Oklahoma City, Okla. The streak is over.
After closing the season with nine consecutive victories over Big 12 foes, the third-seeded Kansas University baseball team dropped its opening game at the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City, 10-9, to No. 6 seed West Virginia.
Starting pitcher Jordan Piche' struck out 11 batters through 6.1 innings and the Jayhawks built an 8-2 lead after giving up two runs in the top of the first. But an eight-run seventh by the Mountaineers proved to be insurmountable and sent the Jayhawks into the consolation bracket and to the brink of elimination.
Piche's 11 strikeouts were a career-high, but KU coach Ritch Price said KU's four-run offensive explosions in the fifth and sixth innings may have led to Piche's demise in the seventh.
“We put up the two four-spots back-to-back and I think Jordan sat in the dugout quite a while,” Price said. “He went back out there and got behind the first guy and then he hits a 2-0 fastball for a base hit. Then we walked two guys with one out and it ran his pitch count up over 100 pitches.”
Mid-week starter Drew Morovick went to the mound in relief of Piche' with one out and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, but gave up four straight hits and four earned runs while recording just one out.
Freshman closer Stephen Villines finished the seventh and also pitched the eighth and ninth innings, but not before giving up a three-run home run to WVU designated hitter Jackson Cramer that capped off the Mountaineers' monster inning.
“I congratulate West Virginia,” Price said. “We felt really good about the score late in the game, but give credit to West Virginia for battling back.”
The Jayhawks responded to WVU's eight-run seventh inning with a single run in their half of the inning, but could not muster anything in the eighth or ninth.
KU left the bases loaded to end the seventh and Connor McKay flied out with two runners on in the bottom of the ninth to end the game. In all, Kansas stranded 15 base runners in the loss.
“It is tough to see us go down like that,” Piche' said. “It hurts. We need to come out tomorrow and get after it.”
Senior center fielder Tucker Tharp was 4-for-4 with three RBI and junior outfielders Michael Suiter (2-for-6, RBI) and Dakota Smith (3-for-5, 2 RBI) also recorded multi-hit games for the Jayhawks.
Next up, Kansas (34-23) will face No. 7 seed Baylor at 9 a.m. Thursday in an elimination game. The Bears lost to TCU, 8-5, on Wednesday. West Virginia (28-24) will face TCU at 4 p.m. Thursday.
WEST VIRGINIA 10, KANSAS 9
West Virginia 200 000 800 — 10 13 1
Kansas 000 044 100 — 9 13 2
W — Sean Carley, 6-3. L — Drew Morovick, 9-4.
2B — Ryan McBroom, Jacob Rice, WVU; Michael Suiter, Dakota Smith, Tucker Tharp (3), Ryan Pidhaichuk, Aaron Hernandez, KU. HR — Jackson Cramer, WVU.
KU highlights — Jordan Piche' 6.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 11 K; Dakota Smith 3-for-5, 2 RBI, 3 runs; Michael Suiter 2-for-6, RBI, 2 runs; Tucker Tharp 4-for-4, 3 RBI; Justin Protacio 1-for-3, RBI, 2 runs.