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The regular season has concluded for the Kansas Jayhawks as they finished the first season under head coach Dan Fitzgerald with a record of 24-30 and 8-16 in Big 12 play. Kansas will begin the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship as the No. 8 seed taking on the No. 1 seed, the Texas Longhorns. The tournament is a double-elimination format, meaning that Kansas is guaranteed at least two games.

The Jayhawks’ Pitching Has to Deliver Quality Starts

One of the most valuable stats a starting pitcher can provide his team is a quality start. Kansas will deploy their ace, Collin Baumgartner, who finished the season with an overall 5-1 record and a 3.79 earned run average. Baumgartner faced the Longhorns at home on May 5th. He would toss 6 2/3 innings giving up seven hits, three runs, two earned runs, and striking out four. The Jayhawks would secure a victory in that game, winning 10-4, and Baumgartner would get a quality start. If the Jayhawks are looking to make a run in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, they will have to get good outings from their starting pitching, and Baumgartner will face a very talented Texas Longhorns lineup.

The Texas Longhorns finished the season hitting .302/.395/.511 and were in the top three of every hitting category in the Big 12. The Longhorns' hitters were led by Peyton Powell, who finished the season hitting .369/.459/.606 while recording 73 hits, 15 doubles, one triple, and ten home runs. He drove in 43 RBIs and walked 33 times. Not only will the Jayhawks pitching staff face Powell, but they will also face All-Big 12 First Team honorees Porter Brown, Dylan Campbell, and Garrett Guillemette. There is no question this will be a challenging first game, but the Jayhawks defeated this team the last time Baumgartner took to the mound.

The Jayhawks Will Depend upon the Freshman of the Year

The Kansas Jayhawks had numerous accolades given out, as Janson Reeder received All-Big 12 First Team, and Cole Elvis, Chase Jans, and Colin Baumgartner were awarded All-Big 12 Second Team. The one award that stood out the most was Kody Shojinaga took home, Freshman of the Year honors, along with All-Big 12 Second Team. Shojinaga is the first player in Kansas history awarded Freshman of the Year honors. He put up impressive numbers in 2023 at the plate, hitting .380/.424/.962, and he recorded 17 extra-base hits, along with 40 runs scored. More importantly, heading into the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, Shojinaga led all Big 12 hitters in hits with 41 and a slash line of .418/.500/.962. If the Jayhawks want to defeat a tough Longhorns' pitching staff, they will need an elite performance from Kody Shojinaga.

The Texas Longhorns have a very talented rotation led by Lucas Gordon, who won the 2023 Pitcher of the Year award in the Big 12. The Longhorns will deploy Gordon against the Jayhawks who finished the season 6-1 with a 2.48 earned run average and a 1.092 WHIP. Gordon is elite, limiting his walks to only three per nine innings and striking out 9.2 opposing hitters per nine innings. The Jayhawks faced Gordon on May 5th, and they knocked him out of the game early. Gordon only completed 4 2/3 innings giving up nine hits, six runs, five earned runs, three walks, and only three strikeouts. If the Kansas hitters, specifically Kody Shojinaga, can repeat against Gordon, the Jayhawks could be ringing the upset bell.

The Kansas Jayhawks and the Texas Longhorns will square off in Arlington, Texas, at Globe Life Field, home to the Texas Rangers, at 12:30 P.M. CST. The game will air on Big 12 Now and ESPN+.