High School Sports

High School Sports

Duel of the century

Lawrence High’s Minnis, Free State’s Kukuk set to oppose each other tonight

Lawrence High’s Albert Minnis, left, will oppose Free State’s Cody Kukuk in tonight’s city baseball showdown, weather permitting. Minnis, a senior, has signed with Wichita State. Kukuk, a junior, has orally committed to Kansas University, but both might go pro instead.

Lawrence High’s Albert Minnis, left, will oppose Free State’s Cody Kukuk in tonight’s city baseball showdown, weather permitting. Minnis, a senior, has signed with Wichita State. Kukuk, a junior, has orally committed to Kansas University, but both might go pro instead.

May 10, 2010


In the small, talent-packed world that is Lawrence baseball, the Duel of the Century is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. today at Lawrence High’s new baseball diamond.

The forecast calls for thunderstorms. If it proves inaccurate and the skies don’t light up, the radar guns held in the hands of major-league scouts surely will.

The city’s two top pitching prospects of the 21st century — Lawrence High senior Albert Minnis and Free State junior Cody Kukuk — oppose each other for the first time, weather permitting.

Both young athletes throw left-handed, but neither fits the flaky-lefty stereotype. Both pitchers have been on the mound for 39 innings this season. Minnis (4-3, 1.75 ERA) has walked 15 and struck out 62. Kukuk (7-0, 0.72) has walked 33, struck out 60 and allowed just 19 hits.

“You mean Roy Hobbs?” LHS coach Brad Stoll said of Kukuk, comparing him to the protagonist of “The Natural,” a popular book and film. “It’s just ridiculous how good he is. He’s such a talented kid. It will be fun to watch his draft status next year, just as we’ll watch for Albert this year.”

Long, lean and strong, Kukuk stands 6-foot-4, about five inches taller than Minnis, which gives him a higher ceiling. Minnis has the more polished slider. Kukuk’s fastball might be slightly more difficult for hitters to pick up.

“My wife (Lori) played volleyball at the University of Kansas, so I always say he got his athletic ability from her and his left-handedness from me,” said Cody’s father, Rod, a local contractor who specializes in road construction.

Cody’s baseball swing? That was sent from heaven. It evokes three words: sweet-swinging lefty. Kukuk is batting .441, leads the city with eight home runs, 34 RBIs, a .542 on-base percentage and a 1.034 slugging percentage. Three of his home runs and 10 of his RBIs came in one game.

“He surpassed me in home runs in one game,” said Minnis, a right-handed hitter. “He had as many grand slams (two) in one game as I have home runs all season.”

Kukuk has led the Firebirds to a 14-4 record. Minnis led the Lions to a state title in 2009. Heading into this season, Minnis lost one career game as a pitcher during a high school career that began in Missouri. This year, he started the season 1-3 but has regained his dominant form, winning his last three decisions for the Lions (10-8).

“I certainly think he’s a competitive young man and gifted,” Free State coach Mike Hill said of Minnis. “He adds a great breaking pitch with velocity, and those aren’t two things you see too frequently at the high school level. Not too many kids can run it up there in the upper 80s, low 90s (mph). You hear all the time about this kid and that kid throwing 90, and it’s simply not true. This year is the exception. Albert can bring a slider to the table with that. When those two pitches are working, he’s a handful.”

Kukuk said what impresses him most about Minnis is that he “gets hitters off balance. He does that really well. That’s why he’s a successful pitcher. I’m pretty excited. I was hurt last year, so we didn’t get to have the matchup.”

Minnis signed with Wichita State, but could end up bypassing college to ink a contract with a major-league organization. Kukuk made a verbal commitment to KU and projects as an early-round draft choice a year from now. Does his future lie on the mound or at the plate?

“It’s kind of hard to say,” Minnis said when asked to guess. “He’s left-handed, so a lot of people like him as a pitcher. Then once you see him swing the bat, you like him as a hitter. I think he should stick with both as long as he can, then go with which one gives him the best shot to make it all the way.”

In the event today’s game is rained out, it will be rescheduled for later in the week. The schools already are scheduled to face each other Thursday at Hoglund Ballpark.


Golf4Life 8 years ago

this is rather interesting because this article would be about ryan scott if mike hill did not ruin him last year, but that's my own opinion. funny how an all state pitcher is so easily forgotten.

Clickker 8 years ago

It's hard as a parent to even talk to the coaches there. Thats the thing about MH, its all for the here and now....too bad about Scott

Clickker 8 years ago

I agree. I guess I didnt realize it was THAT bad. These kind of thinks kind of creep up on a kid ( dead arm, due to overuse) vs., lets say a knee injury in Football where a coach wants a kid to play thru it.

Mark Thompson 8 years ago

Are you refering to overuse, asking him to play through injury....? Sorry, don't know what happened to the Scott kid last year.

Golf4Life 8 years ago

he made an appearance at the mound in about 16 of 20 games. and when he wasn't pitching he played third base.

Clickker 8 years ago

I knew it was alot last year...but didnt realize it was 16 games! Thats the quandry of a H.S. coach...do you ride your horse? or be careful of his career?

Matt Bowers 8 years ago

As a high school baseball coach, it is hard not to throw your ace. We have a rotation and it has cost us some games, but our ace is healthy and when he is not pitching, he plays right field. Does anyone know what radio station I could pick this game up online? I live in NC and miss out on all this stuff.

DennisAnderson 8 years ago

Tonight's game has been postponed due to weather. It has been rescheduled to 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Lawrence Journal-World Sports team will live blog the game. Go to LJWorld.com before the game starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

julieanderson 8 years ago

Parents should not be intimidated by their child's coach. I know Mike Hill may seem unapproachable at times, but believe me, he does take the time to respond to a parent's concerns. I have dealt with him on student issues, as well as baseball issues regarding my child. Do I always agree with what his response is? Of course not. But my job is to be a parent, and if there are any concerns with my child as a student or athlete, it is my parental responsibility to discuss this with the proper school administration -- whether it be a teacher, guidance counselor or athletic coach.

A wise Lawrence teacher once told me, that as parents, we are our child's only advocate.

Tufee 8 years ago

I want to Thank everyone that has followed Ryan's Career and expressed concern for his current situation. This is his Dad, please allow me to give you my opinion. First of all the Coaches. Last year and this year they were in constant contact with us about Ryan. He did have the opportunity to pitch in alot of games last year, mostly due to injuries to other pitchers. None of these injuries were related to overwork. Ryan wanted to help his team be successful, the coaches or his parents would not have let him pitch if we felt he was injured. Coach Hill knew he was tired and took extra measures to give him rest between appearances. His current situation appears to be a combination of training and lack of training. After a length of time resting his arm he rehabilitated and went to several camps over Christmas. Then concentrating on Basketball didn't continue to workout for baseball and lost much of his strength. He is regaining it now and looks forward to helping the team down the final stretch of the season. I am glad that Landon is okay and hope for a speedy recovery. The rivalry between the schools in baseball has been tremendous. I can't agree with Coach Price more, he was quoted in Keegans column about how good High School Baseball is in Lawrence. I think the 2 best teams in the state last year were both in Lawrence. They played 3 Excellent games last year, and I expect the 2 this week will be just as good or better. Best wishes to both programs. Hope the weather holds up. Bruce

Tufee 8 years ago

There is no doubt that pitching puts a strain on the arm. In an attempt to get stronger he started a core training workout after the High School season. This seemed to make the soreness worse instead of better. After seeing the Dr. and on his advice Ryan was shut down for most of the summer as a precautionary measure. A MRI showed no injury, just swelling. Ryan has enjoyed being part of Free State Baseball Varsity program since he was a Freshman, we discussed how he felt daily, as did the coaches. He was not injured, just sore from the maximum output that is pitching.

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