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Archive for Monday, May 3, 1999

KU BASEBALL CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE

May 3, 1999

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It started so well for Kansas' baseball team.

Starting pitcher Ryan Schmidt retired the first two Kansas State batters he faced Sunday at Hoglund Ballpark with routine ground balls -- one to third, one to shortstop.

Then it stopped.

KU shortstop John Nelson booted a grounder and second baseman Brandon O'Neal mishandled a grounder on consecutive plays. KSU third baseman Travis Andre then swatted a three-run homer to left field to fuel a 6-2 Big 12 victory over the Jayhawks.

"This story has been many times written before," said KU coach Bobby Randall, whose team dipped to 11-37 overall and 4-26 in the Big 12.

The Jayhawks have been swept six consecutive series. Their only win last month came against Rockhurst.

"It's hard to live with," Randall said. "I didn't see it coming and it's the most difficult thing I've ever been through."

If anybody knows how Randall feels it might be KSU coach Mike Clark, who suffered through a 13-42 season in 1993 when most of his starting lineup consisted of freshmen.

"They'll be fine, but you hate to see a friend go through something like this," said Clark, whose Wildcats are now 23-23 and 9-14. "When you start losing, your confidence goes down and you don't seem to get any breaks. That's just natural and there's not a doggone thing you can do about it."

Schmidt tried to do something about it. He struck out five and surrendered just two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings.

"Honestly, that stuff doesn't bother me," he said. "I was in a groove, pitching well. I just hung that one pitch and got killed on it."

That was all the Wildcats needed.

"When we took advantage of that, it really took the wind out of KU's sails," Clark said. "Schmidt threw great and I don't know what would have happened if there weren't those two errors. We'd probably still be playing."

Randall huddled his team for a longer than usual 20 minute postgame chat, after which the team ran from foul pole to foul pole.

After the run, an out-of-breath Schmidt said the team was ready for a turnaround.

"I think we will now," he said. "We can only go up from here."

Whether or not that's true, it's safe to say the team has never been this low. Two years ago the Jayhawks went 31-25, six years ago they went to the College World Series.

This season the Jayhawks have endured a school-record 12-game losing streak and 26 conference losses. With seven games left, Kansas is on the verge of matching the 1987 Jayhawks for most losses (39) in a season.

"I still haven't given up," Randall said. "I've seen things like this turned around all of a sudden.

Randall remains one win away from No. 400 in his career.

"At this rate, I don't know when it'll happen," he said. "I don't feel like we're recruiting the wrong kids or coaching the wrong way, I think we've got good players playing bad."

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