It's finally here! In a few short hours, LSU will take the field for the 2015 season against 2014 NCAA tournament team Kansas. To get some perspective on the Jayhawks, I talked to fetch13 of Rock Chalk Talk to see if this is a Kansas team that can come away from the weekend with a second straight series victory in Baton Rouge.
PodKATT: Back in 2010, Kansas came to LSU and knocked off a then-defending national champion. Since then, the Jayhawks have had a few losing seasons, then turned it around with the first NCAA tournament appearance in some time last year. How do you like the state of the program right now?
fetch13: It's interesting because before last season there were more than a few rumblings that it might be the last one for Coach Price, and then Kansas went out and made the tournament. It's pretty much impossible to win at Kansas due to the location, the lack of available recruits, the lack of ability to get any good nonconference competition to Lawrence, the fact that they're the only northern Big 12 baseball program other than K State, and the weather forcing them to go on the road for the first month or so of the season. It's tough. So I don't think anyone is expecting to go to Omaha every year or anything. That being said, Hoglund Ballpark gets nicer every year and they've pulled in some decent recruits in the last few years, plus Lawrence is a great college town that I think appeals to kids who don't think they'll be major leaguers, so that should help get some better players there.
PK: The Jayhawks are without some of the good arms that got them to the tourney last year. What can you tell me about Morovick and do you think he or maybe someone else on the roster will be your anchor this year?
f13: Kansas has some intriguing arms behind Morovick, so they probably don't need him to be a traditional Friday night guy, just good enough to win every so often and/or give Kansas a chance against the other team's Friday night guy. Wins are what they are as a stat (useless) but Morovick is the Big 12 active leader in wins, which is kind of cool. He only throws in the high 80s-low 90s, but he's a big kid (6'5", 250) so I'm hoping his fastball will improve a bit.
The guy who I think has a chance to really step up this year is Ben Krauth, who was the Northern California JUCO pitcher of the year last year. I don't know a ton about his stuff since I haven't seen him pitch, but in reading about him he sounds pretty projectable and that he can throw a couple pitches for strikes.
PK: With 301 teams in college baseball, it’s hard to pay close attention outside of your own conference. What kind of offensive team is Kansas (power, small-ball, hit and run) and where do leading returning batters Dakota Smith (.337) and Colby Wright (.314) fit in those plans?
f13: Small ball would be the best way to describe them probably. The 2 hole guy bunted more often than I'd care to recall, and there just isn't a ton of power on the roster (the bats don't help). Dakota Smith is a really athletic guy who I think can play professionally if things break right for him, while Wright grabbed second team all Big 12 honors last year. Wright is a pretty decent second baseman, and I love second basemen who can hit, so naturally he's one of my faves.
PK: Bottom 9, Two out, down 1, 1 on. Who do you want to come to the plate for Kansas?
f13: I think Wright is a good bet for this one. I also think catcher Michael Tinsley might be a good bet as well. Tinsley is actually going to the Cape next year, which is pretty insane to say about a KU baseball player.
PK: With the exception of the Longhorns and their special network, the BXII has a total of 9 baseball games scheduled for national TV this season. In a world where the SEC alone is getting about a hundred games this season, do you think the BXII will ever get its act together, or is UT’s nonsense too big of a hurdle to overcome?
f13: I think people want to see SEC (and probably Pac 12) baseball for obvious reasons, and the fact that Texas has its own channel definitely lessens the need to have them on national TV, which drives the numbers down. I wish they didn't have the Longhorn Network to be honest, but it's also pretty low on the list of things I would change about the Big 12.
PK: So….that Kentucky team is something eh?
f13: Best team money can buy, amirite?