Unless the fates or the elements conspire against him, Brent Wilhelm will enter the Kansas baseball record books today.
Barring a freak accident or inclement weather, Wilhelm, a senior third baseman, was to play in his school-record 213th college game this afternoon, when KU was to take on Iowa State in a Big Eight doubleheader at ISU's Timm Field.
"That means a lot to me," Wilhelm said. "That's quite a few games. I didn't really know anything about it. I'm kind of surprised, actually, that I got to play in that many."
Wilhelm's 212 games have covered the emotional spectrum. A native of Independence, Mo., Wilhelm hit .267 as a freshman, when KU went 25-28. He hit .304 as a sophomore, when the Jayhawks went 45-18 and parlayed their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance into their first-ever College World Series appearance.
Last year, Wilhelm hit .350, and the Jayhawks returned to the NCAA tourney.
As a senior, Wilhelm is hitting .293. Kansas, 16-29 overall, 7-15 in the Big Eight, has just one chance left at making it back to the NCAAs: Win the Big Eight tournament.
"It definitely went the whole cycle," Wilhelm said. "A couple years ago, I felt we were definitely on top of the game of baseball. I felt we were one of the premier programs in the country. This year ... we've taken a step back."
Indeed, the Jayhawks are all but guaranteed their worst record in coach Dave Bingham's eight-year tenure and his worst finish ever. KU went 25-34 in Bingham's first year at KU. Even if the Jayhawks win their final 10 regular-season games, they'd enter the postseason 26-29, or just percentage points ahead of Bingham's worst record.
"You can just about blame it on anything," Wilhelm said. "When you don't hit, don't pitch and don't play defense, it makes it hard to win baseball games."
Outfielder Darryl Monroe, the Lawrence High product now playing in the Detroit Tigers' farm system at Fayetteville, N.C., established the KU record of 212 games last season.