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Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2001

Randall happy with sensational start

Jayhawks 3-0 heading into this weekend’s Express College Classic

February 15, 2001

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Kansas University baseball coach Bobby Randall doesn't put too much stock in the Jayhawks' 3-0 start to the season.

After all, the Jayhawks won their first three games last year, too, then struggled to a 25-30 record by season's end.

But in winning the Express College Classic over the weekend in Round Rock, Texas, KU beat Texas Christian, Southwest Texas and North Carolina-Charlotte, and Randall thinks more of Kansas' more recent 3-0 start than its last.

"We've still got some things to do," Randall said, "but last year we started off with Texas-San Antonio. We won those games mostly by resolve. I felt like San Antonio gave us a lot of that. This wasn't Texas-San Antonio. We beat a TCU team that beat Texas. Charlotte has a good, young team. Southwest Texas was 5-0. These also were some teams with a month of practice and several games under their belts. We played a lot better, and we did some things offensively and defensively."

The most surprising part of that, Randall said, was the lack of experience the Jayhawks had outside. Prior to last weekend's tournament, KU had held just one practice outside.

"I was nervous about that," he said. "Normally you don't play very well in that first game because you haven't really played the game. But we started three seniors and a senior pitcher and a junior who has been through the wars for two years. That really settled everybody down. I was actually very surprised. We went down there and outexecuted them. Part of it was talent, but part of it was execution. What surprised me, too, was that everybody saved their best pitcher for us."

The Jayhawks had three players hit .400 or better for the tournament. Shortstop John Nelson hit .429 with a triple and an RBI; Justin Davis hit .400 with a double and three RBIs; and Kevin Wheeler hit .400 with a double.

"We didn't hit on all cylinders," Randall said. "Ryan (Klocksien) struck out more than he normally would. Doug (Dreher), same thing. But I'm not worried about them. Everybody contributed. We didn't have to depend on two or three guys or we weren't going to score. That was good. That's progress. So many times last year, we'd get to points in the lineup where we didn't have anything going. This year Jason Appuhn was our No. 9 hitter, and he keyed several rallies."

Senior pitcher Pete Smart started on Friday and didn't allow a run off three hits over 62/3 innings. Newcomer Justin Wilcher allowed an earned run off six hits over six innings on Saturday, and Jake Wright, who red-shirted last season, surrendered two runs off six hits over seven innings.

"Our biggest concern this season was who the No. 2 and No. 3 starters would be," Randall said. "Justin and Jake, for their first time out, really pitched well. There's certainly more for them to do, but they really pitched well."

Kansas also received 22/3 scoreless innings of relief from Sam Gish and Chris Smart. Juco newcomer Doug Lantz also picked up two saves with an 8.1 ERA in 31/3 innings.

"We've certainly got a ways to go. We don't have the Yankees' bullpen yet," Randall said. "But I like those guys. They'll be a good committee out there. They're going to throw strikes and they're going to be workable. We don't have an overpowering guy, but those guys together those three and Eric Thompson will be better than trying to patch something together. If you don't have that one guy, it's better to have three."

The Jayhawks left for Phoenix on Wednesday for the four-day Rawlings/Oakland Athletics Spring Training Tournament.

KU will play St. Mary's today, Northwestern on Friday, Northern Iowa on Saturday and Ball State on Sunday.

Wilcher will start today, Wright on Friday, Smart on Saturday and Jeff Davis or Dan Olson on Sunday.

"Pete's back tightened up on him this weekend, so we'll try to get him a few extra days," Randall said. "It was cold, hard-to-play cold, everybody-wants-in-the-press box cold. We'll go backwards this weekend to give him a little more rest."

Weather permitting, the Jayhawks' home opener will be Tuesday against Rockhurst.

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