Kansas baseball sweeps Baylor Bears, aims for a NCAA regional bid
- May. 5, 2013
- 1 Comment
The Jayhawks’ weekend series sweep over the Baylor Bears is a testament to just how quickly fortunes can change in NCAA Baseball.
At this time last weekend, Kansas players and coaches were preparing for the long charter flight back from Beckley, W.Va., after experiencing the wrong side of three one-run losses at the hands of the West Virginia Mountaineers.
“We played so well coming into that weekend against West Virginia,” senior third baseman Jordan Dreiling said. “We just wanted to put ourselves back in position to get into the NCAA tournament. Nothing better than having a sweep after getting swept.”
Kansas players broke out the brooms in a truly fitting style for this 2013 lineup. The Jayhawks won all three games by a single run, winning game one 3-2, game two 6-5 on a walk off from senior shortstop Kevin Kuntz and clinching the sweep with a walk-off single from Dreiling to win 5-4.
“He left a fastball up and luckily I got a good barrel on it,” Dreiling said. “I didn’t know for sure. I knew I hit it well, but their right fielder made some good plays over the weekend. I didn’t know if he had a good enough jump on it to catch it.”
The Jayhawks have made an art of the one-run victory. Over the course of this season, Kansas has recorded 11 victories in one-run fashion.
“I’ll tell you what,” coach Ritch Price said, “I’m glad there’s a really young coach in that third base box and a really young coach in that first base box because I’m having a heart attack in the dugout.”
After the weekend in West Virginia, it looked as though the Jayhawks might be out of the race for the Big 12 conference. The Jayhawks are now a half-game out of first after Oklahoma’s 9-6 Sunday loss to West Virginia. The Kansas mentality never changed over the course of the turnaround.
“Energy level in the dugout is always high,” Dreiling said. “We had our backs against the wall. Every game from here on out is pretty much a playoff game because we have to get our record up to get an NCAA regional bid. I think everybody knows that in the back of their minds and everybody believes they can contribute.”
In a weekend full of Jayhawk heroes, sophomore designated hitter Connor McKay came up big in Sunday’s sweep-clinching win. McKay belted two doubles to score two of Kansas’ runs. One of these doubles came in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game at four and send the Jayhawks to extra innings.
“We’ve lost a lot of one-run games this year,” McKay said. “There was kind of that bitter taste in our mouth, especially after West Virginia. We really needed this series and the team itself, knowing how it feels to lose, wasn’t going to let the loss happen.”
Kansas junior closer Jordan Piche’ appeared in all three of the Jayhawks’ one-run wins. Piche’ struggled through one and one-third innings giving up three hits, an earned run and striking out three. The appearance raised Piche’s ERA to 0.72.
“When you’re asking a young man pitch three days in a row, they don’t even do that in the big leagues,” Price said. “He’s grinded all year. The reason we’re 12-9 in this league is him being the best guy in the country at the back end of games.”
Kansas heads to Wichita on Tuesday for an important game against the Shockers. The game won’t affect Kansas in the Big 12 race, but has a large effect on an NCAA regional bid. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Eck Stadium.