Jayhawks Continue Homestand With North Dakota State

March 6, 2008

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Riding a three-game winning streak, the Kansas baseball team welcomes North Dakota State to Hoglund Ballpark for a four-game series beginning Friday at 3 p.m. Saturday’s doubleheader is scheduled to begin at noon, while Sunday’s finale will get underway at 1 p.m.

Gametracker will be available for all four games at www.kuathletics.com. Sunday’s game will be broadcast on KLWN-AM (1310). Brian Hanni and Tom Hedrick will call the action from Hoglund Ballpark.

The Series

The schools have met six times previously on the baseball diamond with KU claiming all of them. The Jayhawks took the first contest between the schools, 16-2, on March 8, 1986, in Edinburg, Texas.

More recently, the teams met in a three-game series in 2005 and a two-game set in 2006 with KU sweeping both series. The Jayhawks are 53-22 all-time against current members of the Summit League.

Scouting the Bison

North Dakota State enters the weekend having been swept in a three-game set at Oklahoma during the week. The Bison are in their first year of conference affiliation – with the newly formed Summit League – since making the transition to Division I athletics.

Senior catcher Gavin Hofer leads the team with a .750 batting average (3-for-4) and has reached base in five of six plate appearances. Hofer also had one of NDSU’s two extra base hits in the Oklahoma series. Senior Kole Zimmerman led the team with four hits against the Sooners, going 4-for-8 with a stolen base.

NDSU will throw veterans Chad Berg, Matt Bower and Jake Laber in the first three games of the series. Berg and Bower will both be making their first starts of the year. Laber worked 5 2/3 innings and took the defeat in NDSU’s 15-3 loss at Oklahoma. Laber allowed five earned runs on 11 hits with a walk and a strikeout in that game.

Head coach Tod Brown is in his first season with the Bison after spending eight seasons as an assistant coach at Bowling Green. Brown’s team returns 17 letterwinners and six position starters from last year’s squad which finished 16-31.

Last Time Out

Senior Ryne Price hit his first career grand slam and finished with seven RBIs, while senior John Allman went 3-for-3 with his first home run of the season as Kansas stayed undefeated in home openers under Ritch Price with a 13-2 triumph over Le Moyne College Wednesday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.

Noting the Jayhawks

– The Bison and Jayhawks have met six times previously with KU winning all six games, including five at Hoglund Ballpark.

– This will continue a series that began in 2005, but took a hiatus last season because of the weather. NDSU was scheduled to play a three-game series at Hoglund Ballpark in mid-February, but the games had to be cancelled due to rain and cold weather.

– Saturday’s twinbill against the Bison is the only scheduled doubleheader at Hoglund Ballpark this season.

– The Jayhawks scored an early knock out of Le Moyne on Wednesday, scoring 10 runs in the first three innings.

– KU’s six-run outburst in the third inning marked the fourth time this season that the Jayhawks have scored five runs or more in an inning.

– KU’s bats have come around in a big way recently. After scoring just 30 runs in their first seven games of the season (4.3 rpg), the Jayhawks have more than doubled that total with 34 runs in their last three games (11.3 rpg).

– The Jayhawks wore their white home uniforms for the second straight game and came up victorious again. KU’s home uniforms bear resemblance to the Texas Rangers’ attire and are one of five different uniform options for 2008. So far this season, KU is 2-3 when wearing blue tops, 1-2 with grey uniform tops and 2-0 when wearing all white.

– Junior catcher Buck Afenir has not played since the opening game of the Music City Classic, but is expected to return to the lineup this weekend against North Dakota State. Afenir was removed from the Feb. 29 game at No. 7 Vanderbilt after legging out a triple to center field.

– Senior John Allman got back on track Wednesday, going 3-for-3 with a home run and a double. In his career, Allman has hit .415 (98-for-236) at Hoglund Ballpark.

– Senior Matt Berner was a defensive replacement in Wednesday’s game against Le Moyne. Berner has appeared in five games already this season after participating in just 20 games last year.

– Senior Justin Ellrich hit his first home run in two years on Feb. 24 against Hawaii-Hilo. Ellrich’s two-run blast was his first round-tripper since hitting a solo shot against K-State on April 23, 2006.

– Junior Nick Faunce hit his first career triple Wednesday against Le Moyne. Prior to this season, Faunce had just three extra base hits (all doubles) in 37 collegiate at bats. However, he has three doubles and a triple in his first 29 at bats this year.

– Freshman Brian Heere made his fifth appearance of the season Wednesday. He collected his first hit as a Jayhawk on Feb. 23 against Hawaii-Hilo.

– Junior Preston Land went 4-for-5 against Xavier on March 1. The Kansas first baseman set career highs in hits (four), RBIs (five) and total bases (12) in the contest. He also had his first two-homer game since his freshman season.

– Senior Casey Larson has hit safely in all five games he’s started this season. He has also collected multiple hits in two of his last three games.

– Senior shortstop Erik Morrison went 1-for-4 with an RBI Wednesday. Morrison led the team with a .391 batting average at home last season.

– Sophomore Robby Price had four sacrifice bunts last weekend to give him eight for the season. He is nearly halfway to breaking his brother (Ritchie Price)’s school record of 17 sacrifices in a season.

– Senior Ryne Price hit his first collegiate grand slam and drove in a career high seven runs Wednesday against Le Moyne. He leads the team with 11 RBIs.

– Freshman Tony Thompson hit ninth in the batting order after hitting in the No. 8 spot in his first eight college games. Thompson went 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly from the No. 9 spot Wednesday.

– Six different players, junior Tai Mitchell and freshmen Greg Herbst, Casey Lytle, Phil Parrish, Blake Slagle and Zach Thoma all made their first appearances in Crimson and Blue in KU’s win over Le Moyne. Thoma was the only one to have an official at bat, striking out to end the eighth.

– Sophomore Brett Bollman has been a find for the Jayhawks as a right-handed set-up man. The 5-foot-9 righty has made three appearances and struck out five in four innings of work.

– Freshman Brett Bochy allowed an unearned run against No. 7 Vanderbilt on Feb. 29. The 6-foot-2 righty has made three appearances this year and has a 4.50 ERA.

– Junior Nick Czyz continues to move up the charts among the career leaders at KU. The third-year lefty leads the current team in career starts (24), innings pitched (131.1) and wins (eight).

– Senior Andres Esquibel made a pair of hitless appearances at the Music City Classic. The 6-foot-3 righty has not allowed an earned run in his last five appearances, which spans 15 innings.

– After a rocky start to the season, senior Hiarali Garcia seemed to find his groove Wednesday against Le Moyne. The 5-foot-11 righty allowed a lone single over two innings of relief for his third scoreless appearance of the season.

– Sophomore Shaeffer Hall pitched seven scoreless innings in his win March 1 over Xavier. Hall became the first Jayhawk pitcher to hold an opponent scoreless over six innings or more since Andy Marks threw seven scoreless innings at Kansas State on May 4 of last year.

– Junior Sam Freeman earned his second victory on the mound March 2. Freeman has given up numerous hits (17) in 11.0 innings, but has allowed just five runs in his two outings.

– Senior Matt Lane made an appearance March 1 against Xavier. Lane, a Free State High School graduate, was one of four Firebirds on the field in the eighth inning of that game. Lane was joined by FHS alums Matt Berner, Ryne Price and Robby Price.

– Junior Daniel Manos pitched a scoreless eighth inning Wednesday against Le Moyne. Manos allowed three hits and three unearned runs in his first outing of the year, but retired the Dolphins quietly Wednesday.

– While he didn’t have his best stuff, sophomore Wally Marciel earned his second victory of the season Wednesday against Le Moyne. His four strikeouts gave him the team lead with 10 punch outs in 16.2 innings.

– Junior Paul Smyth made a relief appearance March 2 against Iowa. The 5-foot-11 righty leads the team and is second in the conference with five appearances this season.

Flyin’ Ryne

Senior catcher Ryne Price had a career day at the plate Wednesday, going 2-for-4 with a grand slam and seven RBIs. The senior’s seven RBIs were a career high and the most by a Jayhawk since Erik Morrison drove in seven runs against Western Illinois on March 18, 2005.

Price’s grand slam, the first of his collegiate career, also moved him into a tie for fourth place at KU in career homers. The 5-foot-11 catcher/outfielder matched Jeff Niemeier’s total of 26 career homers. Price is chasing Travis Metcalf’s school record of 29 home runs in a Jayhawk uniform.

Ramblin’ Man

Senior left fielderJohn Allman recovered from a slow start, going 3-for-3 with a home run, double and three runs scored against Le Moyne on Wednesday. Allman hit the ball hard in several at bats during the Music City Classic last weekend, but had just one hit to show for it.

With the 3-for-3 effort Wednesday, Allman raised his season batting average by 78 points, from .172 to .250. He should expect to raise his numbers even more with five games remaining in the current homestand. Allman is a career .415 hitter at Hoglund Ballpark.

KU Places Three on All-Tournament Team

After taking a pair of games at the Music City Classic last weekend, three Jayhawks were honored on the all-tournament team Sunday evening. First baseman Preston Land, outfielder Casey Larson and starting pitcher Shaeffer Hall were named to the squad of 11.

Land hit .417 for the tournament including two doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in KU’s 12-4 triumph over Xavier.

Larson hit .571 (4-for-7) with a pair of doubles and two RBIs in two games during the weekend. Larson started in right field in both KU victories, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs against Xavier and 1-for-3 against Iowa.

Hall earned KU’s first win of the weekend, holding Xavier scoreless for seven innings on March 1. The 6-foot-1 lefty allowed just five hits, while walking one and striking out four.

This Land is Your Land

Junior first baseman Preston Land tore up Xavier pitching on March 1 in a 12-4 triumph over the Musketeers. The 6-foot-3 slugger went 4-for-5 with two doubles, two homers, five RBIs and 12 total bases. He also collected two hits in the same inning for the second time this season.

Last season, after being named a preseason all-conference selection, Land stumbled to a .206 batting average with four homers and just 26 RBIs.

This year, the junior first baseman is hitting .290 through his first nine games, has three homers and has already driven in 10 runs.

In the Nick of Time

Junior center fielder Nick Faunce went 4-for-5 with three runs scored hitting in the leadoff spot March 2 against Iowa. Coming into the season, Faunce had started just one game in his Kansas career, but has quickly become a catalyst at the top of the order.

Through ten games, the 5-foot-11 center fielder leads the team with a .448 batting average, a .543 on-base percentage and 13 base hits. He has also reached base 8-of-16 times when he’s led off an inning.

Hall of Fame

Sophomore Shaeffer Hall held Xavier scoreless for seven innings March 1 and took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. This was an incredible turnaround from the second-year lefty’s first start of the year, when he gave up three runs on five hits over three innings, including four consecutive doubles.

He became the first Jayhawk pitcher to throw six or more shutout innings in a game since Andy Marks pitched seven scoreless innings against K-State last season.

Up Next

Kansas will conclude its six-game homestand with a Tuesday afternoon contest against Tabor College at 3 p.m. The Jayhawks will also play a Wednesday afternoon game at Missouri State. Game time for Wednesday’s contest at Hammons Field is 3 p.m. The two midweek games will be the final two non-conference games before the Jayhawks open Big 12 play at Texas on March 14.

Season Tickets on Sale

Kansas baseball season tickets are on sale now. Fans can order tickets by calling the Jayhawk ticket office at 800-34-HAWKS or by logging on to kuathletics.com.