Our good friend over at RockChalkTalk.com and JQKU have written a very good piece on this series between Kansas and Texas. This is the opening of conference play for both teams and will go a long way in shaping each teams season. Which player will step for Texas and Kansas and put these ball clubs in the driver seat in an early season conference test.
To follow all the action stop by here through the weekend as the CBB will cover all the action as several of the conferences start play this weekend.
Kansas Jayhawks (10-5) vs. Texas (10-4) The next three baseball games will mean more to the KU Jayhawks than the first 15 combined. KU opens its Big-12 season with a weekend series in Austin. With the Big-12 conference basketball tournament raging this promises to be a busy weekend for KU and UT fans.
The Texas Longhorns were a consensus top-10 team this preseason. I can’t remember a single poll I read which did not predict them to win the Big-12. I also cannot remember a single Big-12 write-up that did not predict the Jayhawks to finish either 9th or 10th. However, all is not grim for Kansas this weekend. The last two weeks the Jayhawks are made of win. They ride an eight game victory streak and are gaining confidence and execution with each game. Texas, on the other hand, has not played up to expectations. The Longhorns have built a 10-4 record, dropping games to Tennessee, Rice and two at home to Stanford. Texas has dropped to #19 in the Baseball America poll and have the smell of vulnerability about them.
Hosting one of the least regarded conference teams, Texas will be thinking sweep. Three quick Big-12 wins will restore some status to this team. As important as this series is to Texas, it is much more so for Kansas. If Kansas is going to make the NCAA tournament they will have to do so through their conference resume. KU simply does not have enough meat left in its out of conference schedule to earn them an at-large bid. Fifteen conference wins will put the Jayhawks in the tournament. Ten will at allow them to compete in the Big-12 tournament and give them at least a slim degree of hope through the final week of the season. To keep KU on track to achieve these goals the Jayhawks will be looking to win at least one game in Austin.
The gross statistics make KU and UT look pretty evenly matched coming into the game. Texas is averaging 9.3 runs per game compared to the Jayhawks 7.4 while surrendering 4.8 runs per game compared to KU’s 4.6. Texas has played a more challenging schedule so far, but these numbers give KU reason for hope. History does nothing to bolster Jayhawk hopes. Texas leads the all-time series 31-10, including a 17-5 record in Austin. Ritch Price has only won four of sixteen games vs. the Longhorns during his tenure at Kansas.
Probably Starting Pitchers
Friday 6PM – Wally Marciel (2-1, 2.55 ERA) vs. Austin Wood (2-1, 2.75 ERA)
Saturday 2PM – Nick Czyz (1-2, 6.32 ERA) vs. Kenn Kasparek (1-1, 5.11 ERA)
Sunday 1PM – Sam Freeman (2-0, 6.75 ERA) vs. Cole Green (1-1, 7.11 ERA)
KU starts Big-12 play with a rotation of Marciel, Czyz and Freeman. Marciel has established himself as the team ace through a string of three strong starts to open the season. Marciel will face Austin Wood. Wood went 8-1 last year with a 3.15 ERA. He is a good pitcher, but he is beatable. Nick Czyz gets the Saturday start. Czyz was roughed up in his first two starts but was brilliant last weekend vs. NDSU. I was not sure Sam Freeman would get the Sunday start until I saw the preview release. Freeman pitched effectively his first two times out but could not get through the second inning last weekend. He will be facing a Texas freshman who has not yet impressed, so if Sam has his game on the Hawks will have a good shot in this game as well. KU also brings what very well might be the best bullpen in the Big-12 to this series. The Jayhawk pitching staff will give Kansas a fighting chance throughout the weekend.
Tom Hedrick will be in Austin this weekend providing KU fans with a free play-by-play webcast. To link to this feed just visit this site and click the “listen” button on the right. It also appears that a free video broadcast of the games can be accessed through Texassports.com. I have never used this service so cross your fingers.