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Baseball: Florida Spring Classic

Bumping this back up to squeeze it in between the basketball games - JQ.

The Kansas baseball team is in Florida this week and I don't know if they have every played as many games in as short a span of time as they have scheduled over the next five day. Wednesday at 2PM Kansas will play Illinois. About 94 hours after this game gets underway the Jayhawks should be wrapping up their final and eighth game of the trip! Eight games in less than five days.

Florida Spring Classic

Wednesday 2PM Illinois Lost 11-9
Thursday 9:30AM Dartmouth Win 8-6
Thursday 12:30PM Central Connecticut State Win 7-6
Friday 1PM Ohio State Lost 16-5
Friday 6PM Maryland - Baltimore Co. Win 4-1
Saturday 1PM Northwestern CCD
Saturday ~4:30PM Northwestern CCD
Sunday 8AM Northwestern Win 12-11

The preview for these games will be on the short side for a few reasons. There are too many of them! There is only so much a blogger can do. I thought of providing each team's RPI rankings and record, but in truth, by the time KU plays them so many additional games might have already been played that these rankings will be badly outdated. Bkm and I will be updating games in the comments section throughout the week, and probably carrying on some conversations at again, so best to check in these locations for starting pitchers, game results and updated information.

Media Black Hole
Sadly KU will not be sending a radio crew to Florida to cover these games. I understand from Mike Cummings the school was not sure the facilities at all the fields would support audio webcasting. If I learn of any method of following these games aside from gametracker I will pass it on.

Individual game previews below

Quick previews and Bkmhoxx' prospect reports
Illinois (2007 NCAA record and final RPI: 28-27, #138)
Illinois enters today's play with a 5-5 record and an RPI of #124. I am expecting to see Shaeffer Hall get this start. Illinois is one of the better teams KU will face this weekend. The Illini will use call on Kevin Manson (1-0, 3.55 ERA).

One of the most exciting players KU will face in this tourney will be Sophomore SS Brandon Wikoff. Wikoff batted .286 with a HR and 25rbi as a Freshman. This year he has started off at .320 with 7rbi and 2sb. He is very flashy and still has plenty of time to add to his draft stock. Another strong sophomore for Illinois is OFer Kyle Hudson. Hudson batted .351 with 28rbi and 16sb and is batting .364 with 5rbi and 4sb so far this year. He is also a WR for the football team and played in the Rose bowl. A very talented athlete.
A few others with an outside chance: Daniel Webb OF; Ryan Hastings 2B; Ben Reeser RHP; Kevin Manson RHP.
Illini in the pros: Curtis Granderson, Brian Roberts, Scott Spiezio.

Dartmouth (2007 NCAA record and final RPI: 8-29, #281)
Dartmouth enters the week at 3-5 with an RPI of 230.

This Ivy League school has very little offense and a few decent pitchers. Kyle Zeis is the closer and has a high strikeout ratio but looks like he has little control. Last year he had 31K in 26.1ip and has continued this year with 10K in 6 innings thus far. Russell Young is a senior LHP standing 6'4, and weighing 205. Young has a 0.75 ERA with 16K in 12 innings. Sophomore Robert Young LHP has a good pitchers build (6'2,240) and is doing well this year too.

Central Connecticut State (2007 NCAA record and final RPI: 26-26, #188)
CCSU enters the week at 2-8 with an RPI of 288. Rough start for a program that has not been awful at all during the last five years. The Blue Devils went to the NCAA tournament in 2003 and 2004 and their head coach has a record of 207-162 during his nine years at the school.

This small school actually has a few decent players. Most of which are pitchers. Junior LHP Ken Kerski went for 3.36 in 69.2ip and 48K last year Senior RHP John Tesseyman had a 2.79 era in 61ip with 36K last year and has started off strong again this year. Senior LHP Matt Gianini had a 3.00 era in 69ip with 69K. Sophomore Kyle Zarotney hit .397 with 4hr and 18rbi and stands 6'7 and weighs 205. Others that may have a shot: Senior Jak Kidd and sophomore 1B Tommy Meade (6'4, 215)

Ohio State (2007 NCAA record and final RPI: 38-24, #70)
The Buckeyes are probably the most talented team the Jayhawks will face in the tournament. They were picked to challenge for the Big-10 championship this year but have gotten off to a sputtering start. They enter the week with an 8-5 record and an RPI of 120. I expect Price will throw Marciel in this game.

This will be the best team KU faces in this tournament but I still think KU should win this game. The Buckeyes have Junior 1b/C Justin Miller who batted .342 with a HR and 49rbi last year. He has started off this season batting .349 with 10rbi. He seems to be a high average guy that knows how to hit and score some runs. Jake Hale is a 6'7 200 pound junior pitcher who has been drafted twice by Cleveland and Toronto. His numbers are decent but I think he was drafted mainly because of his frame and his potential. He had a 4.25era last year with 48K in 65.2ip. Other names worth watching for: Sr Outfielder Tony Kennedy; Jr Outfielder and pitcher JB Shuck; Sr pitcher Dan Delucia (coming off Tommy John surgery last year but has good potential if he can get through it); Fr Ryan Meade can throw 90 mph already; Fr pitcher Drew Rucinski; So pitcher Eric Best (6'4, 235); Fr pitcher Dan Wolosiansky (6'5, 212).
Buckeyes in the pros: Nick Swisher.

UMBC (2007 NCAA record and final RPI: 13-40, #286)
The Retrievers were among the least competitive programs last year, and so far the RPI is showing them no additional love in 2008. That said, they do enter the week with a 5-8 record, so they are winning some games. Additionally, John Jancuska is in his 30th year as their head coach (!), and during that span has built an overall winning record of 637-616. So this might be a trap game.

This team doesn't have much but they do have one very nice batter in Senior 1B Will Delawter. Delawter batted .365 with 6HR and 38rbi last year and has started off very hot batting .526 with 4HR and 16rbi so far this year. Pitcher Eddie Bach also looks like he could have some decent stuff with his strikeout rates. (17ip and 20K's last year).
UMBC in the pros: former Royal Jay Witasick.

Northwestern (2007 NCAA record and final RPI: 17-36, #210)
KU finishes the week with three games vs. the Wildcats, and this might be an interesting series. Northwestern did not perform well last year, but so far they have looked much better in 2008. They enter the week with a 4-5 record and are knocking at the Top-100 door with a RPI ranking of 104. If Northwestern plays well during the week they may come into this series with some momentum and confidence. I expect Price will use Czyz and Freeman for two of the three games in this series. The third starter is the real mystery today. Price might bring Shaeffer Hall back on short rest, or he might go all the way down to #8 on his starting pitching depth chart. That decision might not be made until game day.

Eric Jokisch is a LHP that was drafted by Cleveland in the 39th round. He stands 6'3, 175 and thus far has a 3.32era with 15K in 19ip. He seems to be the only for sure prospect on this team although they do have a few others that stand a chance. The Northwestern bats aren't too shabby. Sr second baseman Jake Owens; So 1B Jake Goebbert; SR OFer Mike Kalina; Fr OFer Nate Roberts; Sr OFer Aaron Newman.
Northwestern in the pros: Joe Girardi and Mark Loretta.

KU has a very good chance to rack up a nice bag of wins this week. Ohio State probably is roughly on the same level as KU and Illinois and Northwestern are decent teams, but if each of these matchups is looked at in isolation I favor the Jayhawks one through eight. If KU finishes the tournament with six wins, I will be a bit disappointed. Seven wins would cause a little excitement. A sweep is probably too much to ask for, but it is certainly possible. KU has a very deep pitching staff, an attribute which will play to their advantage in situations such as this tournament. One thing is certain, Price will be stretching his roster to the breaking point. Look for a lot of bench players to step up this week.