Jayhawks open Big 12 Championship with West Virginia
OKLAHOMA CITY – The No. 5-seeded Kansas baseball team opens up the 2019 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship against No. 4-seeded West Virginia Wednesday, May 22 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (31-24, 12-12 Big 12) finished top-five in the regular-season Big 12 standings for just the third time in school history and will go up against the Mountaineers (34-18, 13-11 Big 12), a team they played a trio of one-run games against earlier in April.
Fans can watch the 9 a.m. contest on FOX College Sports, or tune into an audio broadcast on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
THREE ONE-RUN GAMES
Kansas and West Virginia played a trio of one-run games back on April 20-21 during its regular-season showdown at Monongalia County Ballpark. The Mountaineers took two games of a doubleheader, both in walk-off fashion, 1-0 and 4-3. The Jayhawks won the Sunday contest, 6-5, thanks in part to a three-hit performance including a home run from sophomore designated hitter Nolan Metcalf. Junior catcher Jaxx Groshans also connected for a trio of hits while junior shortstop Benjamin Sems drove in a pair of runs off a double.
FIVE HONORED BY LEAGUE’S COACHES
In preparation for the 2019 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, the league office announced Tuesday (May 21) that five different Kansas baseball players garnered All-Big 12 recognition for their performances throughout the season. Junior righty Ryan Zeferjahn earned First Team honors; junior shortstop Benjamin Sems earned Second Team distinction; and redshirt-juinor pitcher Ryan Cyr, junior catcher Jaxx Groshans and senior center fielder Rudy Karre picked up Honorable Mention nods.
For the fourth time in the 23-year history of the Big 12, the Kansas baseball team earned a fifth-place finish or better, finishing No. 5 in the league standings with a record of 12-12 against conference opponents. The other three times the Jayhawks finished fifth or better came in 2014 (3rd, 15-9), in 2009 (5th, 15-12) and in 2006 (5th, 13-14) – all three seasons KU earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Jayhawks won seven of their last nine Big 12 games vaulting them to a fifth-place finish in the league standings – a far cry from the eighth-place finish the league’s coaches voted KU in the preseason poll. During that final stretch, Kansas earned series sweeps over Texas (May 3-5) and Kansas State (May 17-19) and won every Sunday contest in conference play except one (May 24 at then-No. 24 Oklahoma).
SUNFLOWER SHOWDOWN SERIES SWEEP
For the first time since 2004, the Jayhawks swept in-state rival Kansas State, outscoring the Wildcats on the weekend, 25-10, including a decisive 10-0 victory on Friday night (May 17). Since moving to three-game series in 2000, Kansas has only won nine of the 20 series played, including sweeps in 2004 and 2019.
LET’S PLAY TWO
The Jayhawks have played in seven doubleheaders this season (USC Upstate, Texas Southern, Northern Illinois, Baylor, West Virginia, Jackson State, Kansas State). They are 4-3 in the first game of the day and 2-5 in the second game of the day. The seven doubleheaders mark the most played in a season since Kansas played in seven doubleheaders during the 1998 season (Milwaukee, Texas A&M, Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas State).
Junior starting pitcher Ryan Zeferjahn became the first KU pitcher to record two seasons with 100 or more strikeouts, doing it in back-to-back years. Zeferjahn’s 254 career strikeouts rank third all-time, and are the most by a three-year player in the KU history books.
WALK IT OUT
Junior catcher Jaxx Groshans has drawn 49 walks on the season to lead the Big 12 Conference and rank No. 18 in the NCAA. No player in the Ritch Price era has drawn more walks than Groshans in a single season. In addition, it has been 24 years since a Jayhawk drew at least 50 free passes in a season (52, Josh Kliner in 1995) with the school record set at 59 by Josh Igou in 1994.
THE DROUGHT IS OVER
Junior catcher Jaxx Groshans launched his 12th home run on the year against Kansas State (May 19). That four-bagger marked his first home run in 117 plate appearances, dating back to April 2 against Wichita State. Prior to the drought, Groshans blasted 11 home runs in his first 121 plate appearances, averaging one bomb per 11 trips to the dish.
Junior second baseman James Cosentino has worn 21 pitches during the 2019 campaign, leading the Big 12 Conference and ranking No. 7 in the NCAA. Those 21 HBPs rank No. 3 all-time in the KU single-season record book, trailing only Casey Lytle (22 in 2010) and teammate Rudy Karre (27 in 2017).
Kansas has played 17 contests that have been decided by one run – 30.9 percent of its games played (55). KU has earned a victory in six of the 17 decisions.
SIX RUNS OR MORE
Kansas averages 5.7 runs per game in 55 contests played in 2019. That number is just shy of the Jayhawks’ magic number of six. When KU scores six or more runs in a contest, it holds a record of 23-2. Inversely, when Kansas scores five or fewer runs, it holds a mark of 8-22.
SHUTTING THE DOOR
The threesome of junior Nathan Barry, redshirt-junior Blake Goldsberry and redshirt-sophomore Jonah Ulane in the backend of the Jayhawk bullpen has proven to be one of the strengths of the 2019 squad. Due to their efforts, Kansas holds a mark of 26-1 when leading after seven innings and a record of 27-1 when leading after eight.
ALL ABOUT SUNDAYS
One of the mantra’s around the Kansas baseball program is that it is all about Sundays. That is the day where you can either sweep, win or salvage a series and that sentiment holds true this season as the Jayhawks have posted an 11-2 mark in 13 games played on Sunday, including an 8-1 record in Big 12 play. In those 13 contests, KU averages 7.4 runs per game compared to the 5.2 average by its opponents. In addition, KU has won the last eight-straight Sunday contests.
BRING OUT THE BROOMS
Kansas wrapped up the first weekend in May (3-5) with a three-game sweep of Texas. The sweep marks the first series sweep of a Big 12 opponent since the Jayhawks swept West Virginia (May 9-11) in 2014. It is also the first home sweep since March 9-11, 2018, when the Jayhawks swept then-No. 20 St. Johns. The series marks only the second time in Kansas history that the Jayhawks have swept the Longhorns, with the first time coming during the 2009 series.
BIG 12 PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Ryan Cyr earned Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors for his Maddux-style performance on Saturday afternoon when he pitched a complete game shutout in the second game of the series against Texas (May 4).
AS ‘CYR’-IOUS AS THEY COME
Redshirt-junior starting pitcher Ryan Cyr recorded his third-straight complete game and fourth of the season in a shutout effort against Texas (May 4) to earn Kansas the series victory over the Longhorns. It took Cyr just 86 pitches to navigate his Maddux-like performance where he struck out six and allowed just four baserunners in the win – two hits and two walks.
FIRST-TIME BIG 12 HONORS FOR THE ROOKIE
Freshman outfielder Casey Burnham was awarded Newcomer of the Week for his late-game heroics in the Jayhawks’ first game against the Longhorns (May 3). The freshman outfielder launched a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game for Kansas. In addition to being his first career four-bagger, Burnham has started to develop late in the season. The Nebraska native went 5-for-10 (.500) that week with a double, a triple, a home run and two walks.
Kansas head coach Ritch Price is the most tenured skipper in the Big 12 Conference as he has coached in 428 league games – 257 more than any other current coach.
Kansas will either play the winner or loser of No. 1 Texas Tech vs. No. 8 Kansas State on Thursday, May 23 at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.