Kansas baseball coach Ritch Price is hoping his team will get to play home games in “baseball weather” soon.
A mixture of snow flurries, rain and cold temperatures pushed back the first pitch of the series finale between KU and No. 5 Texas Tech by almost an hour on Sunday at Hoglund Ballpark. And the weather played a factor in the game, too.
“It’s crazy,” starter Ryan Zeferjahn said of the conditions while he was on the mound. “I can’t feel my fingers. Can’t feel anything. I think this might be the coldest game I’ve ever pitched in.”
At one point, catcher Jaxx Groshans had to ask for a pair of sunglasses from the dugout to keep the flurries out of his eyes.
But despite the conditions, and an official 31-degree game-time temperature, KU salvaged the series with a 17-3 rout over Texas Tech behind 11 hits, 12 drawn walks and a strong outing from Zeferjahn. The game was called in the seventh because of a 10-run travel rule that was in place for Texas Tech.
In his start, Zeferjahn struck out six batters and allowed just two runs and five hits over five innings for his sixth win of the season.
After KU (18-13, 3-6 in Big 12) dropped the first two games of the series and was outscored, 25-6, in those contests, Price said he wanted his ace to stop the bleeding and avoid a sweep.
“That was the thing I addressed during our game notes session today,” Price said. “In baseball, the only person that changes momentum is the starting pitcher. The only way we were going to get a stop was for Zeferjahn to go out there and dominate and give us a quality start. And he was spectacular today.”
For Price, the most impressive aspect of Zeferjahn’s outing was his ability to slow down the lineup he faced; Texas Tech (26-7, 5-4 in Big 12) ranks first in nearly every Big 12 offensive category.
“I was really pleased with his mentality,” Price said. “Despite the conditions, he actually pitched. He threw his breaking ball for a strike, he threw his changeup for a strike.”
Price said that Zeferjahn’s ability to consistently locate his pitches is a reflection of how far he’s come from his freshman year last season.
“That’s a quality outing, and it also speaks volumes to how much he’s matured in the last year,” Price said. “He couldn’t have done that a year ago. He’s making really good progress. He’s going to make himself a lot of money a year from now.”
The victory also gave Price the 700th win of his 23-year career. Only 18 other active Power Five coaches have accomplished that feat.
“It was a great win for us, a win our team needed really badly,” Price said. “I’m a lot more excited about the win over Texas Tech than No. 700.”
KU scored early and often for Zeferjahn. The Jayhawks scored five runs in the second, which was highlighted by a two-run single from Groshans and an RBI-single from designated hitter Brett Vosik.
The Jayhawks also produced six runs in the fourth and sixth innings. The onslaught was led by junior outfielder Devin Foyle, who was 2 for 3 with three runs, three RBIs and two walks.
Also adding to the barrage were center fielder Rudy Karre, who had two hits and two RBIs out of the leadoff spot, and right fielder Brendt Citta, who produced a single and drove in two runs.
“Groshans, and Foyle, and Vosik, those guys hitting in the three, four, five spots, have to produce with guys on base,” Price said. “And (Foyle) had some clutch base hits today. There were a lot of key, two-out base hits to extend those innings for us to put those 17 runs up.”
Texas Tech 010 100 1 — 3 8 4
Kansas 050 606 x — 17 11 0
W—Zeferjahn (6-1). L—John McMillon (4-1).
2B—Skyler Messinger, KU. 3B—Cameron Warren, TTU.
KU highlights—Zeferjahn, 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K; Karre, 2 for 5, run, walk, 2 RBI; Groshans, 1 for 3, two runs, two walks, 2 RBI; Vosik, 1 for 4, two runs, 2 RBI; Foyle, 2 for 3, three runs, two walks, 3 RBI; Messinger, 2 for 4, run, walk, 2 RBI; Benjamin Sems, 2 for 4, run, walk, RBI.