Welcome Home! Jayhawks Host Utah to Open the Hog
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After playing six games in seven days, the Kansas baseball team returns home to open up Hoglund Ballpark for the 2015 campaign welcoming Pac-12 Conference foe Utah for a three-game series, March 6-8.
Friday’s game is slated to start at 3 p.m., while Saturday and Sunday’s first pitches are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.
Though this marks the first home series for the Jayhawks, it will be the second time they face off against the Utes. The two met in Mesa, Arizona, in the Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge, a game in which KU won 6-3.
“Four weeks of traveling and 13 games on the road, it made our guys really excited to be back at Hoglund Ballpark,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We have a really formidable opponent in Utah. They have some of the best arms we have seen all year. They have been really competitive and they haven’t played a home game either, so they are in the same boat we have been in. We have to come ready to play.”
The Jayhawks and the Utes have met four times prior to this weekend’s three-game set, including a Feb. 20 meeting earlier this season. Utah hold an all-time record of 3-1 against KU, sweeping Kansas in the first-ever series between the two squads, May 18-20, 2013, in Salt Lake City.
Price has seen promise from the team so far this season, but has yet to see the consistency he expects on a daily basis.
“I am hoping we will get better in all phases of the game,” Price said. “At times we have been very good in every phase of the game, but we haven’t been as consistent as we need to be to play at a really high level. A lot of it is the youth of our team. I think we need to come home and establish the fact that we can play solid defense. We have always done really well at home and if we play really good defense, it gives our pitchers the ability to pitch to contact. Right now, that is the most important thing.”
One factor that has plagued the Jayhawks this season is the pitchers’ abilities to hit the strike zone regularly. Through the first 13 games, KU’s arms have surrendered 49 walks and hit 17 batters; something Price attributes to inexperience and that he knows will get better.
“We have to reduce the number of walks and reduce the number of hit batters in order to make progress on the mound,” Price said. “I know that is the focus of (associate head coach) Ryan Graves this weekend and the pitching staff.”
Offensively, Kansas will see two new arms in the Utes rotation, in addition to Dalton Carroll, the starter the Jayhawks roughed up in Arizona two weeks ago.
The KU batsmen tallied five runs off six hits and two walks to give Carroll his second loss of the season in the Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge. Since then, Carroll has made one seven-inning start, where he allowed only one run off eight hits for the win.
The three-game series can be seen in its entirety on ESPN3, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, through ESPN on Xbox Live to Gold Members and on Apple TV. In addition, all three games can be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network through KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official Kansas Jayhawks mobile app. Saturday’s contest can also be listened to live on the airwaves on KJHK 90.7 FM.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.