to Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and National Stopper of the Year candidate Piche’ to escape the jam. Piche’ used two pitches to get a flyout to center and ended the threat.

A day after KU outfielder Tucker Tharp hit his first home run of the season to break a tie, fellow Jayhawk outfielder Michael Suiter launched his first home run of the year in the bottom of the seventh – a two-run blast to left – to give Kansas a 4-0 advantage.

Piche’, pitching for the third time in three days, struck out two while sitting TCU down in order in the eighth, then worked around a leadoff single in the ninth to record his Big 12-leading 12th save.

Ka’iana Eldredge went 2-for-4 at the plate and scored the Jayhawks’ first run. Suiter’s home run was his only hit of the game, but marked the fifth game in a row that he’s knocked a base hit, including all three Big 12 Tournament games. Alex DeLeon went 1-for-3 and doubled off the wall in right field. In addition to driving in Eldredge, Kuntz also scored a run, drew two walks and extended his school record for single-season sacrifice hits with his 29th – a number that also leads the nation.

TCU’s Andrew Mitchell was tagged with the loss despite allowing just two hits in 5.0 innings. Mitchell struck out three and gave up the run in the third. Cody Jones tallied half of TCU’s six hits, going 3-for-5 at the plate.

The Jayhawks, who stormed through Pool Two with a 3-0 record and wins over (3)West Virginia, (2)Oklahoma State and (7)TCU, will meet No. 4 seed Oklahoma, which went undefeated in Pool One, including an extra-inning win over top-seed Kansas State earlier Saturday. The finale will determine the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament and will be televised on FSN.

“I think the biggest thing is to enjoy the moment,” Price said. “Anytime you have a chance to win a championship, the players have to live for the opportunity and embrace it. Rather than putting pressure on yourself, you have to go out there and enjoy it. We have had some success in these kinds of games in the past when going about it with that kind of process.”

Kansas won the Big 12 Tournament Championship in 2006, as the Jayhawks defeated Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Nebraska, 9-7 in the championship game, to go 4-0 and advance to the NCAA Tournament. Kansas is 3-3 against OU in conference tournament play, including a 1-1 mark in Big 12 Tournament games.

Jayhawks Down Pokes, 5-3; Improve to 2-0 in Pool Play
Five minutes after the clock struck midnight at Bricktown Ballpark, Kansas’ Cinderella tale was still real and still being written as the sixth-seeded Jayhawks knocked off No. 2 seed Oklahoma State, 5-3, in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship early Saturday morning. The win improved the Jayhawks to 2-0 in Pool Two and kept KU’s hope for a berth into Sunday’s title game alive.

Kansas outfielder Tucker Tharp went 2-for-4 with a double and tied the game in the bottom of the seventh with his first home run of the season, then Michael Suiter drove in the go-ahead run as Kansas plated three runs in its final two innings to surge past Oklahoma State. Frank Duncan (4-5) and Jordan Piche’ combined to throw 3.1 innings of scoreless relief, while Piche’ notched his Big 12 leading 11th save of the season.

Kansas was able to scratch across four runs on eight hits against Oklahoma State starter Tyler Nurdin, who entered the game with a 1.76 ERA, then added an insurance run in the eighth. Both teams combined to strand 19 base runners in the contest.

“It’s a great win for the University of Kansas,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We obviously beat one of the best left-handers in the country today. We knew we were going to have our hands full and we certainly did. I was really pleased with the way our guys grinded out at-bats. We got some huge, clutch hits by Suiter to put us ahead early, then Tuck’s home run tied it. It’s a great win for the Jayhawks.”

Kansas Snaps Skid, Opens Big 12 Tourney with 7-0 Win
Kansas senior starter Thomas Taylor limited No. 3-seed West Virginia to four hits, pitched into the eighth inning, and retired 18 Mountaineers in a row at one point while helping sixth-seeded Kansas snap a six-game losing streak and open the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship with a 7-6 win at Bricktown Ballpark Thursday night.

Taylor, who pitched eight shutout innings in a no-decision at Utah Saturday, threw well enough to give Kansas its first win in 15 days and avenge a regular-season series sweep at the hands of the Mountaineers. After giving up a single run in the second inning, Taylor retired 18 straight West Virginia batters while his offense tallied 12 hits – the most against an NCAA Division I opponent in nearly two months – and plated six runs.

“I struggled with my command the first couple of innings – I think I was trying to throw a little too hard,” Taylor said. “After that, I settled down and tried to pitch to contact. Earlier in the year, we played them and they swung the bat a lot early and they did that again tonight. I just tried to pitch to contact and let the defense do a lot of work.” The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.