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Archive for Friday, February 14, 2003

KU baseball faces tough test at LSU

February 14, 2003

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The 275 fans in attendance at the Kansas University baseball team's home opener Wednesday probably didn't help out much in preparing the Jayhawks for their next test.

The game itself was important. KU coach Ritch Price stressed the significance of getting another game in before traveling to face No. 8 Louisiana State this weekend. KU defeated Western Illinois, 10-6, improving to 6-3 on the young season.

But the atmosphere Wednesday at Hoglund Ballpark likely was the opposite of what KU will see tonight.

Game times are 6:30 tonight, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

LSU plays home games in Alex Box Stadium, known for a shortage of empty seats. With the stadium capacity at 7,760, this weekend's series might be a culture shock for the Jayhawks -- and that's exactly what motivated Price to schedule the series.

"It's going to be a tough environment to play in," Price said. "There will be 8,000 people in there that'll be all over our players. I think we need that environment in order to take another step forward."

Taking the next step has been Price's theme since arriving at KU last summer. Sometimes they're baby steps, but a victory or two in Baton Rouge, La., no doubt would be a big stride for a program looking for quick success.

"It's going to be a good measuring tool for our club," Price said, "as far as where we're at now and where we need to be."

LSU, in recent years, has been top-notch. The Tigers have won five national titles since 1991, they have appeared in 11 College World Series since 1986, and they have recorded nine 50-win seasons in the program's storied history.

To put it in perspective, Kansas has topped 40 victories just twice, in 1993 and 1994.

This season, LSU is 4-0, sweeping a three-game set with Northwestern State and topping Centenary, 15-0, Tuesday. The Tigers averaged more than 7,600 fans in their three home games this year.

Price said the LSU series would provide a hint of things to come in the mighty Big 12 Conference.

"The big thing for us is we're going to see plus-Division One velocity for the first time," he said. "We're going to see that in the Big 12, with five teams ranked in the Top 25."

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