KU baseball beats top seed Texas in Big 12 tournament thanks to a late grand slam

photo by: Kansas Athletics

Janson Reeder is pictured May 24, 2023 in first round action against Texas in the Big 12 tournament.

Kansas baseball produced a grand slam and a grand upset in the opening round of the Big 12 Championship tournament.

KU beat Texas, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, 6-3 on Wednesday behind a seventh-inning grand slam by junior Janson Reeder.

A day after being named All-Big 12 First Team, the transfer from Cowley Community College turned on a 94-mile-an-hour fastball. The grand slam broke a 2-2 tie and put KU up for good.

KU entered the tournament at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas as the No. 8 seed, the lowest in the tournament. KU didn’t have a single player on its roster who had played in a Big 12 Tournament game, as KU didn’t have enough wins last year to qualify for the event.

But the Jayhawks have a new coach, former LSU assistant Dan Fitzgerald, and he said the team has plenty of energy, even if experience isn’t in abundance.

“I’m super proud of the effort of our guys today,” Fitzgerald said in a KU release. “We fought all year. We have a really cohesive, together group and they’ve been awesome since August. So I’m not surprised we came out and played with a lot of passion and energy and fashion. I’m really, really proud of the effort.”

Reeder delivered the big blow — his first career grand slam at the collegiate level — after having been named the conference’s top designated hitter when awards were announced on Tuesday. He finished the regular season as the team’s leader in doubles and slugging percentage, and had hit 11 home runs for the Jayhawks heading into the tournament.

He got help from one of the top freshmen hitters in the country. Kodey Shojinaga, who on Tuesday was named the Big 12 Co-Freshman of the Year, went 3 for 4 and delivered an RBI in the third inning to give KU an early 2-0 lead.

KU kept the lead until the sixth, thanks to ace Collin Baumgartner out-battling Texas’ Lucas Gordon, who finished the season as the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year. Baumgartner allowed just one earned run in six innings, and struck out five with just one walk. Baumgartner — a sixth-year graduate transfer who was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team earlier this week — has been on a roll lately. He’s 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his last five starts.

The win is KU’s first in the Big 12 tournament since 2019, and it ensures that the Jayhawks will have at least two more games in the double-elimination event. KU will take on No. 4 seed TCU at 4 p.m. Thursday in a game that will be televised on ESPN U.

If KU wins the Thursday game, it will next play on Saturday. Depending on how other teams fare, KU at that point could be just one win away from grabbing a spot in Sunday’s championship game.

Even if KU loses to TCU on Thursday, KU gets a chance to keep its season alive in a Friday elimination game, which would be at 3 p.m.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.