LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the first time since May 5, 2009, the Kansas baseball team finds itself ranked among the top-25 in the nation, sitting at No. 22 in the Baseball America national poll.
KU becomes the sixth Big 12 Conference team, out of nine, to appear in the rankings this year, and is the highest national ranking for the squad since March 2003 when it was ranked No. 20.
“I don’t know that I have ever been more proud of a team,” head coach Ritch Price said. “They have faced huge adversity and were put behind the eight ball and found a way to compete, grind and succeed. It has been a pleasure to watch these guys play and the energy and enthusiasm in our dugout the last three weeks has been really special.”
The Jayhawks are coming off a three-week span that included three-straight conference series sweeps (Baylor, then-No. 19 Texas Tech and West Virginia), while winning 10 of their last 11 contests. The nine-straight conference wins to close out league play is the most consecutive Big 12 wins in the history of the program.
“When you lose an impact guy like Wes Benjamin (Tommy John), it’s almost impossible to do what we have done,” Price said. “If that was anyone else in our league–you have no idea how it destroys your team. It changes everybody’s role. It screwed us up for three-straight weeks.”
Kansas is back on track after a sweep of West Virginia on Senior Weekend to close out the home slate and wrap-up the Big 12 season, finishing no worse than third place. For a team picked to finish last in the conference, it has been the senior leadership paving the road to the NCAA Tournament.
“One of the great compliments I can pay our seniors over the weekend is that Friday night, Jordan Piche’ goes out and sets the tone against the best hitting team in the Big 12,” Price said. “Then Ka’iana Eldredge and Tucker Tharp are huge all weekend. They got the clutch hits Saturday and Sunday, and the number of two-out RBIs from those two guys was incredible. I couldn’t be more proud of the senior class than I am right now.”
KU closes out the season with a two-game set at Michigan, May 17-18, before heading straight to the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship in Oklahoma City, vying for a bid to the NCAA Tournament, a feat that hasn’t been done since 2009.
“We need to keep playing well,” Price said. “That is going to be the message to our guys. Don’t be satisfied as we head into the bye week before the tournament. Let’s keep grinding and competing, and getting better. We are playing our best baseball of the season right now, let’s not go backward, let’s keep moving forward.”