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Archive for Friday, May 5, 2006

Fearsome foe awaits KU

Price: Texas capable of return trip to CWS

May 5, 2006

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— Kansas University's baseball squad is running the gamut of opponent quality this week.

After beating NAIA foe Saint Mary, 6-0, on Tuesday at the friendly confines of Hoglund Ballpark - a game in which the Spires used eight pitchers in eight innings - the Jayhawks now face a three-game series against No. 7 Texas, the defending College World Series champion, at Disch-Falk Field.

"If you're competitive, you thrive on that kind of environment," KU coach Ritch Price said.

The first game is set for 6:15 tonight and will be broadcast on KLWN-AM (1320).

KU's usual Saturday starter, junior Ricky Fairchild (5-5, 5.71 earned-run average), will start for the Jayhawks tonight against Texas junior righty Kyle McCulloch (7-4, 2.85).

Texas leads the all-time series, 27-8. But last season at The Hog, the Jayhawks won two of three games against the Longhorns, and KU was one of just two teams that won a series against Texas in 2005.

"We can't really dwell on last year what we did," sophomore third baseman Erik Morrison said. "They're a different ballclub."

This year, the Jayhawks (33-18 overall, 10-11 Big 12 Conference) are two league victories shy of matching the school record set in 1997. The Longhorns, meanwhile, are 16-4 in the Big 12 Conference but 33-15 overall.

So, has up-and-coming KU narrowed the gap?

"I sure hope none of my guys said that. That would end up in the paper," Price said. "I still think (the Longhorns) will make the College World Series. If they win it or not will depend if they peak at the right time."

At 2 p.m. Saturday, freshman lefty Nick Czyz (3-1, 4.17) will be thrown into the fray and make his first career Big 12 start.

"He has outstanding stuff, and he's going to be a high-profile guy for us," Price said. "He's got his hands full Saturday. We're going to find out how tough he is mentally."

As usual, stalwart senior righty Kodiak Quick (8-3, 3.22) will start Sunday.

This series marks KU's last regular-season road games. The Jayhawks will play four nonconference home games at Hoglund, then play host to a league-finale series against Texas A&M before the Big 12 tournament begins May 24 in Oklahoma City.

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