Kansas Baseball Takes On San Diego State

March 17, 2009

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Kansas vs. San Diego State

After taking a game from No. 4 Arizona State over the weekend, the Kansas baseball team wraps up its five-game road trip with a pair of midweek contests at San Diego State Tuesday and Wednesday. The Jayhawks and Aztecs will face off at 8 p.m. CST on both nights at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Tuesday’s game will be webcast via kuathletics.com, while Wednesday’s game will be carried on KLWN-AM (1320). Fans outside of the Lawrence area can still hear the event live at klwn.com.

Series History

Kansas and San Diego State have previously met in a two-game series 11 seasons ago. KU swept the series to open the 1998 season by scores of 10-3 and 8-4. Kansas head coach Ritch Price is 9-3 all-time against SDSU, with all 12 meetings coming while Price was at Cal Poly.

About the Jayhawks

Kansas has won eight of its last 10, including a 7-0 record during a 10-day homestand last week. The Jayhawks also notched their second victory of the season over a Top 25 team on Saturday, downing No. 4 Arizona State, 3-2.

Kansas is led by catcher Buck Afenir’s .429 batting average and Shaeffer Hall’s 1.37 ERA. As a team, the Jayhawks are batting .283 with 33 doubles, 11 homers and 15 stolen bases. The pitching staff has compiled a 3.11 ERA and is allowing a .216 batting average to its opponents.

Scouting the Aztecs

San Diego State enters the two-game series with Kansas having won four in a row, including a three-game sweep of UNLV over the weekend. Like the Jayhawks, SDSU started the season slow, but have come on the last couple of weeks.

SDSU’s offense is led by junior Brandon Decker. The third-year outfielder is batting .354 with a pair of doubles and a triple. Sophomore Cory Vaughn provides the Aztecs’ power with three homers and a team-high 21 RBIs to go along with a .302 average.

On the mound, the Jayhawks will face freshman right-handed Ryan O’Sullivan on Tuesday night. O’Sullivan has been hit hard in his three starts, giving up 21 hits and 14 runs in 15 1/3 innings. SDSU’s bullpen has been excellent this year, led by closer Addison Reed. Reed has six saves and a 1.08 ERA in eight appearances this year.

The Aztecs return 16 letterwinners and four position starters from last year’s club, which went 31-28 overall and tied for second in the Mountain West Conference.

Last Time Out

Junior Robby Price and sophomore Tony Thompson each had three hits, while senior Nick Faunce hit a grand slam as Kansas nearly erased an eight-run deficit Sunday. Fourth-ranked Arizona State scored five runs in the sixth inning and escaped with a 12-10 triumph over the Jayhawks at Surprise Stadium.

We’re Going Streaking

Sophomore Tony Thompson hit safely in all three games of the Arizona State series and extended his hitting streak to 23 games. Thompson went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored in Sunday’s finale against the fourth-ranked Sun Devils.

His streak is the second-longest in KU history, and is tied for the ninth-longest in Big 12 history. Only Jared Schweitzer (24 games in 2005) has hit safely in more consecutive games than Thompson.

During his hitting streak, which dates back to the last nine games of last season, Thompson is batting .425 (37-for-87) with eight doubles, six homers and 23 RBIs.

The Price is Right

Junior Robby Price seems to have put his slow start behind him. The KU second baseman began the season by batting just .167 in the team’s first seven contests, but has raised his average by over 100 points since the beginning of the Northwestern series.

In KU’s last eight contests, Price is batting .385 (10-for-26) with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs. Price also has a pair of three-hit games in that stretch (vs. Wichita State and vs. No. 4 Arizona State).

The junior’s recovery from a rough start should come as no surprise. During his career at KU, Price is a .188 hitter in the month of February (16-for-85), but has hit .312 (59-for-189) in the month of March.

Starting Over

Through 15 games, one of the biggest differences between last year’s Jayhawks and this year’s squad has been the quality starting pitching. KU’s starters have a combined ERA of 1.97 (18 earned runs in 82 1/3 innings), compared to a 6.21 ERA by its starters last season.

Even more remarkable is the fact that KU has six quality starts (6.0+ innings pitched allowing three runs or less) through the first 15 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.

Around the Horn

– The Jayhawks take on San Diego State this week. It marks KU’s first meeting with the Aztecs since 1998, when the Jayhawks opened the season at Tony Gwynn Stadium with a pair of wins.

– Kansas is 1-0 against the Mountain West Conference this season, defeating Air Force on Feb. 20. The Jayhawks are 9-8 all-time against current MWC members.

– Six Jayhawks will be returing to their native state of California this week, including junior Cameron Selik, who grew up in San Diego. Other California natives on the team include Buck Afenir (Escondido), Brett Bochy (Poway), Jason Brunanasky (Poway), Thomas Marcin (Huntington Beach) and Paul Smyth (Atascadero).

– KU just completed a three-game series with No. 4 Arizona State, defeating the Sun Devils 3-2 on Saturday. The Jayhawks are 2-3 this season against nationally ranked teams, after going 4-15 last year against the Top 25.

– 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 a five-run rally in the eighth on March 6 against Northwestern, which erased a four-run deficit.

– KU had been leading the conference in fielding percentage through the first 12 games of the season, but committed six errors in the Arizona State series. The Jayhawks still have a .976 fielding percentage, which ranks third in the Big 12.

– 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 went 5-for-11 in the Arizona State series with three runs scored and his first triple of the season. Afenir has two triples in his career with both of them coming against teams ranked in the top 10 (2008 – at No. 6 Vanderbilt).

– 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 been successful at advancing runners. Despite a sub-.200 batting average, Land advances baserunners successfully 53 percent of the time.

– Freshman Zac Elgie hit safely in back-to-back starts against Arizona State. The first-year Jayhawk is 5-for-5 with a runner on third base and less than two out.

– Junior second baseman Robby Price has a pair of three-hit games in the last week and has multiple RBIs in a pair of contests.

– 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 been a tremendous base runner, reaching base 24 times and scoring 17 runs. Narodowski is third on the team with a .298 batting average and a .379 on-base percentage.

– Sophomore Tony Thompson walked three times in the Arizona State series after going the first 12 games of the year without a free pass. Thompson had just 11 walks all of last year.

– 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 hit a grand slam in KU’s rally Sunday against the Sun Devils. Faunce’s slam was the first of his career, and first by a Jayhawk since Ryne Price hit a home run with the bases loaded against Le Moyne last season.

– Freshman Jason Brunansky recorded his second two-hit game Friday against Arizona State, and also made a pair of highlight reel catches in the game.

– Sophomore Brian Heere went 2-for-4 in KU’s win over Arizona State Saturday. The Jayhawk outfielder started his first game in left field, after his first 10 starts were in right field.

– Sophomore Casey Lytle continues to swing a hot bat this year, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs in Sunday’s game against Arizona State. Lytle has worn out left-handed pitching, going 8-for-16 against southpaws this year.

– Sophomore Jimmy Waters collected a base hit in a pinch hitting role Sunday at Arizona State. It was his first hit in seven at bats as a pinch hitter, he is batting .333 (7-for-21) in games he starts.

– 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 retired two hitters Saturday to preserve the lead for T.J. Walz in KU’s win over Arizona State. Blankenship has only been charged with earned runs in one of his outings this year.

– Sophomore Brett Bochy tossed a scoreless inning in Saturday’s win over Arizona State. The sophomore righty, however, did not record a strikeout for the first time this year.

– 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 stopped the bleeding in Sunday’s game, pitching an inning and 2/3 of scoreless relief. Burk gave up a pair of hits, walked two batters, but tallied a pair of strikeouts.

– Junior Shaeffer Hall took the loss in Friday’s game against Arizona State, giving up five unearned runs. The lefty has surrendered 13 runs this year, but only four of them have been earned.

– Freshman Colton Murray pitched two scoreless innings Friday against Arizona State to keep the game within reach. Murray faced five Sun Devil hitters, and retired all of them, including a pair via strikeouts.

– Freshman Lee Ridenhour was dominant for eight innings on March 11 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 has allowed just one baserunner in his last six appearances, recording three saves in the process. The senior, who had a pair of blown saves during the first week of the season, has bounced back by retiring 18 of the last 19 hitters he’s faced.

– Sophomore T.J. Walz earned his second victory of the season in the second game of the series against No. 4 Arizona State. Walz has beaten two ranked teams in his career, with both of them coming on the road.

Jayhawks Tour Kansas City Royals’ Camp
Prior to their 3-2 win Saturday, members of the Kansas baseball team were given the opportunity to visit spring training camp with the Kansas City Royals. The Jayhawks are playing a three-game series with No. 4 Arizona State this weekend at Surprise Stadium – the spring training home of the Royals.

The Jayhawks arrived at the complex around 9:30 a.m., and were greeted by Royals’ manager Trey Hillman, who addressed the team after his morning media session. KU players were also able to talk to Kansas City legends Frank White, Kevin Seitzer and George Brett.

Up Next
The Jayhawks will open conference play this weekend when KU hosts top-ranked Texas in a three-game series at Hoglund Ballpark. This will mark the first time the Jayhawks have played a team ranked No. 1 since 1993. Friday’s Big 12 opener will start at 3 p.m., while the games Saturday and Sunday are scheduled for 1 p.m.