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Friday, February 18, 2011

TCU next top-ranked test for Kansas baseball

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Nati Harnik/AP File Photo

Matt Purke, who went 16-0 last season, is back for TCU and expected to start Friday’s opener against the Jayhawks.

Kansas University’s baseball team opens the 2011 season at 6:30 tonight at top-ranked TCU.

Yawn.

By now, the whole idea of playing the No. 1 team in the nation is getting to be routine for the Jayhawks, who, in consecutive seasons, took a series from Texas (via sweep in 2009) and LSU (two out of three in 2010) while those clubs sat atop the college baseball polls.

Facing the challenge right out the gate will be a new experience for Kansas, but it’s one that coach Ritch Price believes his team is ready to face.

“I’m thrilled for the opportunity, and our players are thrilled for the opportunity,” Price said.

TCU is ranked No. 1 largely because of the strength of its starting pitching. All three starters from last season return, and all finished 2010 with an earned-run average lower than 3.40.

“We have to pitch as good as they’re gonna pitch,” Price said. “(TCU ace Matt) Purke is 16-0. He’s gonna be the first player taken in the draft. There’s no doubt about that. But their Saturday (Kyle Winkler, 12-3 in 2010) and Sunday (Steven Maxwell, 11-2 in 2010) starters won 11 and 12 games a year ago. They have tremendous starting pitching and they have six or seven starters back from their College World Series team from a year ago.”

Getting the game-one call for KU will be staff ace T.J. Walz, a senior from Omaha, Neb., who finished 8-5 with a 5.06 ERA last season.

Walz said he was eager to square off against the nation’s top arm.

“That’s the best possible way to open up,” Walz said. “I watched (Purke) throw in Omaha last year, and there’s no better guy to open up against and try to show him what you got.”

Though nobody has beaten Purke during his college career, Walz said the Jayhawks had a secret weapon who might help.

“Back in high school, (KU freshman) Tyler Smith (of Tomball High in Cypress, Texas) was the last guy to beat him, so I think we got that going for us,” Walz said.

Comments

Frankenhawk 3 years, 5 months ago

so excited! i've grown to really start loving college baseball over the last couple of seasons. i, like many other jayhawks, was super pumped last year with the high expectations (picked second in the league) but some key injures (tony thompson anyone?) lead to our team having a pretty darn disappointing year. nobody gives us a chance this year because we lost so much to the draft but i feel like we have plenty of talent returning to possibly make a run at a tournament appearance. besides, we've always done better as the underdog anyways. i feel it's really important that we become perennially good at baseball. college baseball is a growing sport, and while it may never reach the popularity of football and bball, the world series in particular gives HUGE exposure to those programs that make it. there is quite a bit of talent in the state of Kansas, it's time to start seeing them all come here, enough of Wichita State being the best team in the state of Kansas. we're the flagship, we should be the best, that's how i look at everything for KU. give 'em hell today hawks!

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mdfraz 3 years, 5 months ago

Just want to thank Matt for paying attention to the baseball team (i.e. something OTHER than the basketball team) and writing several articles in the past few days. I love basketball but KU is more than just one sport. Once the weather gets warmer and they throw out a few of those hot dog nights, taking in a baseball game at Hoglund can be a great experience for a Jayhawk fan. I hope the articles continue throughout the baseball season. Let's shock the world against Purke!

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texashawk10 3 years, 5 months ago

“Back in high school, (KU freshman) Tyler Smith (of Tomball High in Cypress, Texas) was the last guy to beat him, so I think we got that going for us,” Walz said.

I would just like to point out a geographical error with where Tomball HS is. It's in Tomball, TX not Cypress, TX. Cypress is literally 5 minutes west of where I live and Tomball is 10 minutes north of me.

I know you're a great writer Matt, but this is an error that just annoys me because I live down here and know all the suburbs of Houston and which suburbs most high schools are in down here. This error would be like someone saying that Blue Valley West HS is in Lenexa instead of Overland Park.

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texashawk10 3 years, 5 months ago

Right now I think it's safe to say that KU baseball is third in the state behind WSU and KSU. I always enjoyed taking a break from studying to go catch a few innings at Hoglund, but that place is not on par with most of the other stadiums in the conference. The new video board is nice, but that's the only part of the stadium that really is on par or better than other Big 12 teams. If you go and look at pictures of the other Big 12 baseball stadiums, Hoglund is very decrepid looking compared to those stadiums.

I think in order for KU baseball to become an annual fixture in the NCAA tournament, Hoglund either needs MAJOR renovations or the better idea would be to build a new stadium on west campus that's more fan friendly. I'm not suggesting building a stadium to is the in the same league as Nebraska, Texas, Texas A&M, or Wichita St., but just something that's asthetically pleasing and can lure some top in-state and top Missouri players to KU. The wood fence in the outfield is hideous to look at and can be an injury risk to players if they run into the wall. A new stadium with padded outfield walls, a grassy area beyond the outfield where students or fans could watch from that could accomodate temporary bleachers should KU ever host NCAA tourney games, increased seating capacity, backrests for the bleachers, an area for kids to play in, and just genral increased fan-friendliness.

If Sheahon Zenger is serious about increasing KU's national athletic profile, a new baseball stadium should be the second priorty behind completing the renovations to Memorial Stadium because increased football revenues will allow Zenger to also complete the proposed Olympic Village renovations to improve other athletic facilities like the soccer stadium which is literally a fenced in field with some bleachers.

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Dyrk Dugan 3 years, 5 months ago

i think this will be a long year...it would be highly over achieving, for this team to finish with a winning record in the leauge. we've lost too many horses.

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