Jayhawks Open Conference Play at No. 8 Texas A&M
March 15, 2007
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The University of Kansas baseball team will open Big 12 play this weekend when it travels to Texas A&M for a three-game series. The Jayhawks and the eighth-ranked Aggies will play at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evening and then complete the series Sunday at 1 p.m. <?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>
Scouting the Aggies
Eighth-ranked Texas A&M enters conference play having posted the best non-conference record among Big 12 teams. At 18-2, the Aggies only losses have come to No. 7 Oregon State and No. 12 Arizona State this season. Last weekend, A&M swept perennial power Florida in a three-game series.
Junior outfielder Blaker Stouffer leads the team with a .429 batting average, 12 extra base hits and 29 RBIs this year. Junior transfer Brandon Hicks is tops with eight doubles and has a .324 batting average.
On the mound, junior David Newmann has been the team’s top pitcher. So far this season, he has posted a 3-0 mark with a 2.01 ERA and the teams only complete game this season. Senior righty Kyle Nicholson has been the top man out of the bullpen for Texas A&M, posting a 4-1 mark and a 1.02 ERA in nine appearances.
Head coach Rob Childress is in his second year with the Aggies and has a career mark of 43-32-1. Texas A&M returns 15 letterwinners and five position players from last year’s squad, which finished 25-30-1 overall, and placed ninth in the Big 12.
Texas A&M leads the all-time series, 34-13, including 22-5 in College Station. However, the Aggies are just 7-5 against the Jayhawks over the last four years. KU swept a three-game series from the Aggies last season in Lawrence.
Last Time Out
The Jayhawks split a pair of weekday games with Penn State and No. 12 Wichita State. On Tuesday, KU scored 18 runs and blew out the Nittany Lions, while 24 hours later, the team surrendered 18 runs in a 18-3 defeat.
Junior Erik Morrison has led the offense this week, going 4-for-6 in the two home games with a home run and five RBIs. Junior Andres Esquibel earned his third victory of the season in Tuesday’s 18-5 win over Penn State.
We’re Going Streaking
One of KU’s highlights on Wednesday came in the fourth inning, when freshman Robby Price extended his hitting streak to 13 games. Price’s streak is the longest hitting streak at KU over the last two seasons (2006-2007). It’s tied for the 23rd longest streak in school history, but is the longest hitting streak by a freshman.
Price is chasing former Jayhawk Jared Schweitzer, who had a 24-game hitting streak in 2005. Since 2003, three different Jayhawks have hit safely in 20 or more straight games: Schweitzer (24), Ryan Baty (21) and Matt Tribble (20).
Home Sweet Home
Prior to Wednesday’s loss to Wichita State, Hoglund Ballpark had been a house of horrors for KU’s opponents. The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak at home, which dated back to the Texas A&M series last year.
During the eight-game winning streak, KU had outscored its opponents by a combined score of 100-32 and had hit .373 as a team.
Junior Brock Simpson epitomized the team’s strong offense at home during the streak. The 6-foot-2 right fielder hit .632 with two triples, nine runs scored and nine RBIs during the eight-game stretch at Hoglund Ballpark.
Esquibel = Excellent
Junior right-hander Andres Esquibel has been an excellent find for Ritch Price’s team this season. Esquibel, who enrolled in school just before the spring semester started, has been solid in both a starting and relief role.
The 6-foot-2 righty has a team-best 1.16 ERA among pitchers with at least 21 innings and a perfect 3-0 record. In 23.1 innings, Esquibel has given up just three earned runs and four walks, while striking out 23.
Junior left fielder John Allman has been the team’s most consistent performer at the plate this season. The 6-foot outfielder recently had a 10-game hitting streak snapped, but has hit safely in his last four contests.
Allman has gone hitless just five times this season and has eight multiple hit games, including three games with three hits or more.
The junior is also batting .500 (9-for-18) with RISP this season.
KU’s game against No. 12 Wichita State drew the biggest home crowd of the season and the 10th largest crowd in Hoglund Ballpark history. The paid attendance of 1,757 was the fourth-largest crowd to see a game between the Shockers and the Jayhawks in Lawrence.
KU set the single-game record last season, drawing 2,324 fans to the annual game with its in-state rival.
Around the Horn
– KU will open Big 12 play at Texas A&M for the first time since the league’s inception in 1997. The Jayhawks have opened conference play with the Aggies before (2002), however, the series was played at Hoglund Ballpark.
– The three-game series with the eighth-ranked Aggies marks KU’s third series or game against a team ranked in the national top 25 over the last week. The Jayhawks traveled to No. 10 Arkansas last weekend, before hosting No. 12 Wichita State, Wednesday. KU is 0-4 against ranked teams this season.
– Sophomore catcher Buck Afenir had his fourth two-hit game of the season Tuesday against Penn State. He has reached base in all six home games this season.
– Sophomore first baseman Preston Land went 2-for-2 against Penn State on Tuesday. It was his first multiple hit game of the season. Since the beginning of the Stanford series, Land has hit safely in all but two games.
– Junior Ryne Price moved to within seven hits of reaching 100 in his career at KU. Price would become the third active Jayhawk to reach 100 career hits.
– Junior Erik Morrison’s hitting streak reached 10 games with a 1-for-3 night against Wichita State. The shortstop became the third different Jayhawk to record a hitting streak of 10 games or longer this season.
– Freshman Robby Price is in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak. Price is hitting .321 during the streak with four doubles, a triple and 14 runs scored.
– Junior John Allman is tied for the team team lead with six multiple RBI games and is second on the team with eight multiple hit games.
– Senior Kyle Murphy doubled in his second at bat against Wichita State Wednesday to give him eight extra base hits this season. Last season, the KU center fielder had just nine extra base hits in 98 at bats.
– Junior Brock Simpson went hitless in a home game for the first time this season. Simpson is still batting .688 (11-for-16) at Hoglund Ballpark this year.
– Sophomore Justin Ellrich has hit safely in six of his last seven games, including four straight in which he entered the game as a sub. Ellrich has been the team’s top left-handed pinch hitter going 2-for-4 in that role.
– Sophomore Paul Smyth allowed his first earned run of the season in the ninth inning of the Wichita State game. Smyth had not allowed an earned run in his first 10 appearances of the season.
– The start time for Saturday’s game at Texas A&M has been changed to 6:30 p.m., from the 2 p.m. start originally scheduled.
Lights, Camera, Jayhawks
KU is scheduled to make three television appearances this season, including one national TV appearance. The Jayhawks’ game against in-state rival Kansas State on May 5 will be seen across the country on Fox Sports Net.
The Jayhawks will also be on TV April 3 in a non-conference game against K-State and April 20 at Texas Tech. Both of those games will be shown on Fox College Sports Central, a cable station available through various sports packages around the country.
KU readies for Kauffman game
The University of Kansas baseball team announced that it has finalized plans for the April 25 game against Missouri at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
Tickets for the Border Showdown contest will be $10 for general admission and can be ordered through tickets.com. Tickets can also be purchased at the ballpark on gameday.
The 40,000-seat stadium opened in 1973 and has been home to the Kansas City Royals ever since. The stadium has played host to the 1973 All-Star game as well as four games of the 1985 World Series between the Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Early to Rise
KU’s three-game series against South Dakota State was played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis.
The Jayhawks and Jackrabbits opened play on Saturday morning with a doubleheader at 1:30 a.m. The second game of the twinbill was suspended due to time constraints and completed Sunday morning at 3:30 a.m., prior to the third game of the series.
The unusual starting times for the three contests were due to the Hurricane Winter Invitational which was already scheduled in the dome that weekend. The invitational featured NCAA Division II and NAIA teams from neighboring states.
Major League Bloodlines
Several players on the 2007 Jayhawk baseball team have relatives who have played in the major leagues. They include:
– Buck Afenir’s uncle, Troy Afenir, played in four major league seasons for Houston, Oakland and Cincinnati.
– Brett Bochy’s father, Bruce Bochy, played in the major leagues from 1978-87 for Houston, San Diego and the New York Mets. He also managed the Padres from 1995-2006, and is the current manager of the San Francisco Giants.
– Casey Larson’s father, Dan Larson, played in the major leagues from 1967-82. He played for Houston, Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs.
– Joe Servais’ cousin, Scott Servais, played in the major leagues from 1991-2001 for Houston, Colorado, San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs.
A handful of Jayhawks have also followed older siblings onto the KU baseball team. They include:
– Nick Czyz’ older brother Don pitched at KU from 2003-06. Don was drafted by the Florida Marlins after last season.
– Preston Land’s brother, Sean, pitched for the Jayhawks from 2004-06. Sean was drafted by the Minnesota Twins at the conclusion of the 2006 season.
– Ryne and Robby Price’s older brother, Ritchie, also played at KU from 2003-06. Ritchie was drafted by the New York Mets last season.
The Jayhawks will return to the friendly confines of Hoglund Ballpark for a brief two-game series with the University of Northern Colorado next Tuesday and Wednesday. Game time for both days is set for 4 p.m.
Season Tickets On Sale
Kansas Baseball season tickets are still available for purchase. For more information, please call 800-34-HAWKS or log on to kuathletics.com.