Jayhawks Open Season at Hawaii-Hilo

Feb. 20, 2008

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Kansas vs. Hawaii-Hilo
For the sixth consecutive year, the Kansas baseball team will travel to beautiful Kona, Hawaii to open the 2008 season with five games against the University of Hawaii-Hilo at Rodgers Field. Game times are 5 p.m. (Friday), 2 p.m. (Saturday, doubleheader) and 2 p.m. (Sunday, doubleheader).

Gametracker will be available for all five contests at www.kuathletics.com. <?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

The Series
Kansas and Hawaii-Hilo have met 31 times on the diamond with the Jayhawks holding a 24-7 edge dating back to 1989. Last season, KU swept a five-game set with UHH with four of the wins coming at Wong Stadium in Hilo.

The Jayhawks are 6-1 all-time in Kona with the only loss coming in Ritch Price’s first season, 2003.

Price is 33-10-1 all-time against the Vulcans, posting a 24-5 record as Kansas’ head coach and a 9-5-1 mark while at Cal Poly.

Scouting the Vulcans
Hawaii-Hilo, which received special permission from the NCAA to open the season earlier than the new Division I universal start date allowed, salvaged the final game of its three-game set with Hawaii on Sunday. The Vulcans fell in extra innings in the opener and 9-2 on Saturday, before pulling out a 4-3 triumph Sunday.

UHH returns 21 letterwinners, five starting position players and nine pitchers from last year’s squad, which finished 12-35-1 overall as a Division I Independent.

Senior second baseman Michael Higa is the Vulcans’ top returning position player and showed why in the series with the Rainbows. Higa went 7-for-10 with four runs scored, a double and a home run.

Freshman left-handed pitcher Kekoa Lee earned UHH’s victory on the mound, allowing just five hits and two runs over 5.2 innings.

Head coach Joey Estrella is in his 32nd season as the head coach at UHH. Estrella owns a 578-761-5 overall record at the school.

Last Time Out
Kansas completed the 2007 season just shy of its goals. The Jayhawks just missed its fifth consecutive 30-win season as well as its third straight trip to the Big 12 tournament after dropping the final two games of their three game series with Nebraska.

Noting the Jayhawks

– Kansas opens the season in Hawaii for the sixth time in as many years.

– Kansas is 68-46-3 all-time in season opening games, including 3-2 under head coach Ritch Price. The Jayhawks have won their first game of the season each of the last three years.

– Junior catcher Buck Afenir is in his third season as the team’s starting catcher. Last season Afenir raised his slugging percentage by 112 points.

– Senior John Allman got off to a hot start last year, batting .419 during the month of February. He was recently named to the Brooks Wallace Watch List.

– Junior Nick Faunce hit .333 last season in 34 games. He has been penciled in as the team’s starting center fielder this season after making just one start the previous two years.

– Junior Preston Land reached base at a .346 clip despite a batting average just above .200.

– Senior shortstop Erik Morrison ended last season with a nine-game hitting streak. Morrison batted .394 over the final month of the 2007 season.

– Sophomore Robby Price set a freshman record with a 16-game hitting streak last season. Price was also terrific in the clutch, batting .323 with runners on base and .302 with men in scoring position.

– Senior Ryne Price led the team with a .956 ops (on-base plus slugging percentage). Price has moved from second base to right field this season. Price will also see time behind the plate.

– Freshman Tony Thompson is expected to start at third base. Last season he hit 22 home runs for the Sierra Spartans in the Joe DiMaggio Summer League.

– Freshman Jimmy Waters will start as a designated hitter during the Hawaii-Hilo series. Last year Waters was named the Male Athlete of the Year in his home state of Iowa after starring in football and wrestling as well as baseball.

– Junior Nick Czyz is KU’s most experienced pitcher entering the season, his eight career wins lead all current Jayhawks.

– Senior Andres Esquibel led the team with seven victories last season. The senior righty went 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four appearances during the month of February last year.

– Junior Sam Freeman transferred to KU at the end of the first semester this year after spending two years at North Central Texas College. Freeman posted a 10-1 record with a 3.20 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 50.2 innings pitched.

– Sophomore Shaeffer Hall also transferred to KU from a junior college (Jefferson). Hall went 10-1 with a 2.19 ERA last spring.

– Sophomore Wally Marciel was named a second team Freshman All-American by Ping! Baseball. During his rookie year, Marciel posted a 3-1 record and a 1.78 ERA over the second half of the season.

Homeward Bound
For the second straight season, sophomore lefty Wally Marciel will return to his home state of Hawaii with the Jayhawks. The 6-foot-1 lefty, who graduated from Iolani High School in Kailua, Hawaii, earned his first collegiate win in Hilo last season, holding the Vulcans to two runs over five innings on Feb. 2.

Marciel was named a Freshman All-American last season and excelled as a starting pitcher during the second half of the year.

He will be the Jayhawks’ starting pitcher on opening day in Kona, Hawaii this season.

A Charging Ryno
During his time in the Crimson and Blue, Kansas senior outfielder/catcher Ryne Price has feasted on Vulcan pitching.

In three trips to the big island, Price has appeared in 16 games and batted .305 (18-for-59) with six doubles, a triple, five home runs and 22 RBIs. Price also has a career .695 slugging percentage against Hawaii-Hilo, including an .882 average in five games last season, where five of his six hits in the series were for extra bases.

Price and teammate Erik Morrison both sit five home runs shy of the school’s career record of 29 (set by Travis Metcalf, 2002-04).

Jayhawks To Appear on Fox Sports Net
The Big 12 Conference announced that the Kansas-Texas Tech baseball game on April 12 will be seen live on Fox Sports Net (Channel 36 on Sunflower Broadband) as part of the network’s college baseball coverage. First pitch has been changed to noon.

This marks the third time in as many years that the Kansas baseball team will be featured on FSN. Last season, the network, which is available to FSN’s regional affiliates, reaching more than 82 million cable and satellite TV homes nationwide, visited Hoglund Ballpark for a Kansas-Kansas State game. The 2006 Big 12 championship game between KU and Nebraska was also televised on FSN.

Fourteen Jayhawks Named to AD’s Honor Roll

Fourteen Kansas baseball players have been named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for the fall 2007 semester. This list includes redshirt sophomore Max Ellenbecker, who posted a perfect 4.0 GPA for the fall semester.

Other players on the AD’s Honor Roll include seniors John Allman, Justin Ellrich, Hiarali Garcia, Matt Lane and Ryne Price; juniors Buck Afenir and Nick Faunce; sophomores Ellenbecker and Robby Price as well as freshmen Casey Lytle, Phil Parrish, Zach Sperry, Tony Thompson and T.J. Walz.

Freeman, Manos Added to Roster

Kansas baseball coach Ritch Price announced recently that the Jayhawks have added a pair of pitchers ­­to the 2008 roster. Junior lefties Sam Freeman (North Central Texas) and Daniel Manos (Santa Ana) have both transferred to Kansas after spending time at junior colleges.

Freeman, a 5-foot-11 left-handed pitcher from Carrolton, Texas, comes to KU after two seasons at North Central Texas College in Gainesville, Texas. The junior pitcher posted a 10-1 record with a 3.20 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 50.2 innings last season for the Lions. He was named all-conference as well as academic all-conference during the 2007 season. Freeman was also a 2007 draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, but opted to continue his collegiate career.

Manos, a 6-foot-3 left-handed pitcher from Brea, Calif., comes to KU after two years at Santa Ana College (Calif.). Manos made 17 appearances for the Dons last season and recorded a 2-0 record with a 2.31 ERA. He posted 22 strikeouts while walking just four, helping his school to an Orange Empire Conference championship.

Allman Named to Preseason Watch List

Kansas senior John Allman highlights the list of players named to the pre-season release of the 2008 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award Watch List.

Allman, a 6-foot-1 outfielder from St. Louis, Mo., led the Jayhawks with a .333 batting average last season, with four homers, 16 doubles and 44 RBIs. He led the team with 14 multi-RBI games and also hit. 354 (23-for-65) with runners in scoring position. Allman enjoyed a career-best 10 game hitting streak from Feb. 10 to March 7, which saw him hit around .400 during the first month of the season.

The Wallace Award is presented to the nation’s top collegiate baseball player in conjunction with the College Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual induction festivities. The 2008 award banquet will be held Thursday, July 3, in the United Spirit Arena on the campus of Texas Tech University.

Price Named Assistant For US National Team

Kansas baseball head coach Ritch Price has been named a USA Baseball National Team assistant coach for the summer 2008 tour, USA Baseball announced in December. The veteran Jayhawk skipper is one of three collegiate head coaches to make up national head coach Rob Walton’s staff next summer.

Price is joined by Old Dominion’s Jerry Meyers and the University of San Francisco’s Nino Giarratano.

Major League Bloodlines

Several players on the 2008 Jayhawk baseball team have relatives who have played in the major leagues. They include:

– Buck Afenir’s uncle, Troy Afenir, played in four major league seasons for Houston, Oakland and Cincinnati.

– Brett Bochy’s father, Bruce Bochy, played in the major leagues from 1978-87 for Houston, San Diego and the New York Mets. He also managed the Padres from 1995-2006, and is the current manager of the San Francisco Giants.

– Casey Larson’s father, Dan Larson, played in the major leagues from 1967-82. He played for Houston, Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs.

Oh, Brother

A handful of Jayhawks have also followed older siblings onto the KU baseball team:

– Nick Czyz’ older brother, Don, pitched at KU from 2003-06. Don was drafted by the Florida Marlins after the 2006 season.

– Preston Land’s brother, Sean, pitched for the Jayhawks from 2004-06. Sean was drafted by the Minnesota Twins at the conclusion of the 2006 season.

– Ryne and Robby Price’s older brother, Ritchie, also played at KU from 2003-06. Ritchie was drafted by the New York Mets in 2006. He is now serving as an assistant coach at South Dakota State University.

Up Next

After five games in Hawaii, the Jayhawks will return to the mainland and travel to Fayetteville, Ark. for a Wednesday matinee with the traditionally strong Razorbacks. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. from Baum Stadium on Feb. 27.

Season Tickets on Sale
Kansas season tickets are on sale now. Fans can order tickets by calling 800-34-HAWKS or by logging on to kuathletics.com.