Kansas to Host No. 8 Texas in Big 12, Home Opener
March 26, 2013
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas will test its NCAA-best batting average against the eighth-ranked Texas Longhorns inside Arrocha Ballpark for a three-game series, as the Jayhawks kick-off their Big 12 and home schedules, March 28-30.
AROUND THE BALLPARK
-Thursday, 3/28: Jay Days, Schedule Magnet Giveaway
-Friday, 3/29: Free hot dog for KU students while supplies last, Junior Jayhawks
-Saturday, 3/30: Social Media Day, Postgame Egg Hunt
FOLLOW THE HAWKS
The Texas series will mark the debut of Pete Knutson and former Jayhawk great Liz Kocon as the 2013 AT&T Jayhawk All-Access broadcast team. Live audio of KU’s home games will be available free of charge at KUAthletics.com/allaccess.
Fans can follow the action on GameTracker, located on the softball schedule page of KUAthletics.com. Live scoring and weather updates can also be found by following JayhawkSoftball on Twitter.
Vs. Texas (UT leads, 23-11): Texas and Kansas have faced each other 34 times in a series that dates back to 1997. With the conference realignment during the off-season, it shook out to where Texas would visit Lawrence for back-to-back seasons. A year ago No. 5 Texas fought off a stormy weekend and a rallying Jayhawk offense to leave with the series sweep.
Texas has won 11 of the last 13 meetings, holding a national ranking in 11 of those matchups. Kansas last defeated the perennial powerhouse on April 13, 2008, 8-1. Although the Longhorns have a stronghold on games played in Austin (12-1), the Jayhawks own the series advantage (10-9) in games played in Lawrence.
- Kansas continues to lead the NCAA in team batting average, which checks in at .383 this week. In 2013, the Jayhawks’ batting average has led every national (beginning 3/12) and Big 12 Conference (beginning 2/12) stats release this season.
- KU’s nation-leading batting average is 17 points higher than that of second-ranked Georgia (.366). For point of reference, the best team batting average in a season in Big 12 history was Oklahoma’s .352 in 2001. KU’s best team average is .311 (1985).
- Snow and freezing temperatures forced the cancellation of KU’s doubleheader against Missouri State (3/21). That marked the Jayhawks’ first run-in with the weather this season. Last year, weather cost KU four games and delayed 10 total matchups.
- Meanwhile, the numbers for dynamic duo Maggie Hull and Alex Hugo keep climbing. Hull, the senior left fielder, leads the Big 12 and is third in the country with her .495 batting average. Hugo, the freshman catcher, is right behind her hitting at a .457 clip, good for fourth in the league and tied for 22nd in the nation.
- Maggie Hull is looking to extend her 14-game hitting streak, the longest by a Jayhawk this season. Her 47 hits lead the Big 12 and are only 20 shy of her hit total from a year ago. If she stays on this pace, Hull was churn out 92 hits in KU’s 53 games – smashing KU’s current single-season hit record of 78 (June Koleber, 1980).
- Kansas improved its fielding percentage by a point at the Capital Classic (3/15-17), and the team’s .981 mark leads the league and ranks fourth in the country.
- Alex Hugo‘s eight home runs have already tied KU’s home run leader from last season (Mariah Montgomery, 8) and she needs three more to tie the Kansas freshman record (Jessica Moppin, 11, 2003).
- Redshirt junior Alex Jones (7-1) won two games and suffered her first loss of the season during the Capital Classic. Her 1.53 ERA is ninth in the league and her seven victories on the year tie a career-high.
- Although the Jayhawks played their first extra-inning game of the year in their last time out (at Sacramento State, 3/17), KU is definitely used to playing something other than the normal seven innings. Kansas’ 11 run-rule victories in 2013 are a school record.
NO. 8 TEXAS (29-4, 2-0 Big 12)
Voted to finish second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma, Texas brings a top-10 team with a powerful resume to Arrocha Ballpark. Winners of 10 of their last 11 games, that loss being to No. 2 Arizona State, the Longhorns are on a hot streak. Texas racked up two wins against then-No. 15 Louisiana and one against then-No. 18 Washington before winning back-to-back games against top-20 Baylor to kick off Big 12 play. Texas is led by three-time Big 12 Coach of the Year, Connie Clark, who entered her 17th season this spring.
UT started the season 13-0, outscoring opponents 100-7 before falling to then-No. 24 Tulsa, 7-4 on Feb. 22. So far in 2013, Texas is 8-2 against top-25 teams. Unlike the Jayhawks, the Longhorns have played 17 games at home and will come to cold weather for the first time this season.
Texas ranks third in the league with a .331 team batting average and 30 home runs. Like KU, eight of Texas’ starting nine hitters post a batting average of .300 or higher. Senior third baseman and three-time All-Big 12 First Team honoree, Taylor Hoagland, leads the team with a .463 average and an .890 slugging percentage. She and junior shortstop Taylor Thom lead the team with nine home runs apiece, while Thom also leads the team with nine doubles and is tied for the Big 12 lead with 40 RBIs.
Two-time All-American Blaire Luna (15-1) leads the pitching staff – and the Big 12 – with 199 strikeouts. The right-hander’s 1.11 ERA ranks fourth in the league and she has collected eight shutouts, including holding No. 18 Baylor scoreless over nine innings in a 4-0 victory. She came back to earn the victory in game two against the Bears in UT’s last time out to earn Big 12 Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday. Although Luna has thrown nearly half of Texas’ 220.0 innings, senior right-handed pitcher Kim Bruins (7-0) has thrown more than 55 innings and struck out 56 – and is also the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week.
HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On Texas’ strength as a team:
“We start off with one of the toughest teams in the country, which is exciting. Texas is really strong, like always. I think Blaire Luna is having a great start to the season, so it’s going to be a challenge for us. Offensively, they are as tough as they’ve ever been. We’re used to them being tough offensively, but again it’s exciting to start with such a strong opponent.”
On both teams having prevalent senior leadership:
“We’ve had some really tough series with Texas. They’ve been successful against us, but I think we fought really well against them last year and did a good job offensively. They’ve got some really talented seniors, as do we, and it’s going to be fun to see them match up against each other for the last time.”
On Texas being more accustomed to a warmer climate:
“We’re used to cold, that’s for sure. It’s tough to play the game of softball in those conditions, but I think at the end of the day they are going to adjust to what the temperature is. They are a talented team and I don’t think the cold is going to affect them. Hopefully it’ll warm up for the weekend and I think it’s supposed to.”
On making adjustments against Texas’ pitching, namely freshmen new to Big 12 play:
“We just want them to go up and stick to what makes us successful and not worry about the opponents’ team name. The important thing for us is to focus on us and worry about what we need to do and not worry about the team we’re playing. That will be key this weekend, no matter what the score is, to keep the focus on us. We need to approach these games as if they’re any other game we’ve played so far.”
On if last week’s game-free stretch allowed the team to get well-rested:
“I think it was good for them to get a little rest, a little breather. I also think it’s good mentally to take a little bit of a break from it and be mentally recharged going into conference. That’s important. When you travel as much as we do, it wears on you, so to have a little bit of a break to catch your breath and regroup, hopefully it will be a good thing for us.”
Kansas gets back on the road for a series in Lubbock, Texas against Texas Tech, April 5-7. Game times for the weekend series are set for 7 p.m., 4 p.m. and 12 p.m.
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