KU to Honor 2006 Big 12 Baseball Championship Team Saturday
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Prior to first pitch in Saturday’s Big 12 Conference game between the Jayhawks and No. 6-ranked TCU, the Kansas baseball team will take a moment to honor the achievements made by a group of young men 10 years ago.
The Jayhawks entered the 2006 season with a chip on their shoulder after being snubbed with a prediction to finish second-to-last in the conference’s preseason poll. Kansas used that as motivation and fueled an unbelievable run that climaxed with the program’s first conference championship in over 50 years and it’s third-ever berth into the NCAA Tournament.
“I challenged them with the hardest non-conference schedule – that was how much I believed in that group of men before the season started,” head coach Ritch Price said. “That may have been one of the hardest non-conference schedules anyone has ever played in the country.”
Kansas faced the likes of then-No. 8 Stanford, No. 17 USC, No. 9 San Diego, No. 2 Clemson and Vanderbilt – all perennial national powers. The Jayhawks used the tough competition to prepare themselves for the gauntlet that is the Big 12 Conference en route to posting the second-most wins in school history and a fifth-place finish in the league standings.
“For that group of guys to win 43 games and go into the Big 12 Baseball Championship and beat three teams that were ranked in the top-25 in the country is an unbelievable feat – based on how good the league was and the quality of the teams they beat,” Price said. “Where the program was before I took over and what we accomplished four years later is something I will never forget.”
That Big 12 Championship title propelled an unranked Kansas team into the national spotlight at No. 22 and earned them a trip to the Corvallis Regional in the NCAA Tournament – the first of three postseason appearances for the Jayhawks under Price. Fifteen players from that team signed professional contracts including 2006 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year and All-American Don Czyz.
“You need a group of young men who invest and buy in,” Price said. “They were committed to the program and committed to the process of turning the program around. I couldn’t have associated myself with a better group of guys.”
The 2006 squad laid the foundation for future generations and set the high standard that is needed to play baseball at Kansas. The success they garnered help transform Hoglund Ballpark into what it is today.
“With the success they had, they laid the foundation for us to continue to improve our facilities and program,” Price said. “Everything the players have today – from the McCarthy Family Clubhouse, the Gary and Sue Padgett Indoor Facility, the AstroTurf field and now the Rich Jantz Outdoor Batting Cages – those players made that dream happen.”
Each member of that team able to attend Saturday’s 6 p.m., contest against the Horned Frogs will be introduced and recognized prior to first pitch with a special video presentation to follow.
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