The first meeting — an 11-inning affair a week ago today that featured a dozen hits, a single run and a guest appearance from a baseball-loving squirrel at Hoglund Ballpark — went to Kansas University’s baseball team, 1-0.
At 6:30 tonight at Eck Stadium, the Jayhawks and Wichita State will meet in a rematch. No word on whether the squirrel will be in attendance.
Although tonight’s match-up means nothing for the Jayhawks in their quest to win the Big 12 regular season title — the Jayhawks, at 12-9 in conference play, are just percentage points behind Kansas State, Oklahoma and West Virginia, who sit in a three-way tie for first at 11-7 — the team is treating it like a World Series game.
“Every game from here on out’s pretty much a playoff game,” KU senior third baseman Jordan Dreiling said. “We need to get our record up so we can get a regional bid, and I think everybody knows those mid-week games are just as important as the Big 12 when we’re trying to get an NCAA regional bid. We just have to keep that same mentality and compete every pitch.”
With just one Big 12 series remaining on their schedule — KU (30-18 overall) will play host to K-State this weekend — the Jayhawks know that every opportunity to pad their résumé for the postseason is crucial.
“It’s obviously a huge week,” KU coach Ritch Price said. “We were in the NCAA Tournament when we went to West Virginia (April 26-27), and we played ourselves out, and we turned around and played ourselves back in this weekend.”
Tonight, senior righty Tanner Poppe (3-3, 4.38 ERA, 33 K, 16 BB) will start on the mound for the Jayhawks, who are 6-3 in their last nine games, seven of which were decided by one run.