OKLAHOMA CITY Only time will tell if Kansas University will become the X-factor in the Big 12 Conference softball tournament.
"I don't think anybody thinks we'll win the tournament," KU coach Tracy Bunge said, "but I think we're a team nobody wants to play."
Bunge made that assessment based on the Jayhawks' pitching. Kansas has one of the lowest team batting averages in the Big 12 (.236), but KU also boasts two of the league's best hurlers in Kassie Humphreys and Serena Settlemier.
"Kassie and Serena are doing such a good job," Bunge said, "that we know if we scratch out some runs we can be competitive against anybody in our league."
Kansas (30-24 overall, 8-10 Big 12) is the tourney's sixth seed and will open against third-seeded Baylor (36-19, 12-6) at 11 a.m. today at Hall of Fame Stadium.
Settlemier ranks second in the Big 12 - behind Texas icon Cat Osterman - with a 1.21 earned-run average, and Humphreys is third with a 1.31 average.
Bunge declined to reveal which pitcher would start against the Bears, but Humphreys is the likely candidate based on past performance.
A junior from Glendale, Ariz., Humphreys dazzled the Bears in a route-going 2-1, 11-inning victory April 8 in Waco, Texas. Humphreys surrendered only two hits, walked just one batter and fanned 13 in her longest stint as a collegian.
"I felt it was one of my best games," Humphreys said. "I had control. I didn't walk a lot of people, and when they hit the ball they hit it right at someone."
Settlemier ended a 10-inning scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the top of the 11th.
"That was so totally uncharacteristic of her," Humphreys quipped with a smile.
Settlemier's game-winner in Waco was one of 21 round-trippers she has slugged in a record-shattering senior season that culminated Wednesday when she was named Big 12 player of the year.
Kansas may need a solid showing in the league tourney to qualify for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
"That's our main concern," Humphreys said. "We really want to take our seniors to the next level. Nine months we've worked our butts off for this."
Bunge concedes the Jayhawks will be on the fence when the NCAA pairings are announced Sunday afternoon.
"I think the Big 12 should get six teams in the tournament," she said, "but there's never any guarantee."
If Kansas defeats Baylor, KU will play again at 7:30 p.m. today. If the Jayhawks lose, they'll have to come right back at 2 p.m. in an elimination game.