Jayhawks host No. 5 Texas Tech in home conference opener
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas baseball team opens its conference home slate Friday, April 6, when it hosts No. 5 Texas Tech for the first of a three-game series at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (17-11, 2-4 Big 12) have won six of the seven series they have played this season, including a Big 12 matchup at Baylor (March 23-25). The Red Raiders (24-6, 3-3 Big 12) come to Lawrence with a 7-5 road record that includes a series loss to the Bears in Waco on the opening weekend of league play.
In addition to the three-game series, on Saturday, April 7, Kansas will honor the 1993 College World Series team as it celebrates its 25th anniversary prior to the 2 p.m. first pitch.
“That group of men set the bar here at the University of Kansas,” head coach Ritch Price said. “It is an amazing achievement. The guys I have met from that team have been absolutely fabulous to us and I am very proud of their accomplishments. We look forward to honoring them and they have tremendous pride, as they should. You look out there and see that College World Series banner – until another team does it, they are the greatest team in Kansas baseball history.”
All three games can be seen on ESPN3 available at WatchESPN.com or on devices via the ESPN app. In addition, the contests can also be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
- Kansas’ all-time record: 1,902-1,824-18 (.510)
- Head coach Ritch Price’s record in Division I: 699-669-4 (.511)
- Price’s record at Kansas: 482-441-3 (.522)
- Kansas won its sixth weekend series of the season out of seven played after defeating Morehead State two games out of three (March 29-31).
- The Jayhawks played back-to-back extra-inning games against the Eagles (March 29-30) – the first time KU took the same opponent into extra innings in consecutive games since 2005 (Northern Colorado [DH], Feb. 26).
- Kansas earned its first victory via a walk-off home run since 2015 on Thursday against Morehead State (March 29), thanks to a two-run shot by Brendt Citta in the bottom of the 12th inning.
- The Jayhawks hold the second-best batting average in the Big 12 Conference at a .286 clip – Texas Tech leads with .301.
- KU’s .436 slugging percentage also ranks second in the league to Texas Tech’s leading .494 mark.
- Aiding in that slugging percentage are the Jayhawks’ Big 12-leading 12 triples – two off the pace of national leaders Butler, South Florida, VMI and UNCG.
- Sophomore second baseman James Cosentino leads the conference and ranks fourth in the nation in hit-by-pitches (13).
- Sophomore righty Ryan Zeferjahn ranks tied for first in the Big 12 Conference in both strikeouts (50) and wins (5).
TWENTY-FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY
On Saturday, April 7, Kansas will honor the 1993 College World Series team as it celebrates their 25th anniversary. One of just a handful of schools to make the CWS on its first postseason appearance, that 1993 team finished with a record 45 wins, including a school-best 17 conference victories. Twenty-four members of that squad, including head coach Dave Bingham, will be in attendance.
Kansas has played 18 home games, including five weekend series thus far with an average mean temperature on those days coming in at 41.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The Jayhawks have won all five of those weekend series, posting a record of 14-4 in those 18 contests. KU is no stranger to cold weather and its three-game series against No. 5 Texas Tech at Hoglund Ballpark has an average mean temperature predicted at 40.7 degrees – the Red Raiders’ average game day temperature for all 30 games they have played charts in at 57.1 degrees. In TTU’s five road losses this season, the temperature registered an average of 48.2 degrees.
ONE WIN AWAY
Head coach Ritch Price is one win away from reaching No. 700 for his career as a Division I coach. Only 18 other active Power Five coaches can say they have accomplished that feat. Already the all-time winningest coach in Kansas history, Price has amassed 482 wins during his 16-year stint as the Jayhawks’ skipper, accounting for 25 percent of the program’s 1,902 victories spanning 126 seasons played.
The Jayhawks have won six of the seven series they have played to date in 2018, with their only loss coming at Texas (March 16-18). KU holds a record of 14-7 on the weekend, outscoring opponents 127-116. Kansas holds a batting average of .296 on the weekend compared to the .245 recorded by its opponents. In those 21 games, the Jayhawks have hit 43 doubles, 10 triples and 16 home runs for a .451 slugging percentage – .064 higher than their opponents (.377).
Kansas has won six of its seven series, including two sweeps. However, it’s the second game of the weekend set that seems to trip up the Jayhawks. In those seven contests, KU holds a 2-5 mark and has been outscored 8.1 – 5.0 runs per game. In addition, Kansas has been out-slugged .471 – .427 with its opponents hitting seven home runs – 53.8 percent of the total number of home runs hit by opponents on the weekend (7-of-13).
ON THE RISE
The Jayhawks rank second in the Big 12 and 40th in the nation in slugging percentage with a .436 mark. Through 28 games in 2018, Kansas has hit 88 extra-base hits, including 54 doubles, 12 triples and 22 home runs. Those 88 account for 32 percent of the team’s hit total (274). Through 28 games in last season, KU hit just 51 extra-base hits that included 41 doubles, four triples and six home runs for a .306 slugging percentage – a difference of .130.
Senior lefty Taylor Turski and sophomore righty Ryan Zeferjahn did something that head coach Ritch Price has been waiting for – get to the eighth inning. Turski willed his way through a career-high eight innings on the bump in Friday’s loss to Morehead State (March 30) before Zeferjahn tossed a personal-best eight shutout innings against the Eagles to earn Kansas the series victory on Saturday (March 31). The Jayhawks played 32 innings on the weekend against Morehead State, and the duo combined to pitch 50 percent of the innings. Both performances saved a taxed bullpen that threw a combined nine and 2/3 innings during Thursday’s (March 29) 12-inning affair.
SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE
Kansas is a perfect 13-0 when leading after six innings; 15-0 when leading after seven innings; and 16-0 when leading after eight innings. Those numbers reflect how head coach Ritch Price has aligned his bullpen to close out games. Redshirt-sophomore Ryan Cyr and junior closer Zack Leban have done the bulk of the work in those innings. The duo has made 13 appearances during the team’s 17 wins, thrown a combined 42 and 1/3 innings and struck out 40 hitters. En route, Cyr has picked up four wins, while Leban leads the Big 12 and ranks fourth in the nation with 10 saves.
Junior closer Zack Leban is a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities. During those 10 outings, Leban has thrown 13 innings and struck out 11 batters, without surrendering a walk. He is the fastest to record 10 saves in the Price era, and ranks atop the Big 12 Conference and fourth in the nation in that category.
BRING OUT THE BROOMS
For the first time since 2014 (then-No. 19 Texas Tech), the Jayhawks swept a ranked opponent when they defeated No. 20 St. John’s Sunday afternoon (March 11). That sweep also marked the second-consecutive weekend series sweep for KU this season, another first since that 2014 campaign where it closed conference play sweeping three-consecutive weekends.
Kansas head coach Ritch Price is the most tenured skipper in the Big 12 Conference as he has coached in 387 league games – 23 more than any other current coach. Now in his 16th season in the league, he has one more than Kansas State’s Brad Hill and 10 more than the majority of the conference’s head coaches.
SWING AND A MISS
Sophomore righty Ryan Zeferjahn fanned a personal-best 14 batters in the series finale against Texas Southern (March 4). That marked the most K’s for a Jayhawk in a game since Frank Duncan struck out the same number against Mississippi Valley State on Feb. 23, 2014. Those 14 also tied for the most in the Ritch Price era for strikeouts by a pitcher in a game with Duncan – the school record is 18 held by Carl Nelson (April 1, 1963) and Larry Miller (May 16, 1958). That effort earned Zeferjahn Big 12 Pitcher of the Week Honors (March 5) – the first such recognition since Ben Krauth in 2016 (March 14).
Kansas hits the road for a two-game road trip at Omaha (April 10) and at Creighton (April 11), before returning to Hoglund Ballpark for three games against TCU (April 13-15).
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