Jayhawks Wrap Up Homestand with Wichita State Wednesday

March 9, 2009

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Kansas vs. Wichita State

Winners of five straight, the Kansas baseball team will take aim at long-time nemesis Wichita State to wrap up the seven-game homestand Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. The Jayhawks and Shockers face off in the first of two meetings during the 2009 season.

Wednesday’s game can be heard throughout the Lawrence area live on KLWN-AM (1320) or on the internet throughout the country at klwn.com. Veteran play-by-play man Tom Hedrick will call the action along with former Jayhawk Lee Ice.

Series History

The Shockers lead the all-time series between the in-state rivals, 41-22, including victories in five straight contests, dating back to 2006. Kansas head coach Ritch Price won five of his first nine matchups with WSU, but has been swept each of the past two seasons. The Shockers were the only non-conference opponent to win at Hoglund Ballpark in 2008.

About the Jayhawks

Kansas is coming off a weekend sweep of non-conference foe Northwestern. The Jayhawks have won five straight and eight in a row against non-conference opponents at Hoglund Ballpark, dating back to last season.

Kansas is led by catcher Buck Afenir’s .500 batting average and Shaeffer Hall’s 1.27 ERA. As a team, the Jayhawks are batting .277 with 22 doubles, seven homers and 12 stolen bases. The pitching staff has compiled a 2.80 ERA and is allowing a .200 batting average to its opponents.

Scouting the Shockers

Wichita State enters the Wednesday showdown with Kansas in uncharted territory, having dropped four in a row after being swept by No. 11 TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. The Shockers have dropped four in a row, which is their longest losing streak since 2006.

Sophomore infielder Taylor Brown leads the WSU offense with a .500 batting average (15-for-30) with three doubles, while junior Clinton McKeever is batting .357 with a home run and is tied for the team lead with 10 RBIs. As a team, the Shockers are batting .285, but have hit just two home runs.

Freshman lefty Brian Flynn is expected to start for Wichita State Wednesday against the Jayhawks. Flynn has made one start this season and took a no-decision against BYU March 2. Sophomore righty Grant Mungrief has been a key man out of the Shocker bullpen, going 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA and two saves in four appearances.

Wichita State returns 14 letterwinners, but just two position starters from last year’s squad which finished 48-17 and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals.

Last Time Out

Sophomore Tony Thompson collected two doubles, a home run, and three RBIs, while Buck Afenir and Brian Heere also went deep for the Jayhawks as Kansas completed a three-game sweep of visiting Northwestern Sunday, 10-1. The game was the completion of a suspended game, which began Saturday evening but had to be delayed due to inclement weather.

Jayhawks Add Game with Missouri Valley

The Kansas baseball team will makeup one of the games it has lost to the weather this season with a non-conference contest against Missouri Valley College Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Hoglund Ballpark. Admission to the Jayhawks-Vikings game will be free of charge.

We’re Going Streaking

Sophomore Tony Thompson went 3-for-5 with two doubles and a home run Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 19 games. Thompson, who slammed a double as the first batter after the resumption of play Sunday, has now hit safely in all 10 games this season after collecting at least one base hit in the final nine games of the 2009 season.

His streak is tied for the fourth-longest in school history, matching the 19-game run of Justin Headley in 1996. During his hitting streak, Thompson is batting .417 (30-for-72) with six doubles, five homers and 19 RBIs.

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 10 games, KU’s starters have a combined ERA of 1.72 (11 earned runs in 57 2/3 innings), compared to a 6.21 ERA by its starters last season.

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

During KU’s current homestand, the starting pitching has been even better as the Jayhawk starters have held their opponents to two earned runs or less in all five games.

Afenir the Fire

Senior catcher Buck Afenirhas continued to be a nightmare for opposing pitchers. The four-year starter is batting .500 for the season with two homers and seven RBIs in five starts this season.

During the 2008 season, Afenir was one of the few Jayhawks who struggled at home, batting just .208 in games played at Hoglund Ballpark. However, during the recent homestand he has done anything but struggle. The 6-foot-1 catcher is 5-for-11 in KU’s home games this year with a double, two homers and a slugging percentage over 1.000.

Suddenly Smyth

After a pair of rough outings to open the season, senior relief pitcher Paul Smyth rebounded nicely this past week, picking up a pair of saves, and pitching three flawless innings of relief. In the series against the Fighting Sioux, Smyth pitched the ninth inning in both games and retired all six hitters he faced.

In his two losses this season, Smyth showed uncharacteristic signs of wildness, walking two hitters, throwing a pair of wild pitches and hitting a batter. However, during the homestand, Smyth has had pinpoint control, throwing just 37 pitches, including 23 for strikes (62 percent).

Around the Horn

– The Jayhawks will face Wichita State for the first of two meetings on Wednesday at Hoglund Ballpark. The in-state rivalry dates back to 1952 when the Jayhawks downed the Shockers 6-5 in Wichita on April 5.

– Kansas swept a three-game series from Northwestern this weekend to improve to 22-1 against non-conference opponents at Hoglund Ballpark in its last 23 games. The only blemish came against then-No. 8 Wichita State on April 1 of last year.

– The Jayhawks have shown some late heroics this year. In three games this season, KU has come from behind to tie or take the lead after the seventh inning, including Friday’s five-run eighth which erased a four-run Northwestern lead.

– Through 10 games this season, the Jayhawks’ defense leads the Big 12 with a .982 fielding percentage. Kansas has made just seven errors in 393 chances.

– During KU’s homestand, the Jayhawks have utilized the longball, hitting seven in the last four games. The Jayhawks opened the season by going homerless in their first six games, but have multiple round-trippers in each of their last two contests.

– With the win Tuesday against UND, Kansas extended its winning streak in home openers to 10 straight years, including all seven under head coach Ritch Price.

– Senior catcher Buck Afenir collected back-to-back multi-hit games against Northwestern, going 2-for-3 in both contests. Afenir also belted two home runs this past weekend to give him 23 in his career, which ties him for ninth all-time at KU.

– 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 showed signs of turning things around last week. The senior first baseman went 3-for-7 with a double and a pair of RBIs in KU’s games against Northwestern and North Dakota.

– Freshman Zac Elgie recorded his first base hit and first multi-hit game in KU’s game one win over Northwestern Friday. Elgie also delivered the only hit in KU’s five-run rally.

– Junior second baseman Robby Price hit his first career inside-the-park home run Friday against Northwestern, and the first by a Jayhawk since Gus Milner did so in 2005.

– Freshman infielder James Stanfield made his first start in a Kansas uniform Saturday, going 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored.

– Junior shortstop David Narodowski has hit safely in six straight games, dating back to the final contest at Arkansas. The junior transfer is batting .318 during the streak (7-for-22) with six runs scored.

– Sophomore Tony Thompson has shown exceptional power during KU’s homestand. The Kansas third baseman has seven extra base hits during the five-game stretch, including four doubles and three homers for a slugging percentage of 1.000.

– Freshman left fielder Jake Marasco went 2-for-6 in the Northwestern series, which included his first career triple in Friday’s first game.

– Senior Nick Faunce hit well in the Northwestern series, going 3-for-7 with two runs and two RBIs. Faunce has been very effective in clutch situations this year, going 5-for-13 (.385) with men on base and 4-for-11 (.364) with men in scoring position.

– Freshman Jason Brunansky went 1-for-3 with a run scored in the March 4 win over the Fighting Sioux. Brunansky has quietly hit .278 this season with five hits in his first 18 at bats.

– Sophomore Brian Heere hit his first collegiate home run Sunday against Northwestern. Not known as a power hitter, Heere has a .476 slugging percentage through the first 10 games of the season.

– Sophomore Casey Lytle continues to swing a hot bat this year, going 4-for-11 with a pair of doubles during KU’s homestand. In 14 career games, Lytle is batting .478 (11-for-23) with three doubles and three RBIs.

– Sophomore Jimmy Waters went 1-for-4 in the Northwestern series, playing in parts of two games. The second-year player has been right around a .250 average the entire season.

– Junior transfer Brett Lisher collected a game-tying single in the ninth inning against No. 21 Arkansas on Feb. 26, his first RBI in a Jayhawk uniform.

– Junior transfer Travis Blankenship pitched another scoreless inning of relief Friday in KU’s 7-2 win over Northwestern. The 6-foot-2 lefty has been dominant this season, allowing just four hits to the 27 batters he has faced.

– Sophomore Brett Bochy picked up a win despite struggling in relief Friday against Northwestern. Bochy recorded a strikeout in 2/3 of an inning to extend his streak to nine straight appearances with at least one strikeout, and 17 in 18 career games.

– Junior Brett Bollman made his first appearance of 2009 Sunday against Northwestern, pitching a scoreless inning against the Wildcats. He is scheduled to start KU’s makeup game Tuesday against Missouri Valley.

– Freshman Kelson Boyer also made his first Kansas appearance Sunday against Northwestern. Boyer recorded a strikeout and retired all three batters he faced.

– Freshman Kevin Burk rebounded from a rocky debut by pitching two scoreless innings against North Dakota on March 3. The first-year righty had his way with the Fighting Sioux hitters, retiring all six men he faced, while recording a pair of strikeouts.

– Junior Shaeffer Hall earned a no-decision Friday against Northwestern after allowing just one earned run over 7 1/3 innings. The 6-foot junior has allowed just 17 base runners in 21 1/3 innings this year, and held the opposition to a .173 batting average.

– Freshman Colton Murray pitched a pair of scoreless innings in relief in the second game of the doubleheader Friday. Outside of a rough outing against North Dakota, Murray has been virtually lights out, allowing opponents a .154 batting average and just two runs in four appearances.

– Freshman Lee Ridenhour pitched three scoreless innings Sunday against Northwestern to hold the lead as Kansas put the game out of reach. Ridenhour has allowed just two runs and six hits in his last two outings.

– Senior Paul Smyth was perfect in his three relief appearances last week, earning a pair of saves. The senior, who blew a pair of saves during the first week of the season, bounced back by retiring nine straight hitters in his contests against North Dakota and Northwestern.

– Sophomore T.J. Walz earned his first victory of the season in the second game of the doubleheader Sunday. The second-year righty allowed just one walk against six strikeouts in five innings of work.

Up Next
Kansas will embark on a six-day road trip during Spring Break, beginning with a three-game series against No. 4 Arizona State in Surprise, Ariz. The Jayhawks and Sun Devils will open their weekend set on Friday, March 13 at approximately 5:30 p.m. (CST). All three games can be heard online via webcast at kuathletics.com.