Seven years ago, the Kansas baseball team celebrated its high point under Ritch Price with shirts, pictures and a dog pile on the infield at Bricktown Ballpark.
The Jayhawks had just won the Big 12 Tournament and were headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years. It was a moment Price, who is now in his 10th season at Kansas, will never forget.
But a new memory may be on the horizon.
Kansas will get the chance to duplicate its 2006 achievement at 1 p.m. Sunday thanks to a 4-0 victory over TCU late Saturday night. By winning all three games of pool play, it advanced to the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament, where it will take on Oklahoma with an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament up for grabs.
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For the sixth-seeded Jayhawks (34-24), it’s likely a win-or-go-home affair. Their RPI is probably too low to make the postseason with an at-large bid. But three straight victories have put them within reach of another tournament championship and their first regional appearance since 2009.
Behind starter Robert Kahana, who used an assortment of pitches to improve to 5-1, the Jayhawks stymied TCU’s offense from start to finish. Kahana lasted six innings and didn’t allow a run while giving up four hits and striking out two.
Closer Jordan Piche pitched the final 2 1/3 innings. It was his third appearance in three days.
Kansas didn’t need much offense in this one, but Kevin Kuntz gave the Jayhawks their first lead with a single that scored Ka’iana Eldredge in the third inning, Alex DeLeon hit a double and later scored to put them up 2-0 in the sixth and Michael Suiter blasted a two-run homer in the seventh.
They cruised from there.
TCU was unable to mount a comeback, which wasn’t surprising considering it learned its postseason hopes were dashed before the game started. A West Virginia victory over Oklahoma State earlier in the day eliminated the Horned Frogs from championship contention.
Kansas will face a more determined opponent when it takes the field against Oklahoma, which won two of their three regular-season meetings. It wants to win a trophy and to head into the postseason with momentum.
But the Jayhawks are thinking big, too. They want to finish off another improbable run at the Big 12 Tournament with another unforgettable celebration.