KU Baseball Set for Sunday Home Opener

Feb. 14, 2007


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KU Set for Sunday Home Opener:
After taking two-of-three from South Dakota State, the University of Kansas will face another Division I Independent foe this week. The Jayhawks will play host to North Dakota State in a three-game set, beginning Sunday at 3 p.m., at Hoglund Ballpark. Games two and three will be Monday and Tuesday at 3 p.m. <?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

Scouting the Bison:
North Dakota State will open its season in Lawrence on Sunday in the third year of competing at the Division I level. The Bison finished with a 12-41 record last season. The three-game series against KU is NDSU’s only scheduled series until March 2, when the team travels to Charleston Southern.

Junior infielder Matt Mossey is NDSU’s top returning position player. Mossey hit .320 with seven doubles, three triples and 31 runs scored last season. Sophomore outfielder Luke Otto hit .290 with a .369 on-base percentage.

Junior starting pitcher Jake Laber is NDSU’s top returning pitcher. The 6-foot-0 lefty went 3-10 with a 6.68 ERA last year. Laber threw three complete games and struck out 77 hitters in 90 innings.

Dr. Mitch McLeod is in his 15th season with the Bison and has an overall mark of 331-291-4 (.532). NDSU returns six position starters and 14 overall letterwinners from last year’s squad.

KU has won all six previous meetings with North Dakota State, dating back to 1986. The Jayhawks swept a two-game series from the Bison last year in Lawrence.

Last Time Out:
KU took two of three games from South Dakota State over the weekend in a series played at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Despite start times of 1:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. for the two days, the Jayhawks’ pitching staff rose to the occasion. After allowing six runs in the opener, KU surrendered just three runs and 12 hits over the final 18 innings of the series.

Sophomore Andy Marks and junior Andres Esquibel picked up victories on the mound for KU. Center fielder Kyle Murphy went 5-for-10 in the series with a pair of stolen bases and four runs scored, while junior John Allman went 5-for-11 with a pair of RBIs.

Series Shifts to Minneapolis:
KU’s three-game series against South Dakota State was played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. The unusual starting times for the three contests was due to the Hurricane Winter Invitational which was already scheduled in the dome last weekend. The invitational featured NCAA Division II and NAIA teams from neighboring states.

The Jayhawks and Jackrabbits opened play on Saturday morning with a doubleheader at 1:30 a.m. The second game of the twinbill was suspended due to time constraints and completed Sunday morning at 3:30 a.m., prior to the third game of the series.

The Metrodome is the first of two major league parks that KU will visit during the 2007 season. The Jayhawks are also scheduled to face rival Missouri at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City later this year.

Mighty Murphy:
Heading into the season, head coach Ritch Price knew that senior center fielder Kyle Murphy would be important to the team because of his defense. However, through eight games, the 5-foot-11 outfielder has been just as valuable with his bat.

Murphy is the team’s leading hitter with a .381 batting average and has a team-best .714 slugging percentage. He has scored seven runs and has an 1.194 OPS.

Last season, Murphy hit .153 with just nine extra base hits for the entire season. This year, he already has four in the team’s first eight games.

Hitting His Marks:
Sophomore lefty Andy Marks has displayed pinpoint control in his first two starts of the season. Marks, a 6-foot-0 starting pitcher from St. Louis, Mo., has walked just two hitters in 12.1 innings. In his two outings, Marks has 14 strikeouts. He has also allowed just nine baserunners and one extra base hit.

Smyth Off to Strong Start:
Sophomore closer Paul Smyth is off to a fast start as the team’s closer. The 5-foot-11 righty, who is replacing National Stopper of the Year Don Czyz, has allowed just two infield hits in four appearances this season. The sophomore has not allowed a run in his 5.1 innings of work and has six strikeouts and a pair of saves. Smyth also leads the team in appearances (four), opponent’s batting average (.059) and games finished (four).

Enter Ellrich:
Sophomore Justin Ellrich made a pair of starts at first base in the final two games of the South Dakota State series. Ellrich, who got the starting nod just six times in 2006, has now started five games in KU’s first two series of the year. Ellrich collected an RBI double in Saturday’s 3-2 victory and had his first multi-hit game in Sunday’s finale.

Short Hops:
– While the Jayhawks missed extending their winning streak with Saturday’s loss to South Dakota State, the team’s 7-1 start is still the best record the team has had after eight games under Ritch Price. This is KU’s best start since it won the first 10 games of the season in 2002.

– Junior Andres Esquibel earned his second victory of the season in relief of Nick Czyz in Saturday’s 3-2 win. The junior righty tossed three innings of scoreless relief, which allowed KU to erase a 2-0 deficit. Esquibel struck out six and walked no one in his three innings of relief. In two outings this season, the 6-foot-2 righty has walked just one, while striking out 10.

– Senior Kyle Murphy set a career-high with three hits in Saturday’s 6-5 loss to South Dakota State.

– Senior catcher Dylan Parzyk made his first appearance of 2007. The senior backstop started behind the plate in the second game of the series and was a defensive replacement in the third game.

– Junior John Allman went hitless in KU’s first game of the series against South Dakota State, but collected five hits in his final eight at bats of the series.

– Junior Hiarali Garcia picked up his first save of the season, pitching 1.1 innings of scoreless relief in Sunday’s 4-1 triumph.

– Freshman Thomas Marcin has been a key man out of the bullpen for the Jayhawks this season. In three appearances, Marcin has not allowed a run and scattered three hits over six innings. The 6-foot-4 freshman picked up a hold in the series finale against South Dakota State.

– Former Jayhawk pitcher Roger Slagle, and father of current KU outfielder Blake Slagle, was featured on the 30,000th episode of ESPN’s Sports Center Sunday. Slagle, who played at KU from 1974-75, made his major league debut on Sept. 7, 1979 with the New York Yankees. It was the same night that Sports Center premiered on ESPN.

Up Next:
After the three-game set with North Dakota State, the Jayhawks will trek to Palo Alto, Calif., for a three-game series against Stanford, beginning Feb. 23. Last season, KU won 2-of-3 against the Cardinal to springboard its 43-win season.

Season Tickets On Sale:

Kansas Baseball season tickets are still available for purchase. For more information, please call 800-34-HAWKS or log on to kuathletics.com.