An early eight-run hole proved to be too much for the Kansas baseball team to climb out of during a 12-8 loss to West Virginia in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
The 5th-seeded Jayhawks were able to battle back and make a game of it but never got closer than two runs.
Kansas (31-25) actually led in the game in the top of the first inning, when left fielder Brett Vosick grounded out to score James Cosentino to give KU a 1-0 lead.
But the 4th-seeded Mountaineers (35-18) responded with five runs in the bottom of the first, three more in the second and another in the third to build a 9-1 lead.
KU used seven pitchers in the game, including regular No. 2 starter Ryan Cyr in relief, and surrendered 17 hits and 12 earned runs while walking just three batters and striking out six.
Pinch hitter Tom Lichty’s single in the top of the fifth inning plated two runs and gave the Jayhawks hope and six other Jayhawks delivered RBIs in the loss.
"I was really pleased with the guys that came off the bench, offensively," KU coach Ritch Price said. "We got three clutch hits off the bench that allowed us to fight back in the game and we had the bases loaded, or guys at second or third, and then we got a base hit. We could've tied the ballgame after being down 9-1. We kept grinding and competing."
Catcher Jaxx Groshans (2-for-4, run scored) and first baseman Nolan Metcalf (3-for-5, 2 runs scored) paced the KU offense while starting pitcher Nathan Barry took the loss and fell to 5-1 on the season.
"It is good to know that our team is not going to just roll over when we get down like that," Metcalf said after the loss. "Everyone battled and we are just going to keep that rolling through the rest of the tournament."
The Jayhawks are now 1-3 this season against the Mountaineers and will be playing for their postseason lives against No. 8 seed Kansas State at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The Wildcats, who were swept by KU in Lawrence last weekend, fell to top-seeded Texas Tech, 7-4, in Wednesday's second game in Oklahoma City.
The Jayhawks will send ace pitcher Ryan Zeferjahn, a projected second-round pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft, to the mound for the elimination game.
“It could be the last game of the season,” Zeferjahn said earlier this week when looking ahead to his Big 12 tourney start. “And I’m just going to go out there and give it my all and give us a chance to win.”
No. 4 West Virginia 12, No. 5 Kansas 8
KU 100 240 100 — 8 11 0
WVU 531 001 20X — 12 17 1
W: Gabe Kurtzhals (2-0), L: Nathan Barry (5-1), Sv: Dillon Meadows (2)