Kansas blasts past No. 5 Texas Tech, Price earns 700th
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After being taken a part two days in a row by one of the top offenses in the country, the dean of Big 12 baseball, Kansas head coach Ritch Price, sat his team down prior to Sunday’s finale against No. 5 Texas Tech and delivered a powerful message that inspired his squad to a 17-3 victory through some of the toughest conditions seen at Hoglund Ballpark.
“Baseball is the toughest sport to play in the world,” Price told his team during his pregame speech. “If you bat .300, you make $10 million dollars in the Major Leagues. That means you fail 70 percent of the time. The game beats you up, but if you are tough enough mentally, you can overcome it. Today is a new day. That is the great thing about baseball. You start the next day with a clean slate.”
The 40-year veteran skipper knew just what to say to motivate his squad to forget the first two games of the series where the Jayhawks were outscored 25-6 and turn it around on the Red Raiders for a 17-3 thumping, to earn his 700th-career win at the Division I level.
Kansas (18-13, 3-6 Big 12) battled through rain, sleet, snow and wind chills in the mid-20s to hand Texas Tech (26-7, 5-4 Big 12) its worst loss of the season and worst since April 24, 2016 (L, 17-1 vs. Texas). That Jayhawk win also snapped a 10-game skid against the Red Raiders and marked the most runs and largest margin of victory for KU against TTU in the history of the two programs.
“It was a great win that our team needed really badly,” Price said. “I am more excited about that win over Texas Tech than I am about No. 700. It’s a great team win for the Jayhawks.”
That team win came on the heels of a dominant performance from KU’s sophomore ace Ryan Zeferjahn (6-1). The righty hurler held the high-potent Texas Tech offense to two runs through five innings of work, striking out six batters in the process.
“The only person in baseball that changes the momentum of a series is the starting pitcher,” Price said. “What happened yesterday and the day before is over and done with. The only way we were going to make it stop was for Zeferjahn to go out there and gives us a quality start. He was spectacular today. If you look at the conditions that he just pitched in – that’s a tremendous performance by that young man.”
Zeferjahn didn’t need perfection but dominated the Red Raiders’ lineup after his squad spotted him five runs in the second inning. That four-run lead grew to nine runs after the fourth and that was more than enough of a confidence boost for him to forget the brutal conditions and just go out there and pitch for five frames.
“That might have been one of the coldest days I have ever pitched,” Zeferjahn said. “I’m from Kansas and played high school ball in Topeka, but that might be the coldest one. I couldn’t even feel my hands out there.”
The cold temperatures were no match for the hot Kansas bats as the Jayhawks pounded out 11 hits against six pitchers in the abbreviated seven-inning game (run rule). Seven different KU players tallied at least one hit with freshman third baseman Skyler Messinger delivering the only extra-base hit (double).
Junior center fielder Rudy Karre (2-for-5), junior left fielder Devin Foyle (2-for-3), Messinger (2-for-3) and sophomore shortstop Benjamin Sems (2-for-4) boasted multi-hit affairs with Karre, Foyle and Messinger each driving in at least a pair of runs.
“It was a huge win for us, it keeps us in the hunt,” Price said. “There are certain points in the season where you need a crucial win, and that was one today. We had to win today to avoid getting swept in order to give ourselves a chance to have a great finish and get back in this thing.”
The 17 runs Kansas scored mark the most against a Power Five school and most in a Big 12 game since April 30, 2010, when the Jayhawks put up the same number at Oklahoma State (W, 17-3).
The Jayhawks hit the road for Omaha, Nebraska, where they will play two midweek games, one at Omaha on Tuesday, April 10, and the second at Creighton on Wednesday, April 11.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
700: Kansas head coach Ritch Price earned his 700th-career victory at the Division I level. He joins the ranks of 15 other active Power Five coaches that have reached that same number. Already the winningest coach in Kansas history (483), Price is 17 wins from eclipsing the 500-win mark in a Jayhawk uniform.
Seventeen runs: The Jayhawks scored a season-high 17 runs delivering the Red Raiders their worst loss of the season. Those 17 runs are the most Kansas has ever scored against Texas Tech and the most in conference play since April 30, 2010 at Oklahoma State (17).
Big innings: KU scored five runs in the second, six runs in the fourth and six runs in the sixth. Those big innings marked the 22nd, 23rd and 24th times this season the Jayhawks scored three or more runs in one frame. On the season, Kansas has scored two or more runs in 48 of the 88 innings it has plated at least one run – 55 percent of the time.
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