KU baseball draws top-seeded Oklahoma for next Big 12 tournament game

photo by: Carter Gaskins/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas pitcher Reese Dutton (31) winds up to throw a pitch against Texas Southern Friday, March 1, 2024, at Hoglund Ballpark.

With an unexpected and welcome day of rest in the rearview mirror, the Kansas baseball team will face top-seeded Oklahoma in its second game of the Big 12 Conference baseball tournament on Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

The Jayhawks benefited from TCU’s upset victory over No. 4 West Virginia on Tuesday, which allowed them to bypass Wednesday’s action entirely. The Horned Frogs promptly lost to the Sooners 4-0 on Wednesday afternoon, setting up Thursday’s matchup.

KU will enter with a little advance prep time before it plays an unfamiliar opponent, after it did not face OU during the regular season.

That was likely a boon for the Jayhawks, as the Sooners did not leave many teams unscathed during the run to their first-ever Big 12 regular-season baseball title (in their last year in the conference). OU’s 23-7 league record included sweeps over Baylor, BYU, Kansas State, TCU, Texas Tech and UCF, and the Sooners won at least a game in every conference series they played.

OU leads the league in batting average thanks to players like sophomore Easton Carmichael, a first-team all-conference designated hitter prior to Wednesday’s action was hitting .363 and frequently catches for the Sooners. Fellow first-team selection Michael Snyder, the first baseman, has a 1.118 OPS with 10 home runs, 22 doubles and 52 RBIs on the season, numbers nearly matched by right fielder Bryce Madron (1.048, 11, 16 and 48, respectively).

OU doesn’t present quite as much of a threat to KU on the pitching side, especially having used top starter Braden Davis for nine innings as he tossed a four-hit complete-game shutout against TCU.

However, because of Davis’ durable showing, the Sooners didn’t have to deploy quality, frequently used bullpen arms like Dylan Crooks, Reid Hensley and Ryan Lambert, and they will have secondary starter Kyson Witherspoon (4.24 ERA) at their disposal.

As a staff, though, the Sooners rank in the middle of the pack among the Big 12 and certainly don’t get much production out of a designated closer role with a league-low five saves on the year despite their high win total. They also give up a lot of home runs — 74 on the season.

The Jayhawks should have their full complement of pitchers, particularly in starting roles, in the days ahead, as ace Reese Dutton and Saturday starter Dominic Voegele are fully rested after last weekend’s series at Texas, with KU guaranteed to play at least one more game in the tournament after facing OU.

If the Jayhawks lose, they will have to play either Kansas State again for the fifth time this season or TCU for the fourth at 9 a.m. on Friday, looking to advance to a second Friday game immediately afterward.

If KU beats OU, though, it will get straight to that second Friday game, which is a tournament semifinal.


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