Kansas Hosts North Dakota in Home Opener This Week

March 2, 2009

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Kansas vs. North Dakota

After splitting a two-game series with No. 21 Arkansas, Kansas baseball will play its first games at Hoglund Ballpark against Division I Independent, North Dakota. The Jayhawks and the Fighting Sioux will meet at 3 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Live statistical updates from both games will be available on Gametracker, which is available via kuathletics.com.

Series History

This is the first meeting on the baseball diamond between the schools. In 2002 and 2003, the schools met in a pair of exhibition men’s basketball games.

About the Jayhawks

Kansas earned its first win of the year over a ranked opponent when it downed No. 21 Arkansas last week at Baum Stadium. The Jayhawks enter their first home series of the year with a record of 2-3, but have held eighth inning leads in two of the three losses. Senior catcher Buck Afenir leads the team’s offense with a .556 average, while junior starting pitcher Shaeffer Hall is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA. As a team, KU is batting .263, while its ERA is 3.60.

Scouting the Fighting Sioux

North Dakota is in its first season as a full NCAA Division I institution. UND’s baseball program had previously spent 41 years at the Division II level. The Sioux enter the weekend with an 0-4 record after three losses at New Mexico State, and a 10-6 defeat at Nebraska on Feb. 25.

Sophomore infielder Jake Magner leads the team with a .400 batting average (6-for-15) with a double, a home run and four RBIs. Junior outfielder Aaron Cook has a .357 average through four games with a team-high three doubles.

On the mound, sophomore lefty Brandon Baumgartner has made a pair of starts and is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in nine innings pitched. Freshman David Lind has made a pair of scoreless appearances out of the bullpen.

UND returns eight position starters and seven pitchers from last year’s squad that went 14-23 and finished 5-15 in the North Central Conference. In 2010, the Sioux will join the Great West Conference with other current Independents: Chicago State, Houston Baptist, New Jersey Tech, New York Tech, Northern Colorado, Texas PanAmerican and Utah Valley.

Last Time Out

Senior catcher Buck Afenir collected three hits and scored two runs, but it was not enough to offset a late rally by host Arkansas. The 21st-ranked Razorbacks used a Jacob House walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to send Kansas to a 9-8 non-conference loss at Baum Stadium on Feb. 25.

After surrendering a two-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, KU fought back with a run in the top of the ninth to force extra frames.

We’re Going Streaking

Sophomore Tony Thompson extended his hitting streak to 14 straight games this past week against No. 21 Arkansas. Thompson went 3-for-10 in the two contests against the Razorbacks, including three RBIs in the 9-3 win.

Thompson’s 14-game hitting streak is the longest by a Jayhawk since Robby Price hit safely in 16 straight games during the 2007 season. It also ranks tied for the seventh-longest streak by a Jayhawk during Ritch Price’s tenure at Kansas.

During his hitting streak, Thompson is batting .436 (24-for-55) with three doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs.

The Buck Starts Here

After missing the first three games of the 2009 season, senior catcher Buck Afenir wasted little time getting involved in the Jayhawk offense. The fourth-year backstop went 5-for-9 in the two-game series at No. 21 Arkansas last week, scoring four runs and driving in a pair.

While he shouldn’t receive all of the credit, Afenir made the Kansas lineup much more formidable. In the three games that Afenir missed, KU averaged 3.3 runs per game compared to 8.5 runs per game against No. 21 Arkansas.

Starting Over

While the season is still young, one of the biggest differences between last year’s Jayhawks and this year’s squad has been the quality starting pitching. In the first five games, KU’s starters have a combined ERA of 1.93 (seven earned runs in 32 2/3 innings), compared to a 6.21 ERA by its starters last season.

Even more remarkable is the fact the KU has three quality starts (6.0+ innings pitched allowing three runs or less) through the first five games of the season after just 10 quality starts in 2008.

Around the Horn

– Kansas faces Division I Independent North Dakota in a two-game series beginning Tuesday. This marks the first meeting between the Jayhawks and the Fighting Sioux on the baseball diamond.

– Kansas went 5-3 against schools independent from a conference in 2008 with wins over Hawaii-Hilo, Le Moyne and Chicago State.

– The Jayhawks’ Tuesday game against UND will be the first home game of the 2009 season. KU has not lost a home opener since 1999, and is 113-57 at Hoglund Ballpark under head coach Ritch Price.

– The Jayhawks are coming off a two-game split with No. 21 Arkansas, with the first win of the season against a ranked opponent (9-3) on Feb. 24.

– Senior catcher Buck Afenir returned to the lineup against No. 21 Arkansas on Feb. 24, and went 5-for-9 at the series in Fayetteville. Hitting on the road is nothing new for the senior backstop, as Afenir’s road batting average was nearly 80 points higher than his percentage at home last season.

– Sophomore transfer Joe Lincoln went 3-for-7 during his first series in a Jayhawk uniform. Lincoln was one of three Kansas players to collect a hit in his first at-bat of the season – an RBI single against Air Force on Feb. 20.

– Catcher Chris Manship made his first collegiate start on Feb. 20 against Memphis. The freshman went 0-for-2 in the game, before he was lifted for a pinch hitter.

– Senior first baseman Preston Land collected a pair of hits in the Feb. 25 contest against No. 21 Arkansas. Land broke an 0-for-12 start to the season with an RBI single in the second inning against the Razorbacks.

– Freshman Zac Elgie made his first collegiate start Feb. 20 against Memphis and went 0-for-2 as the first baseman. Elgie hit 48 home runs during his high school career at Minot (N.D.) High.

– Junior second baseman Robby Price returned to his familiar No. 2 spot in the batting order on Feb. 25 at Arkansas and delivered an RBI single in the seventh inning. Price has started 118 games in his Kansas career and has batted in the No. 2 slot in 114 of them.

– Despite hitting third and fourth in the batting order, junior shortstop David Narodowski leads the team in runs scored. Narodowski has reached base seven times thus far and has scored five runs.

– Sophomore Tony Thompson doubled in his fourth at bat of the season on Feb. 20, against Air Force. Last year, Thompson did not have a two-base hit until KU’s 52nd game of the season, May 9 against Missouri.

– Freshman left fielder Jake Marasco hit safely in each of his first two games in a Kansas uniform (vs. Air Force and vs. Memphis). Both of his base hits were to the opposite field.

– Senior Nick Faunce rebounded from a tough opening weekend by going 4-for-9 against No. 21 Arkansas. Faunce had two doubles and three RBIs in the series after just 13 RBIs in 2008.

– Freshman Jason Brunansky had a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth inning of KU’s 9-8 extra innings loss to No. 21 Arkansas on Feb. 25. Brunansky is now 2-for-4 in games that he does not start.

– Sophomore Brian Heere collected a pair of RBIs without the benefit of a base hit the Feb. 24 game at No. 21 Arkansas. Heere drew a bases loaded walk in the fourth inning and then hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

– Sophomore Casey Lytle has been a tough out this season, batting .800 (4-for-5) in three games. Lytle’s career numbers include a .583 batting average (7-for-12) with a double, five runs scored and an RBI.

– Sophomore Jimmy Waters went 1-for-5 against No. 21 Arkansas last week with a double. Waters has five extra base hits in his last 10 games, dating back to last season.

– Freshman Lee Ridenhour earned his first collegiate victory on Feb. 24 at No. 21 Arkansas. Ridenhour showed the ability to pitch out of trouble in the Arkansas game, allowing just two runs despite nine base runners in five innings.

– Freshman Kevin Burk made his first appearance as a Jayhawk in the Feb. 24 game at Arkansas. The first-year pitcher allowed a run on two hits in the sixth inning.

– Junior transfer Travis Blankenship made a pair of appearances during the Arkansas series and held the Razorbacks hitless in 2 1/3 innings.

– Highly touted freshman Colton Murray made his second appearance as a Jayhawk on Feb. 24, recording a pair of strikeouts in the eighth inning. Murray has recorded multiple k’s in both of his appearances this year.

– Sophomore Brett Bochy tallied a pair of strikeouts in the ninth inning of Feb. 24’s game at Arkansas. In 15 career appearances, Bochy has at least one strikeout in 14 of them, and is 13-for-13 in appearances that have lasted an inning or more.

– Junior Shaeffer Hall followed up his no-hit performance with another solid start on Feb. 25, holding Arkansas to two runs on six hits over five innings. Hall also did not walk anybody and collected five strikeouts.

– Sophomore T.J. Walz struggled in his relief stint Feb. 25 against Arkansas. Throughout his collegiate career, Walz has been much more effective as a starting pitcher, posting a 4.01 ERA as a starter, and a 6.99 ERA as a reliever.

Up Next

The Jayhawks will host Northwestern in a four-game series beginning on Friday with a doubleheader scheduled for 1 p.m. at Hoglund Ballpark. The teams will play a game Saturday at Hoglund at 7 p.m., and then wrap up the series on Sunday at 1 p.m.