In Ritch Price's first year as the Kansas head baseball coach, the Jayhawks grabbed the eighth seed in the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City. Last year when the conference tourney was held in Arlington, TX, Kansas failed to qualify. Tonite, the Jayhawks could grab their second tourney invite in three seasons if they can beat Oklahoma State and watch Texas A&M and Kansas State (two teams tied for ninth place) fall in their respective games with Texas and Nebraska (two clubs in the top three spots in the conference standings). The Jayhawks (9-14) currently lead the Aggies (8-16) and Wildcats (8-16) by 1.5 games with three Big 12 contests left to play.
"Right now we're in eighth place," explained Price. "We're a game and a half ahead of Texas A&M who is in ninth place and the same is true with Kansas State. I think the way it works out is that if we win Friday night and Texas A&M and Kansas State both lose then we would automatically be in at that time."
Qualifying for the conference tournament would be a nice accomplishment for a Kansas team that just three weeks ago was 4-11 in Big 12 play and in last place. Since a 7-0 shutout loss at Kansas State the Jayhawks have responded with wins in five of their last eight conference games and now are playing with confidence heading into the final weekend of Big 12 action. Should the Jayhawks qualify for the tournament the club would certainly be proud of that accomplishment, but don't expect the 'Hawks to be content with just making the trip this year.
"The team that wins the tournament gets an automatic berth (to the NCAA tournament), Price said. "So, the tournament is really important once you get there. Last year, for example, Missouri finished sixth or seventh in our league, got to the title game and lost, but then still got an NCAA tournament berth. They actually leap-frogged Nebraska that had 39 wins and was 5th place in the regular season."
Kansas would like to be that team this year -- which means first qualifying for the Big 12 tournament, but then also racking up at least a couple of wins this weekend before a huge week next week in Bricktown.
As for topping the Cowboys who come to Lawrence currently tied for 5th place, Price knows his club will have its hands full.
"They're one of the best hitting teams in our conference and they have outstanding pitching," Price said of the Pokes. "We're going to have to pitch as good as we did against Texas to have an opportunity to win the series."
The OSU series gets underway tonite at 7 PM at KU's Hoglund Ballpark.