From Bud Stallworth’s 50-point night and Tony Sands’ 396-yard day to Todd Reesing’s touchdown pass to Kerry Meier in the snow and February’s 19-point KU comeback in Allen Fieldhouse, the Kansas-Missouri rivalry has seen it all throughout its 100-plus years of existence. This weekend, the Jayhawks and Tigers will be conference adversaries on the field for the final time.
KU and MU will meet in a three-game, three-day baseball series starting at 6 tonight.
With Missouri headed to the SEC next year, the famed Border War — the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River — will be put on hold for who knows how long.
As members of the same conferences for the last several decades, Kansas and Missouri enjoyed years of intense competition while fans and alumni of each university waged quite a war themselves.
It only seems fitting then that, with KU’s postseason hopes hanging in the balance, the Jayhawks (20-31 overall, 5-15 Big 12) would welcome the hated Tigers (27-24, 9-12) to town one final time with so much on the line.
“We have to have a good weekend to get into the Big 12 tournament,” KU junior Jordan Dreiling said. “And with Missouri coming to town and all the hype surrounding them leaving, we should have a great crowd, and you should see some great baseball. With everything on the line, the Big 12 tournament and Missouri, it kind of all bunches up and makes it even more special.”
Dreiling, who graduated from Free State High and spent his childhood cheering for the Jayhawks, said he never imagined he would be a part of the last meeting between the Jayhawks and Tigers. In fact, it was not until recently that it even hit him.
“I haven’t really thought too much about it,” he said. “But it’s kind of crazy to think about playing in the last game against them. Knowing that your parents and your grandparents have seen this rivalry forever, it’s kind of cool knowing that I’ll be out there playing in it.”
The Jayhawks believe the Tigers are the ones who put an end to this rivalry when they elected to leave the Big 12. Naturally, Missouri folks believe the Jayhawks are ending the rivalry by dodging efforts made by MU coaches and administrators to keep the teams on each other’s schedules. Regardless of which side is right — as if that ever could be determined — KU coach Ritch Price and his players share the disappointment felt by many.
“First off, just like a lot of the coaches in our department, I’m sorry to see the rivalry end,” Price said. “I’m a Californian, and when I came here I got warned what it was going to be like, and I still wasn’t prepared for it. There’s no rivalry in California that’s as nasty as this one.”
Added senior third baseman Zac Elgie, who will return to KU’s lineup after missing two weeks because of a broken finger: “The series and the history between these two is great, and it’s sad that it has to go.”
Although KU’s focus is fixed on taming the Tigers this weekend, the Jayhawks also will be keeping an eye on what happens in Lubbock, Texas, between Texas Tech and Kansas State.
The Jayhawks lead the Wildcats by a half game for the eighth and final spot in the Big 12 standings and trail the Red Raiders by a half game for seventh place. Two victories or more against the Tigers would guarantee KU a spot in Oklahoma City next week, while one win or less would require KU’s getting some help to reach the postseason.
“Obviously, we want to win the series and come out on top of it as the final series played between these two programs,” Price said. “But that’s all secondary. It’s about winning the series.”
“Coach Price said it best,” Elgie said. “He said, ‘Let’s send them to the SEC on a losing note.’”
The official M&I Border Showdown Series dates back to 2003. Missouri owns a 7-2 advantage overall — KU won in 2004 and 2006 — and is on the brink of making it 8-2, as the Tigers lead the Jayhawks in this year’s standings. Here’s a quick look at the head-to-head results from the 2011-12 seasons. The series is scored with a maximum of three points possible in each sport. In sports that do not compete head-to-head, the team placing higher at the Big 12 championships earns the points.
Sport MU KU
Volleyball 3 0
Soccer 3 0
Men’s Cross Country 1 0
Women’s Cross Country 1 0
Women’s Swimming and Diving 3 0
Football 3 0
Women’s Basketball 1.5 1.5
Men’s Basketball 1.5 1.5
Men’s Indoor Track & Field 1 0
Women’s Indoor Track & Field 0 1
Softball 3 0
Women’s Tennis 3 0
Men’s Golf 3 0
Women’s Golf 3 0
Men’s Outdoor Track & Field 0 1
Women’s Outdoor Track & Field 0 1
Totals 30 6
Big 12 Baseball Standings
Texas A&M 13-8
Oklahoma State 13-8
Texas Tech 6-15
Kansas State 5-16