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Archive for Friday, February 14, 1997

KU BASEBALL TO ROLL DICE AT VEGAS

February 14, 1997

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Sin City and its glittering, decadent strip won't be the big attraction for Kansas University's baseball team this weekend.

The great outdoors will be the biggest lure.

The Jayhawks have had just one outdoor practice -- on a football field, no less -- this preseason. They haven't taken live grounders on dirt, and they haven't scrimmaged.

Still, they'll open their season today against Nevada-Las Vegas (2-4). The three-game series will conclude Sunday.

Game times are 3 p.m. today and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

"We haven't done anything outside," second-year KU coach Bobby Randall said. "We don't even know if our shoes fit. But I told their coach, we'll come out and play 'em this weekend, but they have to come here, and we'll play 'em at Anschutz Pavilion and will kick their behinds."

Because of the limited outside playing time -- "Has Kansas ever not had at least one scrimmage before the season started?" Randall mused -- the coach has no idea what to expect out of his Jayhawks.

"I really don't know anything about 'em," Randall said. "I know they're anxious to play a game. I know they're ready to play hard. But, no, we're not ready. I don't think we're really ready for it. We haven't been on dirt yet. But you hope you can win despite not being ready."

Randall's ready to find a pitching staff. Though the Jayhawks of '96 set a school record with a .324 team batting average, an ugly 7.39 team earned run average doomed KU to a 26-30 season.

"We're a lot better off this year," said Randall, who made pitching a priority in recruiting. "We've got a lot more depth. But the experience is about the same. This weekend, I want to see how some young pitchers respond. We have three freshmen -- Mark Corson, Rusty Philbrick and Jake Good -- who looked good in the fall. I want to see how they respond to a game situation."

Aric Peters, a righty who was 2-6 with a 9.26 ERA last year, will oppose UNLV's Jeremiah Tipton (1-0, 4.63) today. KU's other scheduled starters are Tim Lyons (1-0, 15.80) on Saturday and Josh Bailey, a juco transfer, on Sunday.

Lyons, a senior righty, also had a good spring, Randall said.

"He's almost a rookie," Randall said. "But he's got great stuff. This needs to be his best year, obviously, but I think he has potentially professional stuff. He can throw 90 (mph), and that seems to be the magic number. After that, we need to find some starters."

And some position players. KU's top two hitters -- Josh Kliner (.438) and Isaac Byrd (.393) -- are gone. Kliner graduated, and Byrd opted to skip his senior season to play professional baseball.

Sophomore Andy Juday (.289) could fill in for Kliner, while Byrd's center field spot will be filled by committee.

Around the horn, first base will be platooned by Justin Headley, Nick Frank and Aaron Wilmes; Juday and Craig Stewart will play second; All-Big Eighter Joe DeMarco will man short; and Frank and Sparky Wilhelm will play third.

Josh Dimmick is the everyday catcher, but he'll be spelled by juco transfer Chad King.

Headley, Mike Dean, Stephen Mathews, Les Walrond and juco transfer Kevin Nannini will play in the outfield.

"We need to find who's ready to play," Randall said. "We've got a lot of sophomores who are ready to step up, and I think we've got some guys who are swinging the bats well. Last year, we made a lot of improvement from the first weekend to the second. I hope we get the same thing this year."

KU's home opener will be Feb. 25 against Nebraska.

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