Kansas Jayhawks (15-9) vs. Chicago State (3-15)
Kansas will host two games vs. Chicago State on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both games have a 3PM start time. Sam Freeman and Hiarali Garcia will start for the Jayhawks. Chicago State enters the series with a record of 3-15 and an RPI ranking of #276. To my eyes the Cougars represent both the best and the worst of college baseball. [Update: Wednesday's game has been changed to a 1PM start time]
Last year when Chicago State visited Lawrence for a four game weekend series they could only bring 21 players. Kansas dominated the weekend, winning all four games. Three of the four were ended early due to the run-rule. This was pretty much par for the course for the Cougars last year. They finished the year with an NCAA record of 3-51. Midway through the season their head coach quit and the team had to complete the season under the intern leadership of hitting coach Husain Mahmoud. Mahmoud was named head coach during the off-season. Like last year, Chicago State will play almost the entire 2008 season on the road. They will only host three NCAA games, the first not occurring until April 9th. The university simply does not support the baseball team. Home games are played at a high school park located near campus. The university does not budget money for little but expected things, such as web site maintenance. This is a team fighting an uphill battle every week simply fielding a roster and making game dates.
Paradoxically, everything I wrote above also makes Chicago State represent the best of college baseball. The only reason a player would battle through adversity like this is due to personal pride and love of the game. These players will be away from campus probably 20 or 25 class days this semester touring. Even the paper roster is only 25 players deep, ten below the NCAA limit. Their university does as little as it can for the team without being charged with criminal neglect. Yet the Cougars DO function as a team, and do complete. Already this year they have won at Cincinnati and taken a three game series at Texas Southern.
Last year I had a nice talk with the father of Chicago State infielder Trenton Sanders. The Sanders and several other CSU supporters made the trip to Lawrence to watch their sons play. They told me they were enjoying their time in Kansas and found themselves on the road a good deal watching games. Young men playing a game they love for no reason other then it is a game they love, followed around the country by supportive parents - really, isn't this what we all want to see when we look into the heart of college baseball?
I am afraid I can only provide scouting information on the Chicago State roster based on limited statistics and my notes from last year. Thomas Creal (LF - 6) made several spectacular plays in the outfield last year. Josh Appelbaum (IF/P 7) and Johathan Wilson (DH/OF -3) got off to good starts at the plate this year - both hitting over .400 last time the CSU stat sheet was updated. Robert Vargas was the starting pitcher in two of the team's three wins. He looked very good in both games, going seven and six innings. He looks to be their senior ace. I do not know if he will get a start this week in Lawrence but if so, he is capable. The weather looks to be baseball friendly. Breezy but temperatures around 60 for both games. It will be nice to get back into the stands after the long road trip. See you at Hoglund. Texas A&M comes to town this weekend so plan ahead for this important conference series.