Kansas Baseball Heads to Mississippi for the NBC Classic

March 3, 2005

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The University of Kansas baseball team takes the road this weekend to take part in the NBC Classic in Starkville, Miss. During the tournament the Jayhawks will square off against Austin Peay and tournament host Mississippi State.<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

Kansas enters the contest with a record of 12-5 this season including a 6-3 mark away from Hoglund Ballpark. Junior right fielder A.J. Van Slyke is the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week following his performance last weekend when he posted a .556 batting average with a pair of dramatic home runs and six RBI. Senior pitcher Mike Zagurski enters the tournament leading the Big 12 in strikeouts with 39. The Omaha, Neb., native has posted a 3-1 record and a 2.28 ERA on the hill for KU this season. Junior Kodiak Quick has also been a large reason for the Jayhawks’ improved pitching this season. The transfer from Stanford has started three games and appeared out of the KU bullpen on two occasions to compile a perfect 4-0 record and a 1.11 ERA in 24.1 innings pitched.

As a team, the Jayhawks are hitting .295 at the plate and have outscored their opponents by a 143-71 margin. KU pitching has amassed a 2.68 team ERA and is holding opposing hitters to just a .222 batting average this season.
Austin Peay enters the tournament with a 4-2 overall record and is currently riding a season-high three-game winning streak. Mississippi State is currently ranked 17th in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Top 35 and 19th in the Collegiate Baseball poll. The Bulldogs are 3-0 this season.

Kansas (12-5) vs. Austin Peay (4-2)

Kansas (12-5) at No. 17/19 Mississippi St. (3-0)

Dudy Noble Field (March 4-6)

Site:Dudy Noble Field (15,000) — Starkville, Miss.

Game times (CST):Tuesday (March 1) – 3 p.m., Wednesday (March 23) – 7 p.m.

Rankings:Both Kansas and Austin Peay enter the series unranked, while Mississippi State comes into the weekend ranked 19th by Collegiate Baseball and 17th in the NCBWA Top 35.

Coaches:Kansas head coach Ritch Price is 78-64-1 in his third year at KU and 295-292-1 in his 11th overall year of coaching. Austin Peay’s Gary McClure is in his 17th season at APU. He enters the series with a career record of 495-473-4 as a head coach. Mississippi State’s Ron Polk has spent the last 25 seasons at MSU and brings a 1,002-490-2 record at the school into the tournament.

Media Coverage

Audio: None

Gametracker: www.kuathletics.com

Series Information

Opponent –Mississippi State

Series Record — MSU leads 1-0

First Game — MSU 11, KU 4 on March 20, 1968

Opponent — Austin Peay

Series Record — First Meeting

A Closer Look at Austin Peay
The Govenors return 23 lettterwinners from last season’s team which finished 35-21 and are the preseason pick to win the Ohio Valley Conference.

Junior catcher Tommy Smith is currently APU’s leading hitter, as he has posted a .500 batting average with 10 hits in 20 at bats this season. The Govenors also feature two other players (Brett Luther and Cody Youngblood) who are hitting over .400 this season.

On the hill, the Jayhawks will see junior left-handed pitcher Rowdy Hardy in the tournament’s opening game. Hardy is 2-0 this season with a 0.60 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched.

Head coach Gary MClure is in his 17th season as a head coach, all at Austin Peay, and has compiled a 495-473-4 record in that time.

A Closer Look at Mississippi State
Mississippi State returns 21 lettermen and six starters from last season’s NCAA Regional team that produced a 35-24 record and a ninth-place finish in the Southeastern Conference.

In just three games this season, junior outfielder Jeff Butts has posted seven hits and helped the Bulldogs compile a .379 team batting average.

On the mound the Jayhawks will face senior right-handed pitcher Todd Doolittle (first appearance this season) and sophomore right-handed pitcher Josh Johnson (0-0, 9.00 ERA).

Bulldog head coach Ron Polk is in his 26th season at the helm of Mississippi State and has compiled a 1,002-490-2 record during that time.

Kansas Baseball Notes

Returning Firepower
A year ago, the Jayhawks led the Big 12 with a .316 team batting average and set a school-record with 74 long balls. The 2005 Jayhawks will not be short of offensive firepower. Despite the loss of seniors Ryan Baty and Matt Tribble as well as junior Travis Metcalf, KU returns 62% of its offense from a year ago, including seven players who hit over .300 in 2004.

Highlighting the returners are the reigning team MVP — senior catcher Sean Richardson, the team’s first-ever first team All-Big 12 selection — junior outfielder Matt Baty, and one of the Big 12’s top shortstops — junior Ritchie Price. Richardson, earned second team All-Big 12 honors in his first season in Lawrence a year ago by hitting .332 with 12 home runs and a team-high 69 RBI. Out of the leadoff spot, Baty was able to collect a .344 batting average and a .436 on base percentage. The junior from Wichita, Kan., also collected 21 extra-base hits while leading the team with 62 runs scored. Price returns for the `05 season as a three-year starter for the `Hawks at shortstop. A season ago he posted a .954 fielding percentage in 281 chances at shortstop. At the plate Price was equally impressive, compiling a .339 average, including a .448 clip with runners in scoring position.

Junior outfielder A.J. Van Slyke returns after posting a .360 average in 2004, which includes a .400 mark during Big 12 games. Over the summer Van Slyke was selected as a Summer All-American by Baseball America after he was named the Central Illinois Collegiate Baseball League Player of the Year. Senior Andy Scholl moves in from the outfield to play first base after batting .301 and collecting seven home runs and 47 RBI last season. Infielders Jared Schweitzer and Travis Dunlap each posted above .300 batting averages a season ago and combined for 10 home runs and 31 RBI.

New Look Pitching Staff
Head coach Ritch Price and KU pitching coach Steve Abney enter the season with a new-look pitching staff and something the coaching staff lacked a year ago — confidence in the team’s starting rotation.

The Jayhawks enter 2005 with four legitimate starters, who the coaching staff feel give the team a chance to win on any given day. Seniors Mike Zagurski and Clint Schambach, join junior Kodiak Quick and sophomore Sean Land to give Price the best depth in his starting rotation since coming to Kansas prior to the 2003 season.

Zagurski is a steady performer who tallied a 4-4 record with a 4.81 ERA and 70 strikeouts a season ago on his way to honorable mention Big 12 accolades. Schambach showed improvement in the fall after making 10 starts and posting a 4-3 mark in 2004. Land, who Abney feels has the best stuff on the staff, collected a 4-2 record and 5.76 ERA in 25 appearances as a freshman last year. Quick joins KU this season after pitching the last two seasons at Stanford. During his Cardinal career, Quick posted a 3-0 record with four saves and 54 strikeouts in 63.1 innings pitched.

Jayhawks Sweep Season-Opening Series
The Jayhawks traveled to Hawaii-Hilo to kick-off the 2005 season with high expectations and did not leave the Aloha State disappointed, taking all six games of the series with the Vulcans.

Kansas’ 6-0 start was the best since 2002 when the team started the season 10-0. The six wins also gave KU its first series sweep since taking all three games from Kansas State in the final series of the 2004 season.

Baty Honored by the Big 12
After posting a strong performance in the Jayhawks’ season opening road trip, University of Kansas junior outfielder Matt Baty was honored on Tuesday by being named the first Big 12 Player of the Week for the 2005 season.

The Wichita, Kan., native emerged as one of the Jayhawks’ leading hitters to begin the season, posting a .400 batting average and a team-high 10 RBI in the team’s first eight games.

Last season, Baty became the first Jayhawk to ever be named first team All-Big 12 after compiling a .344 batting average with two home runs and 30 RBI while leading the team with 62 runs scored and 26 stolen bases.

Jayhawks Break Out the Brooms Against SDSU
Kansas earned its second series sweep of the season by taking all four games from South Dakota State in the team’s home-opening series at Hoglund Ballpark.

The four wins pushed KU’s overall record to 10-3, making them the first team in the Big 12 to reach the 10 win mark during the 2005 season.

During the series, Kansas outscored the Jackrabbits 50-10 and collected a .345 team batting average and 1.50 team ERA during the series.

Senior pitcher Mike Zagurski fanned a career-high 11 strikeouts in the series finale, while junior Kodiak Quick picked up the win in the series opener to improve to 3-0 this season.

Zagurski Dominates the Mound
Senior left-handed pitcher Mike Zagurksi continued his impressive start to the 2005 season by setting a new career-high is strikeouts on Feb. 26 against Northern Colorado only a week after he set a personal-best with 11 strikeouts on Feb. 18 against South Dakota State.

Against SDSU, the Omaha, Neb., native struck out 11 Jackrabbit batters while yielding only one earned run and two walks to earn his second win of the season. Zagurski’s previous career-high in strikeouts had been nine which he set against Arkansas-Little Rock on March 14, 2004.

Zagurski’s record stood for only eight days as he took the mound on Feb. 26 against UNC and was nearly unhittable on the mound. The senior mowed down the Bears and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before yielding his only hit of the ball game, a bloop single to left field. In his seven innings of work, Zagurski recorded a new career-high 13 strikeouts to increase his total to 36 in his first four starts of the season.

Van Slyke Delivers in the Clutch
Junior outfielder A.J. Van Slyke turned in an impressive performance in the Jayhawks’ series win over Northern Colorado. The Ladue, Mo., native collected five hits in the series, including two dramatic home runs.

In the series opener, Van Slyke went 2-for-3 at the plate, but collected the game’s biggest hit as he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and connected on his first home run of the season. The grand slam was the first by a Kansas player since Sean Richardson connected on a bases-loaded round-tripper against Texas on May 8 of last season.

Van Slyke saved his most dramatic hit of the weekend for the series finale. After KU fell in the day cap of a twin bill, the Jayhawks needed a win in the series final to avoid dropping its first home series of the season. With KU trailing 8-5 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, Van Slyke began the Kansas rally by doubling down the right field line to junior Ritchie Price and cut the UNC lead to 8-6. After a wild pitch scored a second Kansas run, it was Van Slyke who forced extra innings by scoring the game-tying run on a shallow sacrifice fly off the bat of junior outfielder Gus Milner.

After neither team was able to score in the tenth inning and the Bears went scoreless in the top of the 11th, Van Slyke came to the plate with one out in the home half of the frame and connected on a pitch from UNC reliever Tyler Pearson, driving it over the wall in right centerfield for the first walk-off home run of the Ritch Price era of KU baseball.