LAWRENCE – For the first time since 2009, the Kansas baseball team heads to the NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed in the Louisville Regional and faces No. 2 Kentucky at 1:00 Friday, May 30th, inside Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Jayhawks (34-24, 15-9 Big 12) built a strong resume down the home stretch in the regular season, winning 11 of their last 13 games that included nine-straight in conference play after sweeping three-straight league opponents (at Baylor, then-No. 19 Texas Tech and West Virginia). The third-place finish in the Big 12 is the highest finish for KU in the 18-year history of the conference and the best league performance since 1994 when Kansas finished third in the Big Eight.
“Obviously, I am really excited for our players,” head coach Ritch Price said. “You saw the celebration and euphoria that was in the room. When you grind six months, it is a great, great feeling to see your name come up.”
Kansas will battle No. 2 Kentucky to open up the Louisville Regional, which also features top-seeded Louisville and No. 4 seed Kent State. Friday’s contest marks the fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in program history (1993, 1994, 2006, 2009 and 2014), and the third NCAA appearance under Price (2006, 2009 and 2014), who is in his 12th season at the helm of the Jayhawks.
“This is why you coach,” Price said. “You coach for the relationship with your players and the kind of opportunities a few men get to experience in life and enjoy. This might be as close of a team that I have coached in my career. The team chemistry is off the charts. You can see how much those guys care for one another and I think each one of those guys here wanted it for their teammate, and that is the greatest feeling you can have as a head coach.”
KU has made five appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including a trip to the College World Series in 1993. The College World Series team also made history, as that was the first berth earned by the Jayhawks into the NCAA postseason. The team followed in 1994, making its second-straight appearance, but didn’t earn another trip until 2006, when Kansas, under the direction of Price, won the Big 12 Tournament for the automatic bid.
The Jayhawks will face Kentucky in the double-elimination format regional, with Louisville and Kent State to follow at 5:00 that evening. All games throughout the regional, which runs from May 30 – June 2 (if necessary), will be aired on ESPN3.