Monday Night Baseball: Jayhawks Open Season at Metrodome
Feb. 20, 2010
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
Game Tracker: Game 1 | Game 2
Kansas vs. Eastern Michigan
Fresh off a 39-win season, and their fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament in team history, the 25th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks will open 2010 with a doubleheader against Eastern Michigan at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn. beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday.
Kansas holds a 3-1 lead over Eastern Michigan in the all-time series, which dates back to 2001. The Jayhawks split a midweek two-game series with the Eagles in 2001 and swept another two-game series in 2003 at Hoglund Ballpark.
This marks the second time in four years that KU has moved a series to the Metrodome. The Jayhawks have an all-time record of 3-3 in the building.
About the Jayhawks
Kansas enters the season ranked 25th in the preseason Rivals.com poll, and is also ranked by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association (NCBWA). The Jayhawks return 19 players from last year’s team, including six position starters and eight pitchers.
Junior Tony Thompson is the team’s top returning position player. Thompson, who will miss the first four weeks of the season with an injury, was a unanimous preseason All-American after winning the Big 12 Triple Crown in 2009.
Junior pitcher T.J. Walz is the team’s top returner on the mound. Last season, Walz compiled a team-best 8-3 record with 88 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings.
Scouting the Eagles
Eastern Michigan enters the 2010 season looking to bounce back after posting a 25-35 record last year. The Eagles are two years removed from winning the MAC Western Division championship.
Junior catcher Matt Skirving is EMU’s top returning hitter, posting a .348 batting average with 16 homers and 64 RBIs. Senior Andrew Marshall led the team with 18 homers in 2009, and drove in 51 runs. As a team, EMU batted .287 last year with 100 homers and averaged 6.85 runs per game.
On the mound, the Eagles return seven of 10 pitchers who threw at least 20 innings last season, including veteran right-handers Corey Chaffins and Kendall Lewis, who tied for the team lead in wins last season. Chaffins was the team’s staff ace last year, posting a 5-3 record and a team-high 69 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings. As a team, EMU posted a 6.61 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .310 off its pitching staff.
Eastern Michigan was predicted to finish fourth in the Mid-American Conference’s Western Division in the preseason coaches’ poll.
Scouting the KU Catchers
– Kansas will need to replace the production of four-year starter Buck Afenir (.333, 10 HR, 63 RBIs in 2009).
– KU returns two players from last year, who will see time behind the plate in sophomores Chris Manship and James Stanfield.
– Manship played in nine games last season, making two starts.
– Stanfield was used primarily as a utility infielder in 2009, playing in 23 games at second base and shortstop.
– As a freshman, Stanfield batted .250 with a double and 13 RBIs. He also scored six runs.
– The Jayhawks are excited about the potential of freshman Alex DeLeon, a catcher from Woodland Hills, Calif. Last season he hit .375 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs in 33 games for El Camino Real High School.
– KU also added freshman Nolan Mansfield as a walk-on this fall. Mansfield hit .490 with 15 stolen bases for Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees, N.J., during his senior season.
Scouting the KU Corner Infielders
– Kansas returns preseason All-American Tony Thompson at third base and first baseman Zac Elgie, who started 26 games in 2009.
– Thompson will miss the first four to six weeks of the season with a knee injury, meaning that redshirt freshmen Jake Marasco and Jordan Dreiling will likely start the season as the primary options at third.
– Marasco was a two-time all-state selection at Maize High School. After playing 13 games as an outfielder last season, he was moved back to his position in high school – third base.
– Dreiling, a Lawrence native, was an all-state selection at Free State High School in 2008.
– Thompson became the first player to win the Big 12 Triple Crown, leading the league in batting average (.389), home runs (21) and RBIs (82) last season.
– Elgie is expected to be the team’s everyday first baseman after playing in 33 games as a freshman.
– Elgie batted .305 with three homers and 27 RBIs, including a six-RBI game in the NCAA Tournament against Dartmouth.
– Senior Brett Lisher will also see time at first base. Lisher came off the bench last spring to lead the Jayhawks with three hits as a pinch hitter.
Scouting the KU Middle Infielders
– Senior second baseman Robby Price leads an inexperienced group of middle infielders.
– Price enjoyed his best offensive season in 2009, batting .313 in Big 12 play and hit a career-high 12 doubles and five homers.
– However, his most impressive number may have been his .447 on-base percentage, setting the table for the middle of the lineup.
– Junior college transfer Brandon Macias is expected to be the team’s everyday shortstop after two seasons at South Mountain Community College.
– Head Coach Ritch Price thinks Macias will be one of the best defensive shortstops in the Big 12 this season.
– Freshman Kevin Kuntz will likely spell the upperclassmen at both second and short.
– Kuntz batted .430 with 12 RBIs and 10 stolen bases at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla., where he earned all-conference honors. He will likely be the heir apparent at shortstop.
Scouting the KU Outfielders
– Kansas returns all three starting outfielders from a year ago.
– Junior right fielder Brian Heere leads the group after producing an All-Big 12 season in 2009.
– Heere not only posted the team’s second-highest batting average (.364), but also reached base at a .459 clip.
– Sophomore Jason Brunansky will likely start in center field after an up-and-down freshman season.
– The Jayhawks are hoping Brunansky can be more consistent after batting .280 with a pair of homers as a freshman.
– Junior Casey Lytle earned the starting job in left field midway through last season.
– Lytle led the team with 11 stolen bases and might be asked to run more this year.
– The team would like to use Jimmy Waters in the outfield to add another left-handed hitter to the lineup.
– Waters battled injuries throughout the 2009 season, but had an outstanding fall and has shown flashes of being a special player.
– True freshman Jacob Dunnichay will look to gain experience this season backing up the veterans, while Taylor Hart will redshirt this season after suffering an injury in fall ball.
Scouting the KU Starting Pitchers
– Kansas returns two of its three weekend starters from a year ago, as well as Cameron Selik, who was used in a midweek role.
– Junior T.J. Walz has been anointed the staff ace after posting an 8-3 record in 2009.
– Walz posted a 6-1 record against the Big 12 Conference last year, earning All-Big 12 Second Team honors.
– Sophomore Lee Ridenhour will likely be the Saturday starter after winning six games as a freshman. Ridenhour will look to improve his stamina and go deeper into games this year.
– Selik struggled early in the season, but pitched his best game in the NCAA Tournament, when he shut down No. 15 Coastal Carolina.
– The team is very high on young stars Tanner Poppe and Thomas Taylor.
– Poppe is an exceptional athlete, who has what Price calls “electric stuff”.
– Taylor missed the entire 2009 season with an injury, but was a highly-touted pitcher coming out of Blue Valley West High School.
Scouting the KU Relief Pitchers
– One of the big strengths of the team in 2009 was the bullpen, which posted 12 wins and held opponents to a .250 batting average.
– Left-handed pitchers Travis Blankenship and Wally Marciel will both be counted on to combat opposing lefties. Blankenship set the school record with 39 appearances last year, while Marciel is coming back from offseason surgery.
– The Jayhawks have power righties in Brett Bochy and Colton Murray, who will both fill the role of the team’s closer this season. Bochy went 5-0 last year, and led the relievers with 54 strikeouts, while Murray posted a 3.23 ERA last year in 39 innings.
– Senior Brett Bollman was a midweek starter last year, and could fill that role, but will likely be a long reliever. Bollman allowed a Big 12-best 1.19 walks per nine innings pitched.
– Senior Thomas Marcin, sophomore Kevin Burk and transfers Scott Heithusen and Matt Kohorst will be used primarily as long relievers and could see spot starts during midweek games.
– Jordan Jakubov was a Louisville Slugger All-American at Maize High School in 2007, but has missed the past two seasons with arm injuries.
Thompson Named to Watch List
Kansas junior third baseman Tony Thompson has been named to the Golden Spikes Award preseason Watch List by USA Baseball. Sponsored by Major League Baseball, the Golden Spikes Award will be presented in 2010 for the 33rd time.
The watch list features 50 of the nation’s top amateur talents, and it will be a “rolling” list to ensure that athletes can play themselves into consideration for the Golden Spikes Award, to be presented live on Tuesday, July 13, at the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star FanFest in Anaheim, Calif.
Jayhawks Picked to Finish Second
Kansas baseball has been picked to finish second in the Big 12 Conference by the league’s coaches in the annual preseason poll, released by the conference office Tuesday. The Jayhawks received 69 points in the poll, including one first-place vote to finish behind preseason-favorite Texas (81, nine first-place votes).
Being selected No. 2 in the conference is KU’s highest preseason prediction since joining the Big 12 for the 1997 season.
The Jayhawks were followed in the poll by Texas A&M (64 points), Oklahoma (57), Oklahoma State (47), Baylor (39), Kansas State (29), Missouri and Nebraska (22) and Texas Tech (20).
Kansas to Face Tough Schedule
Kansas baseball will face one of the strongest schedules in the country, according to the 2010 Intended Strength of Schedule index released by Boyd’s World earlier this week. According to the index, the Jayhawks will face the 19th-toughest schedule in the country based on wins and losses from a year ago.
Kansas will play 28 of its 56 scheduled regular season games against teams that ranked in the top 50 in total RPI last season (Texas, LSU, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Missouri and Gonzaga), as well as 14 contests against clubs that finished in the top 25 in RPI.
Thompson to Miss Time with an Injury
Junior third baseman Tony Thompson will miss the first few weeks of the regular season due to a leg injury suffered in preseason practice. Thompson fouled a pitch off his knee during a workout in February and sustained a hairline fracture of his left kneecap.
His MRI showed no ligament damage, and his x-rays indicated that the kneecap has a hairline fracture, and no other structural damage. Dr. Jeff Randall, KU Team Physician, is confident that Thompson will be completely healthy within 4-6 weeks. He is receiving treatment from Kansas baseball athletic trainer Ken Wainwright on a daily basis.
Jayhawks Well Represented on Rivals’ Preseason All-Big 12 Team
Kansas juniors Brian Heere, Tony Thompson and T.J. Walz have been named Preseason All-Big 12 selections by Rivals.com.
The three preseason all-conference selections are the most by KU since joining the Big 12 in 1997.
KU Ranked in Two Preseason Polls
The Kansas baseball team has earned a national ranking in both the Rivals college baseball preseason top 25, as well as the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association (NCBWA) preseason poll. The Jayhawks check in at No. 25 in the Rivals.com poll, and are just one of two Big 12 teams ranked in the top 25 (Texas No. 1).
KU is ranked in the No. 33 spot in the NCBWA poll, behind Big 12 foes Texas (No. 1), Oklahoma (No. 25) and Texas A&M (No. 28).
Kansas will carry a national ranking into the regular season for the first time since 1995, when the team was ranked as high as 22nd. During the 2009 season, the Jayhawks were ranked as high as No. 23 in the Baseball America national poll on May 4.
KU to Face Oklahoma State on FSN
The Big 12 Conference announced its 2010 college baseball television schedule on cable station Fox Sports Net earlier this month. Six games will be featured in this package, including the Kansas-Oklahoma State game to be played at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium on Saturday, May 1 at 2 p.m.
The television appearance marks the fourth-straight year that a nationally televised game will feature KU. In 2005, ESPNU broadcast games between Texas and Kansas, while FSN has made appearances in Lawrence during the 2007 (vs. Kansas State), 2008 (vs. Texas Tech) and 2009 seasons (vs. Kansas State).
Former Jayhawk Paul Smyth Honored
Former Kansas pitcher Paul Smyth has been named the Short-Season Reliever of the Year by Minor League Baseball, which handed out its annual MiLBY Awards in December.
Smyth, a 6-foot right-handed pitcher from Atascadero, Calif., was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 35th round of last season’s amateur draft and spent time in Vancouver (Rookie League) and Kane County (Short-Season Single-A). The KU product did not allow an earned run during his first professional season, spanning 36 1/3 innings and 25 games between the two teams.
Thompson Tabbed Preseason All-America
Kansas third baseman Tony Thompson has been named a Preseason All-American by several different publications, including Baseball America, Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball as well as the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association (NCBWA).
Thompson, a 6-foot-4 junior from Reno, Nev., was named a Preseason Second Team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association (NCBWA). The junior won the conference’s triple crown last season, leading the league in batting average (.389), home runs (21) and RBIs (82). He was named an All-American by four different publications following his sophomore season, as well as First Team All-Central Region and First Team All-Big 12.
Thompson became the first Jayhawk to earn preseason All-America honors since Ryan Baty in 2004.
Kansas Baseball Signs Eight for 2011
Kansas head baseball coach Ritch Price announced that the team has added eight student-athletes, who will all compete for the Jayhawks during the 2011 season. Outfielder Jordan Brown (Blue Springs, Mo.), outfielder/pitcher Mark Brown (Detroit, Mich.), infielder/catcher Ka’iana Eldredge (Honolulu, Hawaii), outfielder Alex Harris (Murphy, Texas), catcher Tom Hougland (Parker, Colo.), infielder/pitcher Conner Murray (Overland Park, Kan.), infielder Brad Salgado (Temecula, Calif.), and pitcher Tyler Smith (Cypress, Texas) have all committed to play baseball at KU.
Three Jayhawks to Play in Walla Walla
The Walla Walla Sweets, an expansion team in the West Coast Baseball League, announced that they have signed current Jayhawk sophomore James Stanfield as well as freshmen Jordan Dreiling and Kevin Kuntz for the upcoming 2010 summer season.
KU will play the first of two scheduled games against in-state rival Wichita State on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at Hoglund Ballpark at 5 p.m. Tuesday’s game will be the first of 20 featured on an internet broadcast at kuathletics.com, with Tom Hedrick calling the action.