Seven baseball Jayhawks named to All-Big 12 teams
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – In preparation for the 2017 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, the league office announced Tuesday that seven different Kansas baseball players garnered All-Big 12 recognition for their performances throughout the season.
Senior closer Stephen Villines was the lone Jayhawk tabbed with first-team recognition, as he ranked tied for first in the league with 14 saves and third in appearances (30), while striking out 53 batters on the year. He broke the KU all-time saves record, is the NCAA active saves leader, and is one save away from tying the league’s record for all-time career saves set by Huston Street (41) from 2002-04.
“I am really excited for Stephen,” head coach Ritch Price said. “He has had an absolutely phenomenal four-year career, and to see him be rewarded his senior year with first-team all-conference, speaks volumes to the respect the other coaches in the league have for him.”
Villines’ first-team honor continues a streak of five-straight years in which at least one Jayhawk earned that distinction dating back to 2013, and he is the 13th KU player ever to earn the recognition.
Six other players donned honors from the conference highlighted by freshman second baseman James Cosentino, who was tabbed to both the All-Big 12 Second Team and the All-Big 12 Freshman Team. Cosentino finished the regular season with the most home runs (4) and second-highest batting average on the team (.278). He becomes just the fifth rookie Jayhawk to earn that honor dating back to 2011.
“I expect James to be one of the all-time great Jayhawks before he is done,” Price said. “From where he was when he started the season to where he is now, it is one of the best turnarounds from anybody I have coached at the University of Kansas. He is a special player on both sides of the ball.”
In addition, sophomores righty Jackson Goddard and centerfielder Rudy Karre, and juniors shortstop Matt McLaughlin, lefty Taylor Turski and reliever Blake Weiman, all earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention Team distinction.
“It was a really tough year to be a first team or a second team selection,” Price said. “When you are the No. 1 RPI league in the country – you look at the depth of the players on the honorable mention list – there are players on that list that would normally be a on the first or second team. I think it speaks volumes to the quality of the players and the quality of the teams that were in the Big 12 in 2017.
Villines is a four-time honoree earning second-team honors in 2016 and honorable mention recognition in 2014 and 2015. McLaughlin rounds out the repeat honorees as a three-time honorable mention team member.
Kansas opens up the 2017 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship Wednesday, May 24, as the No. 7 seed and will play the No. 2 seed in TCU at 4 p.m. Fans can watch the game live on Fox College Sports or tune into the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio or KLWN 1320 AM/101.7 FM for an audio broadcast.
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