The Kansas Jayhawks hosted the Nebraska Cornhuskers in an exhibition game at Hoglund Ballpark last night. Admission to the game was free and open to the public, so naturally, I reached out to a friend who agreed to attend with me.
My previous two experiences attending Kansas ballgames proved disappointing, but I had reason to feel optimistic about this exhibition. KU hired a new baseball coach at the end of last spring, Dan Fitzgerald, and Fitzgerald spent the summer on a recruiting tear, taking advantage of the NCAA Transfer Portal to attract a slew of new talent to Kansas.
An estimated 500 spectators attended the exhibition, which surprised me a bit. I imagine free admission proved a big draw, and the football watch party that was just exiting Allen Fieldhouse next door as the baseball game was starting likely contributed to the crowd. As the game got underway and into the early innings, I could already tell this is a different team from what I’ve seen previously.
At the seventh inning stretch, the voice on PA system mentioned that the game was planned for a total of 14 innings. My friend and I looked at each other startled at that — we had not planned on 14 innings. We decided to wait until the ninth inning and see what was happening.
The game was tied at 5 at the end of nine innings. We decided to stick around for another inning to see what would happen. The Huskers were held scoreless in the top of the tenth. Then, in the bottom of the inning, the Jayhawks mounted a rally.
Kansas scored 4 runs in the bottom of the tenth. At the end of the inning, we agreed it was a good time to go. Had this been a standard regulation baseball game, Kansas would have been declared victorious. And besides, I was cold — the temperature had dropped about 15 degrees since the game had started — and my friend was hungry.
I haven’t been able to find a final score after 14 innings, but the consensus seems to be that this team has a lot of promise. I look forward to the start of college baseball season in spring 2023.