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Originally published May 25, 2009 at 11:39a.m., updated May 25, 2009 at 11:58a.m.

Kansas baseball team makes NCAA Tournament

Jayhawks will face Coastal Carolina (46-14) in Chapel Hill, N.C., Regional

For the second time in four years, KU baseball is heading to the NCAA Tournament.

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It was a rather gray Monday morning when Paul Smyth and Buck Afenir arrived at the McCarthy Family Clubhouse, where the two seniors, along with teammates, would flip on a television to find out whether their decorated careers as members of the Kansas University baseball team had come to an end.

And in the uncertainty of the day — their futures placed, for the moment, in the unforgiving hands of the NCAA’s selection committee — the two seniors were not in the most tranquil of moods.

“We were saying we didn’t know if we could stomach it if we didn’t get announced before the commercial break,” Smyth said.

Luckily for the players, their stomachs suffered limited abuse.

Shortly after the start of ESPN’s 30-minute selection special — and just before the program’s first commercial break — Kansas was tapped as the No. 3 seed in the Chapel Hill, N.C., regional, where the Jayhawks will take on second-seeded Coastal Carolina at 1 p.m. Friday.

The announcement was a relief for the Jayhawks, who’ll be making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and their first since 2006, when the team finished 1-2 in Corvallis, Ore.

“I’m just thrilled for our players,” seventh-year KU coach Ritch Price said. “You start playing this thing four or five months ago, and it’s an incredible grind through 56 games with the demands these student-athletes have on them. Obviously, I’m very proud of them, and I think they’re very deserving of the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament.”

The invitation, however, didn’t come without a good dose of drama.

A week ago, having closed out a 37-19 regular season with a convincing series victory over then-No. 11 Kansas State, the Jayhawks appeared to be a lock for an NCAA regional berth, having survived a grueling schedule to earn a fifth-place conference finish.

But after a surprisingly sluggish showing at last weekend’s Big 12 tournament, during which it lost three games by a combined score of 22-11, the team’s postseason footing suddenly grew shaky. And as the Jayhawks suffered through the first few minutes of Monday’s selection show, watching bracket after bracket appear without them, doubt began to seep into the locker room.

One of the most nerve-wracking moments came in the first few minutes of the program, when Oklahoma State, which had failed to earn a berth into the Big 12 tournament and — like Kansas — was considered a bubble team, was selected into the Clemson, S.C., regional.

“The room just fell silent,” Smyth said. “You come to that realization that every year teams get disappointed. We were keeping our fingers crossed that it wasn’t going to be us, (but) when we saw Okie State, who was a bubble team, get in, it was, ‘OK, that’s one of the spots that’s taken.’”

Instead, the OSU selection merely represented the start of a rather big day for the Big 12 Conference.

A record eight Big 12 teams earned bids Monday, a group that included No. 1 seeds Texas and Oklahoma, No. 2 seeds Missouri, Kansas State and Texas A&M; and No. 3 seeds Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor.

Kansas now can focus on its upcoming opponent: a 46-14 Coastal Carolina team coming off its third straight Big South Conference tournament title.

Monday afternoon, Price said he knew little about the Chanticleers — a program KU never before has faced — but he expected that to change by the end of the workday.

“First, we’ll try to contact somebody that we have a relationship with that’s played them in a nonconference game,” Price said. “Second thing is, we’ll get online and find out which games they had that were on TV and see if we can get copies of the video, and then we’ll break that video down.”

What they’ll find is a team that, on paper, does not possess many discernible weaknesses. In addition to their postseason experience, having advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in 2008, the Chanticleers feature 10 players batting .300 or higher and a three-member corps of starting pitchers who combined to go 26-3 this season.

But with Monday’s announcement came a renewed sense of spirit within the confines of the Kansas clubhouse, and for a team desperate to rebound from its most recent skid, a clean slate and a chance at redemption.

“After this last weekend, it didn’t leave a real good taste in our mouth,” all-Big 12 third baseman Tony Thompson said. “But we’ll be going in this weekend fresh, and we’re excited to be there and have the opportunity to move on.

“Anything can happen,” he added, “once you make it into this tournament.”

Comments

kansaspike 10 years, 8 months ago

Great job Hawks.

However, we couldn't have a worse draw.

Can you imagine playing the 1st/2nd rounds of the basketball tourney in NC where there are TWO home teams? Unreal.

Seth Peattie 10 years, 8 months ago

Coastal Carolina can SUCK IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

stravinsky 10 years, 8 months ago

Also the fact that coastal carolina is pretty freaking good.

Glad they made the tournament though, I know the commentators weren't sure we would. I wouldn't want them to end the season on the sour note of going winless at the Big 12 tourney.

kuman3343 10 years, 8 months ago

Sweet, I live in Central NC, about 30 minutes from Chapel Hill. I'm gonna try to go to that and watch the 'Hawks play.

Rock Chalk

Rickyonealku 10 years, 8 months ago

Great job Jayhawks...now how the heck did OSU make the tournament when the Pokes did not make the BIG 12 Tourney???

Congrates to the Kansas Baseball Team.....

jhawkpb23 10 years, 8 months ago

I hope KU kicks the crap out of Coastal and then goes on to demolish UNC on their home field. Rock chalk Jayhawk, and I hope to see you in Omaha in a couple weeks for the CWS!

sevenyearhawk 10 years, 8 months ago

So ... you think Roy Williams will be in attendance? :p

TtownHawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Actually sevenyear, i'm sure he will be

actorman 10 years, 8 months ago

I realize that this isn't the full story. But I suppose providing a date (and time, if available) is a little too much to ask for???

sevenyearhawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Friday, May 29th at 1 pm (CDT)

If they win, they'll play the UNC/Dartmouth winner at 5 pm the next day, if they lose, they'll play the other loser at 1 pm

It's a double elimination format ...

actorman 10 years, 8 months ago

Thanks, sevenyear. Any word on TV? I assume the first one won't be, but I'm guessing if we play UNC on Saturday there's a chance.

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 8 months ago

i'm surprised they made it frankly. but when i saw Baylor made it, i knew we had to of.

a bit of a reprieve, since we did not play well at the Big 12 tourney. let's win the first one, and see what happens. Go Jayhawks!

Matt Bowers 10 years, 8 months ago

If we win what time do we play (east coast) and where on Saturday? Will be in Carolina and want to catch the game.

Rock Chalk

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