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In or not, it sure looks like this is just the beginning for KU baseball

Jayhawks left out of NCAA Tournament field, but 2024 was a strong building season all the same

3 min read
Members of the Kansas baseball team make their way into Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, for one of their four games at this year's Big 12 tournament, where they reached the semifinals for the first time since 2013. [Kansas Athletics photo]

The Kansas baseball team is good enough to compete in the NCAA Tournament.

Let’s make sure we start with that and make it abundantly clear. Making the Big 12 tourney semifinals (for the first time since 2013) after winning 17 conference games this season is enough to back that up.

Playing No. 24 Texas and No. 8 Oklahoma to within two runs or less not once, not twice, not three or four times, but FIVE times in the past 9 days is even clearer proof that they can hang with anybody.

But they probably will not get in for one simple reason. They didn’t win any of those five games. How different things might be if they had. Maybe not all five. But two or three probably would’ve been enough.

We'll find out for sure when the field is announced at 11 a.m. central time today.

• Monday afternoon update: The Jayhawks, who finished 7th in the Big 12 regular season standings, did not get in to this year's NCAA Tournament. Six teams from the Big 12 will open play at regionals this week. • 

While I’m sure the Jayhawks are painfully aware of how much they could've used a couple of those wins — and, boy, were they damn close in a few of them — it sure seems possible, perhaps even likely, that this is the last year for a while that anybody will need to look for reasons they Jayhawks were left out.

What second-year coach Dan Fitzgerald is building — and in many ways already has built — is a team and a program to be reckoned with in the years to come.

They compete. They grind. They win. And they always seem to be able to stay positive and ready for what’s next instead of dwelling on something that didn’t go right.

It’s baseball. Things are gonna go wrong. Lots of things. Bad hops, blown saves, lousy calls and unlucky breaks happen to every team every single year. That’s just the nature of the sport.

And it takes a special mindset, which this KU program seems to collectively have, to keep smiling when any or all of those things stack up against you. Especially the ones that come at the worst time.

This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky BS approach that shields players from reality. This is the culture at Kansas. Forward-thinking at all times is their culture. Believing they’ll get it done & working their asses off to try to make that happen is what they do.

It’s been cool to watch and fun to cover and it’s reason enough to believe that they’re just getting started.

A lot of these guys won’t be back next season. A lot of them will. But all of them, along with the players who are on the way and will suit up for the Jayhawks in future years, should understand that the cornerstones of the program that they helped create these past two seasons will be remembered and celebrated well into the future.

When Kansas baseball is making NCAA regionals on the regular in the years to come, the players from the 2023 and 2024 rosters who helped get the momentum going in the Jayhawks’ favor will be a part of that. And they'll deserve the chance to take a bow.

Just ask the senior members of Lance Leipold’s first KU football team how they felt when the Jayhawks finally broke through and won the Guaranteed Rate Bowl after going 9-4 last season.

Might as well have given them rings. But the smiles and joy of knowing they were a part of it — the start of it — were probably worth just as much.

That’s coming for Kansas baseball. No doubt about it. And no matter what happens today.