Jayhawk rally falls short in Big 12 Championship opener
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.– A complete team effort and clutch hitting from the bench was not enough for Kansas as it fell to West Virginia, 12-8, in its first game of the 2019 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship Wednesday morning at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (31-25) used almost every weapon in their arsenal, both out of the bullpen and off of the bench, against the Mountaineers (35-18), with 22 players seeing action in the contest. Seven different pitchers were utilized as well as 15 position players.
Kansas was able to get production off of the bench with pinch-hitters senior Rudy Karre drawing a walk, sophomore Tom Lichty slapping a two-out, two run single and junior Brooks Asher knocking a double down the third base line.
West Virginia knocked around Kansas starter Nathan Barry (5-1) to begin the game and owned a 9-1 lead after three innings.
The Jayhawks tried to mount a comeback later in the contest, trimming the Mountaineers’ lead to two runs after the fifth inning. However, the West Virginia offense added insurance runs late that proved to be too much for Kansas to overcome.
Sophomore Nolan Metcalf led all Kansas hitters with a 3-for-5 performance that included a double, an RBI and two runs scored.
- Junior second baseman James Cosentino was hit by a pitch for the 22nd time this season–good for the most pitches worn on the team and a career high.
- Kansas is now 1-2 against West Virginia in the Big 12 Championship.
- The last two opening round losses in the Big 12 Championship have come against West Virginia, with the Jayhawks also falling to the Mountaineers in 2014.
- 22 different Kansas players saw action during today’s contest, including all but one position player (15).
- Junior catcher Jaxx Groshans drew a walk during today’s contest, which was his 50th free pass of the season. It makes him the first player in the Ritch Price era and only the sixth Jayhawk in program history to draw 50 walks in a season.
- Groshans also recorded two hits during the game, marking his 18th multi-hit game this season, the most on the team.
Head Coach Ritch Price
Opening statement . . .
“I just want to congratulate West Virginia on a great year. They have the best pitcher in the conference… if you look at their conference record and see what he did for them, it was special. I compliment Coach Mazey and West Virginia on having a great year.”
On using almost the whole team during today’s contest…
“I was really pleased with the guys that came off the bench, offensively. We got three clutch hits off the bench that allowed us to fight back in the game and we had the bases loaded, or guys at second or third, and then we got a base hit. We could’ve tied the ballgame after being down 9-1. We kept grinding and competing. That was Nathan Barry’s first start of the year and the guy has been fabulous for us out of the bullpen.”
On the rest of the tournament…
“I know it sounds cliché, but you can only play one game at a time. Tomorrow we are worried about Kansas State or Texas Tech. The good thing for us is that we fought our way in.”
On what his message was to his team when they were down early…
“It’s a grind. You play against the ball, you don’t play against the scoreboard. It takes maturity. We play in one of the best leagues and you have to be physically and mentally tough and that’s what we did. We kept competing.”
Junior shortstop Benjamin Sems
On what the resilience his team showed says about their club. . .
“We have a resilient group of guys coming to the yard every day and we expect to win. We are going to play all nine innings . This game hurts but we are going to come back tomorrow with the same intensity.”
Sophomore outfielder Nolan Metcalf
On if today’s contest gives the team momentum moving forward with the tournament…
“It is good to know that our team is not going to just roll over when we get down like that. Everyone battled and we are just going to keep that rolling through the rest of the tournament.”
Kansas continues Big 12 Championship play at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 23 and will play the loser of No. 1 Texas Tech and No. 8 Kansas State.