Jayhawks Take On No. 4 Arizona State in Surprise, Ariz.

March 12, 2009

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Kansas vs. Arizona State

Riding a seven-game winning streak, the Kansas baseball team will take aim at one of the top programs in the country as the Jayhawks travel to Surprise, Ariz., to face No. 4 Arizona State. KU will meet the Sun Devils in a three-game series beginning Friday at approximately 6:30 p.m. (CST) and again Saturday and Sunday at the same times. The KU-ASU games will be played at Surprise Stadium 30 minutes after the completion of the major league spring training games being played at the same field.

Audio from all three games will be available via online webcast at kuathletics.com. Veteran play-by-play man Tom Hedrick will call the action.

Series History

This will be the first meeting between Kansas and Arizona State on the baseball diamond.

About the Jayhawks

Kansas is coming off a perfect homestand, including an 8-0 win over in-state rival Wichita State Wednesday. The Jayhawks have won seven straight and 10 in a row against non-conference opponents at Hoglund Ballpark, dating back to last season.

Kansas is led by catcher Buck Afenir’s .417 batting average and Shaeffer Hall’s 1.27 ERA. As a team, the Jayhawks are batting .276 with 27 doubles, nine homers and 14 stolen bases. The pitching staff has compiled a 2.58 ERA and is allowing a .196 batting average to its opponents.

Scouting the Sun Devils

Arizona State enters the weekend series with the Jayhawks after splitting a pair of midweek games against Kansas State. The Sun Devils’ only two losses of the season have come against Big 12 teams, having dropped a game earlier this season to Missouri.

Junior infielder Jason Kipnis leads the ASU offense with a .461 batting average and has five doubles and five home runs. Junior catcher Carlos Ramirez has hit a team-high seven homers this season and checks in with a .327 batting average and 20 RBIs. As team, ASU is batting .312 with 17 homers.

Junior righty Mike Leake is the Sun Devils’ ace on the mound. Leake is 3-1 with an 0.64 ERA in four starts this season. He also has just four walks with 30 strikeouts in 28 innings. Freshman closer Jordan Swagerty has struggled at times this season, but still has three saves and is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA.

Arizona State returns 10 letterwinners and three position starters from last year’s squad which finished 49-13 and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals.

Last Time Out

Junior Robby Price went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs, while freshman Lee Ridenhour pitched eight scoreless innings as Kansas shut out Wichita State, 8-0 in a non-conference baseball game Wednesday night at Hoglund Ballpark.

We’re Going Streaking

Sophomore Tony Thompson went 1-for-4 with an RBI single Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 20 games. Thompson drove in the Jayhawks’ second run of the game on a ground ball that hit off the pitcher’s glove and scored David Narodowski.

His streak is tied for the third-longest in school history, matching the 20-game run of Matt Tribble in 2003.

During his hitting streak, which dates back to the last nine games of last season, Thompson is batting .409 (31-for-76) with six doubles, five homers and 20 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 12 games, KU’s starters have a combined ERA of 1.57 (12 earned runs in 68 2/3 innings), compared to a 6.21 ERA by its starters last season.

Even more remarkable is the fact that KU has five quality starts (6.0+ innings pitched allowing three runs or less) through the first 12 games of the season after just 10 quality starts in 2008.

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

David Dials In

After a slow start to his first campaign in a Kansas uniform, junior shortstop David Narodowski has come into his own as of late. Narodowski went 3-for-3 in KU’s makeup game Tuesday against Missouri Valley College, before a 2-for-3 effort Wednesday against Wichita State.

The Kansas shortstop has hit safely in eight straight games, dating back to the last game of the Arkansas series, and batted .478 during the Jayhawks’ homestand. He has also shown the ability to get on base and score. This past week, he reached base in seven- straight plate appearances and scored six runs. Narodowski also leads the team with a .440 on-base percentage this year.

The Price is Right

Junior Robby Price also appears to have put his early season slump behind him. After batting just .158 in KU’s first road trip, the Kansas second baseman has five hits in his last 10 at bats, including two doubles and two homers.

Price hit an inside-the-park home run last weekend against Northwestern – the first by a KU player since 2005 – and had a more conventional round-tripper against the Shockers Wednesday. He also collected a career-high four RBIs in the game against Wichita State, giving him eight for the season.

Around the Horn

– The Jayhawks will face No. 4 Arizona State this weekend, marking the second Top 25 opponent KU has faced this season. This marks the first time the Jayhawks have faced a team ranked as high as No. 4 since it took on Oregon State in the 2006 NCAA Regionals in Corvalis, Ore.

– Kansas is 1-1 against ranked teams this year, splitting a two-game series at No. 21 Arkansas in February.

– KU’s games will be played at Surprise Stadium – the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers. The Jayhawks will face Arizona State following major league spring training games this weekend.

– 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 last Friday’s five-run eighth, which erased a four-run Northwestern lead.

– Through 12 games this season, the Jayhawks’ defense leads the Big 12 with a .983 fielding percentage. Kansas has made just eight errors in 470 chances.

– During KU’s homestand, the Jayhawks finally utilized the longball, hitting nine in the last six games. Kansas opened the season by going homerless in their first six games, but have found their stroke as of late.

– With the win March 3 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 1-for-4 in Tuesday’s game with Missouri Valley, collecting a base hit in KU’s three-run first.

– 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 has shown signs of turning things around this past week. The senior first baseman went 4-for-10 with a double and a pair of RBIs in KU’s seven-game homestand.

– Freshman Zac Elgie recorded two more RBIs Tuesday against Missouri Valley without the benefit of a base hit. Elgie has five RBIs this season, despite just three hits.

– Junior second baseman Robby Price has shown surprising power recently, collecting two doubles and two homers in his last 10 at bats. Price’s slugging percentage is hovering close to .500, after slugging .369 last year.

– 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 found his stroke at the plate recently, going 5-for-6 this week with four runs scored. Narodowski continues to be an excellent base runner, scoring a team-high 15 runs after reaching base 22 times this year.

– Sophomore Tony Thompson showed exceptional power during KU’s homestand. The Kansas third baseman had seven extra base hits during the seven-game stretch, including four doubles and three homers for a slugging percentage of .880.

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

– Senior Nick Faunce drove in a pair of runs in Wednesday’s victory over Wichita State. Faunce has collected nine RBIs this year, after recording just 13 in all of 2008.

– Freshman Jason Brunansky hit his first collegiate home run Tuesday against Missouri Valley, and tripled against Wichita State. He is one of four Jayhawks with a three-base hit.

– Sophomore Brian Heere hit his first collegiate home run Sunday against Northwestern. Not known as a power hitter, Heere had a .500 slugging percentage during the recent homestand.

– Sophomore Casey Lytle continues to swing a hot bat this year, going 4-for-12 with a pair of doubles during KU’s homestand. In 15 career games, Lytle is batting .458 (11-for-24) with three doubles and three RBIs.

– Sophomore Jimmy Waters collected two hits and three RBIs against Missouri Valley Tuesday, raising his season average to .304.

– 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 career start against Missouri Valley Tuesday. Other than a solo home run in the second inning, the junior was flawless, going three innings for the win.

– Freshman Kelson Boyer made a four-inning relief appearance Tuesday against Missouri Valley. Despite allowing five base hits, Boyer held the Vikings scoreless in his stint.

– Freshman Kevin Burk shook off a rough outing over the weekend to pitch a perfect ninth against Missouri Valley Tuesday. Burk needed just six pitches to finish the game.

– 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 against Northwestern. 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 was dominant for eight innings Wednesday against Wichita State. The first-year righty held the Shockers scoreless on three hits and allowed just four base runners the entire night. Ridenhour leads the team with a 3-0 mark

– Senior Paul Smyth was perfect in his four relief appearances during the homestand, earning a pair of saves. The senior, who had a pair of blown saves during the first week of the season, has bounced back by retiring 12 straight hitters.

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

Up Next

The Jayhawks will wrap up their six-day road trip with a mid-week series at Tony Gwynn Stadium against San Diego State, beginning Tuesday, March 17. KU and SDSU will battle at 8 p.m. (CST) both Tuesday and Wednesday. The games can be heard via audio webcast on kuathletics.com.