With the runner-up finish, the Huskers will wait for the announcement of the NCAA Tournament, when the field is announced on Monday at 11:30 a.m. (central). Nebraska (42-15) did learn earlier on Sunday that it was selected as one of 16 sites around the nation to host a four-team regional next weekend at Hawks Field in Lincoln, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas (42-23) earned the Big 12 Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday by winning its first-ever Big 12 title. Before the 2006 season, the Jayhawks had never won a Big 12 Tournament game, but finished this year's tournament with a perfect 4-0 record.
Andy Gerch had three hits and a pair of RBIs, while Wehrle went 2-for-3 with a homer, two RBIs and three runs scored in a losing effort.
The Jayhawks struck for a run in the second before taking control of the game with four big runs in the third inning to take a 5-0 lead. Erik Morrison's two-run single was the big blow, as KU chased starter Jon Klausing in the third inning.
Nebraska cut into KU's lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth with a pair of runs, on a two-out RBI single by Andrew Brown and a run-scoring triple off the bat of Gerch. The Jayhawks answered back with two runs in the top of fifth to rebuild the lead to five runs. The Kansas lead grew as large as 9-2 after the Jayhawks produced single runs in the sixth and eighth innings, before Nebraska began to rally.
In the bottom of the eighth, Nick Jaros led off with a single before Ryan Wehrle sparked the Huskers with his two-run homer off KU reliever Paul Smyth to draw NU within 9-4. It was Werhle's eighth homer of the season and second of the Big 12 tournament. The Huskers continued the rally off KU ace Kodiak Quick, who relieved Smyth. Brown drew a one-out walk and Gerch followed with a single to put runners at first and second. After a fly out, Jeff Christy smashed an RBI single to score Brown and send NU to ninth trailing 9-5.
After Luke Wertz pitched a scoreless top of the ninth for the Huskers, Wehrle rallied the Huskers again in the bottom of the inning. He laced a two-out single up the middle off Quick, advanced to second and scored on Brandon Buckman's RBI single. Casey Klapperich came on to run for Buckman and advanced to second on another single by Brown, which brought Gerch to the plate representing the tying run. Gerch smoked a single to left to drive in Klapperich and bring the winning run to the plate.
After watching Quick, the ace of their staff, surrender four straight two-out hits in the ninth and three runs overall in just 1.2 innings, the Jayhawks turned the ball over to their closer Don Czyz.
Czyz fell behind Jake Opitz 2-0 before Opitz turned on a fastball and grounded it sharply over the bag at first. But KU first baseman Jared Schweitzer was guarding the line and made the play to end the game.
Czyz earned the save, his national-best 18th of the year, preserving a strong pitching performance for his younger brother Nick, who held the Huskers to just two earned runs on three hits in 5.1 innings.
While Nick Czyz held the Huskers in check through the first five-plus innings, Klausing and relievers Charlie Shirek and Mike Harmelink combined to give up nine runs on 12 hits through eight innings. Klausing (4-2) lasted 2.1 innings, surrendering four earned runs on five hits, while Shirek allowed three runs, two earned, on three hits in 2.2 innings. The hot-hitting Jayhawks added two runs on four hits through three innings of work off of Harmelink.
Although Nick Czyz successfully slowed NU, the Huskers hammered Smyth and Quick for eight hits and five runs in the eighth and ninth innings.
Nebraska Postgame Notes
*-Nebraska finished runner-up in the Big 12 Tournament for the second time in school history (also in 2002). NU is now 4-2 all-time in Big 12 Tournament title games
*-With the loss, NU falls to 23-5 at the AT&T
Bricktown Ballpark and 27-8 all-time in Big 12 Tournament play.
*-Nebraska was 7-for-16 (.438) in two-out situations on Sunday, and hit .404 in two-out situations during the Big 12 Tournament as 14 of its 22 RBI this week were with two outs.
*-Nebraska committed just three errors for the first time since April 13 against Texas A&M and for just the fourth time all season through 57 games.
*-Nebraska was 9-0 in televised games and 9-0 in
neutral site games before seeing both streaks snapped on Sunday.
*-Jon Klausing's five hits given up through 2.1 innings tied the most he has given up this season along with his four inning, five-hit game against Northern Iowa on May 10. Klausing had allowed only one run in his three previous starts this season.
*-Wherle continued to swing a hot bat against the Jayhawks by going 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and two RBIs after hitting .417 (5-of-12) against Kansas during the regular season. Wehrle also matched his career high with three runs scored (also against Wichita State on April 25)
*-With his two hits, Wehrle recorded his team-best 28 multi-hit game of the season, while also upping his total to 14-for-14 in stolen base attempts.
*-Luke Wertz pitched a scoreless ninth inning in his
first action since April 11
*-Mike Harmelink set career highs in both innings worked (3.0) and strikeouts (4.0)
*-Catcher Jeff Christy and pitcher Brett Jensen were named to the 2006 Big 12 All-Tournament Team. Christy
finished the tournament 4-of-11 with two home runs and four RBIs while Jensen earned three saves in Nebraska's three victories this week, a Big 12 Tournament record.
*-Charlie Shirek's third inning triple given up to Brock Simpson was just the second triple he has given up all season.
NEBRASKA QUOTES – CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Head Coach – Mike Anderson
"First and foremost, congratulations to Kansas. They are the deserving champs. I'm happy to see them advancing to regional play. Again, congratulations to Ritchie Price and Kansas."
"I felt that the first four or five innings, it was a matter of want probably more than anything. I think it was evident by the end of the game and it was evident at the beginning of the game. They just wanted it a little bit more. We made a good push late. That was good to see, but we didn't execute. We had two soft lefties going in the game with (Jon) Klausing and (Nick) Czyz and they executed and we didn't and you have to give them credit. I just felt that the outcome of the game had a lot to do with want and they wanted it. We did at the end, but it was not enough."
"Obviously, we would like to win every game. It just looked like we were out of the flow. I'm not questioning our kids. I'm just saying that the intensity was a little bit down. We got it going. Our kids fought and that is a good sign. To me, you could just see that there was more intensity on their side."
"I haven't lost the confidence in the team. They were built for regional play. I guarantee these kids won't be thinking about Kansas next week. I love this team. I love everything about them. They're built for the right reasons – strong pitching, good defense, we just need timely hitting. When you evaluate this team from the whole season, the good and bad stretches, and it comes out where we've come out, that's a pretty good ball club that I'm really excited about. We've had our ups and downs and they don't mean anything now, you just go play a regional. Hopefully what you've done during the season is what you pull from; you go win a regional and go from there. I can't tell you anything about seeding, but I can tell you I love this ball club. I wouldn't trade a single soul on this team. Not one."
Player Quotes – Jake Opitz, 2B,
"We were a couple of hits away from being right back in that game when we got going there at the end, but we couldn't get that big hit. We were a lot more intense getting back into the game; we had it there in the end but couldn't finish it. It just wasn't there for us."
Ryan Wehrle – SS,
"It obviously showed with their intensity. They came out a lot more aggressive than we did. Once we got down, we tried clawing our way back into it, but it didn't work out. We came out and played to the best of our abilities, but we just couldn't get it going. We still have some of our season left and hopefully we can bring it back. No matter how many runs we're down, we're always going to come back and fight. There's really no excuse for letting the balls fall like I did."
"(Our goals) are the same as they were in the beginning. We want to win a national championship. It doesn't matter who we play on Friday, we're going to come out and play."