Jayhawks Open Big 12 Slate at No. 18 Texas Tech
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas baseball team continues its eight-game road swing and hits the road for Lubbock, Texas, to open up Big 12 Conference play at No. 18 Texas Tech, March 27-29, at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park.
First pitch for Friday’s contest is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., while Saturday and Sunday’s game will start at 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.
The Jayhawks (9-15) head to Lubbock on a three-game winless streak and look to turn things around in conference play. KU is 23-33 all-time against the Red Raiders, but have enjoyed some recent success, winning seven of the last eight contests, including a sweep last season when Texas Tech was ranked No. 19 (May 2-4, 2014).
Kansas junior transfer Ben Krauth (4-2) will make his seventh start and is on a four game win streak. In the four most recent starts for Krauth, he is averaging six and one-third innings pitched, six hits allowed and 2.75 earned runs per game. Krauth is coming off a start against Iowa where he gave up a season-high six walks, but only allowed one run in the contest. In all six of Krauth’s appearances he has thrown a total of 36 and one-third innings for a 5.45 ERA.
KU will see a familiar face on the bump for TTU in right-hander Ryan Moseley (2-2). The hurler started last year’s Friday night contest in Lawrence, lasting five innings while giving up six runs off three hits and five walks in the 11-3 loss. This season, Moseley as started six games and tossed 26.0 innings for a 3.12 ERA.
The Jayhawks will see another known adversary on the mound in TTU’s Cameron Smith (2-2), who will make his sixth start of the season Saturday. The southpaw pitched three and one-third innings of relief a year ago against Kansas, giving up two runs off four hits and a walk. This season, Smith has thrown 33 and one-third innings, giving up 13 runs off 33 hits and nine walks for a 3.51 ERA.
Offensively, Kansas senior left fielder Connor McKay enters Big 12 play riding a 12-game hitting streak and ranks sixth in the conference with a .354 batting average, which leads the Jayhawks.
Sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley is coming off a career-best performance against Missouri State (March 24), where he went perfect at the dish and tied career-highs in hits (3), runs (2), RBIs (3), doubles (2) and walks (2). Tinsley is right behind McKay on the team with a .346 average and ranks eighth in the conference.
The Jayhawks’ mid-inning pitching woes continued against the Bears (March 24) as they gave up four runs in the fifth inning and five in the sixth. KU has now been outscored 28-15 in the fifth inning this season and 20-9 in the sixth, something they hope to correct with the start of Big 12 play.
“I have faith that our young guys will figure it out,” head coach Ritch Price said of the pitching staff. “We have to keep grinding and keep competing and things will turn around.”
The key for the team this weekend is get it to the seventh inning with the lead and let sophomore closer Stephen Villines take over. Villines has two three-inning saves this season and a total of six on the year, which ranks second in the Big 12 and is two shy of his total in 2014. Villines currently sits in fourth place in the career pitching records with 14 saves and will tie Jordan Piche’ for third with his next one.
The KU pitchers will have to do their best work of the season if they want to contribute in a big way this weekend. Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in team batting average at .284, with one of the best hitters in the conference, Eric Gutierrez, leading the way. Gutierrez is batting .300 with a .454 on base percentage, .467 slugging percentage and 22 RBIs.
Friday and Sunday’s games at Texas Tech will be broadcast live on FOX College Sports available in Lawrence on channel 146 for WOW! subscribers, 649 for AT&T U-verse users and 608 on DIRECTV. Availability is based on your cable or satellite subscription. Robert Giovannetti (play-by-play) and Mike Gustafson (analyst) will be calling the action.
In addition, all three contests can be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network through KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official Kansas Jayhawks mobile app with Steven Davis and Shane Jackson calling the action.
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