Jayhawks Stun Wildcats In Wild Walk-Off Win At Big 12 Baseball Tournament

Kansas Walks-Off Kansas State in Big 12 Tournament. Photo Courtesy of Kansas Athletics
BOX SCORE
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 R H E
K-State 1 0 0 4 1 5 0 0 0 0 3 14 15 5
Kansas 5 1 0 0 1 3 1 0 0 0 4 15 20 3

WSteve Washilewski (4-2) L: Littlejim, Caleb (5-4)


Courtesy of Kansas Athletics

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.- With their postseason life on the line, as well as the careers of their fellow upperclassmen teammates, the freshmen on the Kansas baseball team delivered, defeating in-state rival Kansas State, 15-14, in epic comeback fashion during an elimination game in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship on Thursday morning at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

In a game where the loser has to pack their bags and head home, it looked as if that team was going to be Kansas.

After breaking out into a 6-1 lead to start the game, Kansas saw its lead start to slowly diminish as Kansas State rallied to score crooked numbers in three consecutive innings to go up 11-7.

However, Kansas started a rally of their own during both the sixth and the seventh innings in order to even that score at 11 runs apiece.

After turning to the bullpen, three Kansas State runs crossed the plate and put the Jayhawks in a compromising situation late in the ballgame.

Sophomore lefty Daniel Hegarty ran into trouble in the top of the 11th frame, allowing Kansas State to break the game open with three runs scoring off of four hits.

Kansas remained optimistic heading into the bottom of the inning, with the most reliable part of the batting order due up in junior Brett Vosik, sophomore Nolan Metcalf and junior Benjamin Sems.

Kansas’ fortune was in doubt after both Vosik and Sems recorded outs to start the inning, leaving Metcalf at second with two outs.

Then, Kansas found some postseason magic when it needed it most. With two outs and the season on the line, Messinger, who was 3-for-5 on the day with a double, walked up to the plate and roped an RBI-single into center to score Metcalf and bring the Jayhawks one run closer to the Wildcats.

The Jayhawks needed two more runs to tie the game and had the bottom of the batting order coming up. The bottom of the lineup consisted of three freshmen: Dylan Ditzenberger, Jack Wagner and Casey Burnham.

The first-year players were not about to let their upperclassmen teammates go home early.The freshmen recorded back-to-back-to-back singles and tied the ballgame at 14.

Stepping to the plate next for Kansas was junior James Cosentino, who admitted after the game that he had been seeing the ball well all day. The second basemen came to the plate with runners on second and third and a chance to win the ballgame for his team. He ripped a single into right center that scored Burnham and secured the walk-off victory for Kansas.

“I got into a 3-1 count and I was just trying to get something over the plate and just trying to battle and put the ball in play,” said Cosentino. “I saw the ball really well today in every single one of my at-bats, and it was a good team win for us. Our mentality was that we can’t lose. We’re not a team that gives up. It was great for all those freshmen to step up and keep the momentum going and keep the momentum in our dugout. They gave me a chance to do something special.”

The come-from-behind victory shows the grit and the resiliency that this team of Jayhawks has.

“We weren’t going to go out that way,” said Messinger. “We weren’t going to let our season end that way. Overall, it was just a great team win. So many guys stepped up and I’m just really proud of this team. Our resiliency all year has just been incredible. Especially for the seniors, we were playing for them. We were going to battle until the last out no matter what. We were fortunate enough to come away with the win today.”

The improbable come-from-behind victory for the Jayhawks came after Kansas had already fought its way back from a deficit once in a game that featured six different lead changes.

The Jayhawks knew that it was going to be a dogfight going into today’s contest, considering the fact that the Jayhawks had already beaten the Wildcats three times during the regular season. Head coach Ritch Price knew that it wasn’t going to be easy for his team to defeat their rivals for a fourth-straight time.

“It’s almost impossible (to beat a team four times),” said Price. “One of the things I told the team at 6:50 a.m. on the field today is that Zeferjahn dominated them last week–seven innings with 12 strikeouts. I flat out told them, ‘He’s not going to do that today, guys.’ Today, you have to win the Big 12 game today … It’s really hard to beat a team four times, but they have pride in that dugout.”

Both teams fought hard for the victory, breaking multiple Big 12 tournament records, and recording a combined 29 runs, 35 hits and eight errors.

“It was obviously one of the greatest wins I’ve ever been a part of,” said Price. “To grind it out, have a big lead, and to give it up, and to come back and find a way to take the lead again, for them to score three times and for my guys to answer four times in the bottom of the 11th is incredible. There were six great at-bats and I couldn’t be happier for [James Cosentino]. He was a freshman All-American, he hit .300 last year and has had a tough year this year, and has played through a bunch of injuries and he’s one of the best team guys I’ve ever coached.”

In the end, Kansas came out on top, living to see another day in the Big 12 Championship, after a hard-fought victory over Kansas State.

NOTES

  • The Jayhawks improved to 12-20 all-time in Big 12 tournament play.
  • Kansas defeated K-State for the third time in conference tournament play and the first time in the Big 12 era.
  • The 29 combined runs are the most in a Big 12 tournament game since 2009 and the third-most ever.
  • The nine Kansas doubles set a new conference tournament game record, breaking its own record of seven set on May 21, 2014 against West Virginia.
  • Those nine doubles also tie the Kansas school record for most in a game, matching previous numbers set in 2007 (Baker) and 2005 (Oklahoma State).
  • The 15 runs are the most scored by a KU team in Big 12 tournament play in the history of the program, breaking its previous best of 11 set in 2006.
  • The Jayhawks defeated K-State for the fourth time in a week, marking the first time KU defeated the Wildcats four times in a season since 1994.
  • The 20 hits by Kansas set a new team record for most base knocks in a Big 12 tournament game, besting the previous mark of 15 set against K-State on May 20, 2009.
  • That is the second time this season the Jayhawks connected for 20 or more hits in a game, with the last coming Feb. 23 against Texas Southern (21).
  • KU hit nine doubles and a triple, combining for 10 extra-base hits. The last time a Kansas team hit 10 or more extra-base hits in a game came since March 7, 2007 when KU hit 10 extra-base hits against Baker (nine doubles and one home run).

QUOTES

Head coach Ritch Price
On his summation of the ballgame…
“First off, it was obviously one of the greatest wins I’ve ever been a part of. To grind it out, have a big lead, and to give it up, and to come back and find a way to take the lead again, for them to score three times and for my guys to answer four times in the bottom of the 11th is incredible. There were six great at-bats and I couldn’t be happier for [James Cosentino]. He was a freshman All-American, he hit .300 last year and has had a tough year this year and has played through a bunch of injuries and he’s one of the best team guys I’ve ever coached.”

On how difficult it is to beat a team four times in a season…
“It’s almost impossible. One of the things I told the team at 6:50 a.m. on the field today is that Zeferjahn dominated them last week–seven innings with 12 strikeouts. I flat out told them, ‘He’s not going to do that today, guys.’ Today, you have to win the Big 12 game today … It’s really hard to beat a team four times, but they have pride in that dugout.”

Junior second baseman James Cosentino
On his mindset during his walk-off at-bat…
“I got into a 3-1 count and I was just trying to get something over the plate and just trying to battle and put the ball in play. I saw the ball really well today in every single one of my at-bats, and it was a good team win for us.”

On the team’s mentality in the dugout…
“Our mentality was that we can’t lose. We’re not a team that gives up. It was great for all those freshmen to step up and keep the momentum going and keep the momentum in our dugout. They gave me a chance to do something special.”

Sophomore third baseman Skyler Messinger
On the team’s energy in the dugout…
“We weren’t going to go out that way. We weren’t going to let our season end that way. Overall, it was just a great team win. So many guys stepped up and I’m just really proud of this team. Our resiliency all year has just been incredible.”

On playing for the seniors…
“Especially for the seniors, we were playing for them. We were going to battle until the last out no matter what. We were fortunate enough to come away with the win today.”

UP NEXT
Kansas continues Big 12 Championship play at 3:15 p.m. on Friday, May 24 against the loser of No. 1 Texas Tech and No. 4 West Virginia.