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Archive for Friday, May 16, 2008

Finals cut into KU-KSU baseball preparations

May 16, 2008

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Ryne Price ready for K-State series

The Kansas baseball team readies itself for this weekend's series with K-State. Senior Ryne Price is hoping the season doesn't end on Sunday. If Ryne can continue to do what he's done for four straight years, the Jayhawks should have no problem advancing to next week's Big 12 tournament. Enlarge video

At Kansas University's baseball practice Wednesday, about half of the hitters were missing in action, stuck in a classroom taking finals or with a tutor studying for them.

Down I-70 in Manhattan, Kansas State had a similar, so-so week of work.

"Practice has been very average, to be honest," KSU coach Brad Hill said.

A compromised opportunity, perhaps, to prepare for the biggest series of the season. Kansas (30-24 overall, 9-15 Big 12 Conference) and Kansas State (24-27, 8-16) will meet in a three-game set starting with today's 6 p.m. game at Hoglund Ballpark. The final two games of the series, 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, will be played in Manhattan.

Both teams are on the bubble of a berth in the eight-team Big 12 tournament, which starts next week in Oklahoma City. Both teams can clinch a spot by winning two of three.

Of course, only one team can do that.

"All you ask for is an opportunity to control your own destiny," KU coach Ritch Price said. "There's a lot to play for, for both teams."

Which makes it a bit annoying that final exams dominated the minds of the players all week. It brings to mind the humorous exchange in the movie "Friday Night Lights," where a sports-talk-radio listener deadpanned, "There's too much learning going on at that school."

Jokes aside, Price expected a full cast at Thursday's practice, save one: second baseman Robby Price, who was hurt when his left shoulder popped out of its socket against Missouri last weekend.

"He has not practiced yet," coach Price said. "His MRI came back and showed that he did not have a tear. He has a bone bruise where the bone popped out."

Sounds painful, but Ritch Price followed up by saying, "We expect him to play Friday night."

With so much at stake, pain takes a back seat. Kansas currently sits seventh in the Big 12 standings, but only a half-game ahead of Oklahoma, a full game ahead of K-State and two games ahead of Texas Tech.

Two of those four teams, in all likelihood, will be going to Oklahoma City. The other two will be done.

KU has finished on both sides of that cruel cut. It shocked the conference by winning the Big 12 tournament in 2006, but a re-tooled team failed to qualify last season.

Having felt both sensations, the importance of this weekend's series isn't lost on the Jayhawks - even if practice time was.

"Our goal every year is to win over 30 games, make the Big 12 tournament and contend for an NCAA playoff berth," Ritch Price said. "If you don't make the (conference) tournament, I think your whole season has been a failure."

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