KU hit the high and low points of their pre-conference season within the span of two days. On Tuesday the Jayhawks looked unstoppable while humiliating Penn State 18-5. The next day the team took the field with enthusiasm and confidence to face in-state (and recruiting) rival Wichita State. After an initial few gritty innings the Shockers landed roundhouse blow after blow, building a 10-2 lead after seven innings. The knockout was landed in the 8th, when WSU stretched the lead to 17-2.
It is a shame that things went so bad last night for many reasons, only one of which being the great turnout by KU fans. The attendance (1,757) was th 10th largest ever at the Hog. Hoglund is a great park and when the stands are full there is a lot of energy for the players to feed off. In the second inning Preston Land blooped a misplayed single into center left with Ryne Price on first. As there were two outs Ryne put his head down and was rounding third before the ball was redirected back to the infield. Close play at the plate but Price got around the tag to breifly tie the game up 1-1. Safe sign and the stands rocked. For a few minutes it all seemed like the game could go so well.
The last time a team scored 18 or more runs on KU was April 2006 in a memorable game at Oklahoma State. Reynolds Stadium in Stillwater is known as a launching pad and the wind was blowing out that day. By the end of nine 14 homeruns had left the park, six by KU and eight by the Cowboys. Pitchers came out of the game suffering from immediate onset depression, hitters couldn't get into the batters box often enough. Last night's humiliation to Wichita was a different story. The game was at Hoglund, a home game for the Jayhawks. It was a beautiful day, it didn't seem to me that wind could count as a major factor. Only three homeruns were hit on the day, all by the Shockers.
The ERA's of a few Jayhawk pitchers really took a beating during these two mid-week games. Zach Ashwood came out of the bullpen for the first time this year last night. His ERA climbed from 5.47 to 6.51. Closer Paul Smyth gave up the first earned run credited to him (0.00 to 0.75). But the real tough luck case was Ryotaro Hayakawa who, in two appearances, saw his number jump from 2.57 all the way up to an even 8.00. Hopefully Ryotaro will have a short memory about these rough outings. His contribution out of the pen as a middle man gives the pen depth from innings 5 through 8. Until this week Esquibel, Garcia, Marcin and Hayakawa had been forming a very effective bridge between the starters and Smyth.
The Jayhawks open their Big-12 campaign this weekend by traveling to College Station for a three game series vs. Texas A&M. A&M is ranked #16 by Baseball America and #15 in the most recent update of RPI numbers. I assume KLWN (AM-1320) will be broadcasting the series, although it seems basketball may trump baseball once more this weekend.
Friday 6:30PM @ Texas A&M
Closing note, big thumbs up to the Nebraska blog Corn Nation for their weekly Big-12 baseball updates. If you follow the college ball in the conference you should make regular stops at CN.