Sunday was as close as I have ever come to being a Kansas fan.
I lived in Kansas for seven years and never got close. But Sunday, when Eli Davis took the mound for the Jayhawks, I was a fan.
For those who don't remember, Davis was a leadoff hitter for the Shawnee Wolves baseball team that went 40-0 and won it's third straight state title two years ago. The previous two years, Davis had been on the mound in a lot of key games including the state championship games two straight years.
Then in 2017, he threw a pitch against Red Oak and his pitching career was put on hold. He experienced a 70-percent tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. He wouldn't throw another pitch in high school. But Davis played through the pain. He often couldn't play catch before games and when he caught fly balls in center field he just had to drop the ball in a bucket instead of throwing it back in. But his bat and speed allowed him to contribute to the amazing undefeated season.
As soon as the Wolves raised their third trophy, Davis had Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow. He had signed to pitch for the Jayhawks before his sophomore season and KU honored their commitment and redshirted Davis last year to give him time to heal and rehabilitate his arm.
As a redshirt freshman, Davis has started six games for the Jayhawks and pitched well against the Sooners Sunday. He gave up a few hits and his defense gave up a few runs on errors as he took the loss to fall to 2-3 on the year for the 13-10 Jayhawks. He has struck out 26 and only walked nine in 33 innings of work.
It wasn't the result Davis wanted in his Big 12 debut, but I loved the fact that after his sixth start, he came off the field, stayed engaged with his team and didn't have to use ice or show any signs of pain or problems.
Davis is a southpaw who will continue to improve at Kansas. With a fastball touching 90 mph a couple of times and effective offspeed pitches, he could be a solid player for several years in Lawrence.
More local flair in the Big 12
• In the 8th inning Saturday night, McLoud alum Wyatt Olds made an appearance for OU in their second win against Kansas. Less than 24 hours later, he came on in the eighth inning against the Jayhawks again. The quick turnaround didn't seem to affect the freshman's velocity as he was pushing 93 mph several times. He came out after three hitters Sunday, but he has appeared in 14 of the Sooners' 24 games. He has used his velocity to strike out 18 for the 20-4 Sooners who are nationally ranked.
• Jake Taylor and Tanner Sparks add some local flair to the Oklahoma State Cowboys' roster in the Big 12, as well. Sparks, as a redshirt freshman, has one appearance on the mound for the Cowboys so far in 2019. Taylor had a solid freshman year for OSU and is getting on track in his sophomore season.
All Taylor did Sunday was go 2-for-3 with two solo home runs as Oklahoma State completed a sweep of Kansas State to open conference play. Taylor also had a sacrifice fly to score a run to tie Saturday night's game against the Wildcats.
Big 12 baseball should be fun to follow with three teams featuring players who were local stars recently