Kansas Sweeps #1 Texas
(With the end of the year fast approaching, we’re counting down some of the top moments from the 2009 college baseball season. We’ll have one a day through New Year’s Eve.)
The first conference series of any season is always big, and it’s even bigger if your conference opener happens to be against the number one team in the nation. That’s what the Kansas Jayhawks faced when they opened their 2009 Big 12 slate at home vs. Augie Garrido’s Texas Longhorns.
At 10-7 Ritch Price’s Jayhawks were having a solid season heading into the March 20 opener, and they had shown flashes of brilliance. Schaeffer Hall tossed a no-hitter a month earlier in the season-opener vs. Air Force. Kansas split two games with #21 Arkansas that same week, and they did win one of three games against Arizona State as one of their final tune-ups prior to league play.
However, non of that could have forecast what the Jayhawks were about to do to the Longhorns at Hoglund Ballpark: Sweep a 3-game series…but that’s exactly what they did.
Kansas beat Texas by finals of 5-4, 4-3 and 4-3. Three games, three wins decided by a total of three runs. The Jayhawks had won a total of nine Big 12 Conference games in 2008, but they were a third of the way to that total after the league’s opening weekend.
KU got solid starting pitching all weekend, but it was their bullpen that really came through in the clutch. Here’s a game-by-game look at how the ‘Hawks’ pen performed:
Game 1-Friday, March 20: 3 pitchers (Travis Blankenship, Brett Bochy & Paul Smyth) combine for 1 1/3
perfect innings with 2 strikeouts in the 5-4 win. Smyth induces three flyouts in the 9th inning for his 4th save of the season.
Game 2-Saturday, March 21: 5 pitchers (Cameron Selik, Blankenship, Bochy, Colton Murray, & Smyth) combine to scatter four Longhorn hits over 4 innings in the 4-3 victory. For the second straight game they issue no walks. Smyth again finishes for his 5th save.
Game 3-Sunday, March 22: 3 pitchers (Blankenship, Murray & Smyth) hold the Longhorns without a run for the final 2 1/3 innings of the series in another 4-3 KU win. Smyth gets his 3rd save in as many games, while Lawrence native Travis Blankenship earns his 2nd straight win in relief.
The 3-game KU Bullpen Totals: 7 2/3 IP – 5 H – 5 K – 0 BB – 0 Runs
Kansas pitching staff held the 3,4 & 5 batters in the Texas order (including pinch-hitters) to a
.212 (7-for-33) average with 4 RBIs in the 3-game set.
The Kansas offense over the weekend was a team effort as well as 8 different Jayhawk batters accounted for 11 RBIs in the three games. Four different players had an RBI in the game one and game three victories.
Prior to the weekend, the Jayhawks had never swept the Longhorns in a 3-game series. In fact, they had never even put together three straight wins at any time against Texas. KU also started 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 1994.
The three wins over the Longhorns proved to be crucial for the Jayhawks. They stood with a 37-22 overall record prior to the NCAA Tournament after going 0-3 (including a loss to Texas) in the Big 12 Tournament. However, they were 15-12 in conference play. But when the names were announced for the 64-team NCAA field Kansas was announced and sent to the Chapel Hill, NC regional.
Without the three wins over the eventual College World Series runner-up the Jayhawks likely would have missed an NCAA berth.
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