Kansas Baseball to Host Nebraska in Big 12 Opening Series

March 24, 2005

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Riding a season-high seven-game winning streak, the University of Kansas baseball team will open its 2005 Big 12 Conference schedule this weekend as it hosts Nebraska in a three-game series at Hoglund Ballpark.<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

The Cornhuskers enter the weekend ranked No. 9 by Collegiate Baseball and appear in the national Top 20 in three other collegiate baseball polls.

The Jayhawks used a pair of one-run victories over Western Illinois at Hoglund Ballpark last weekend to secure their fourth series sweep of the season.

Junior pitcher Kodiak Quick (7-1) was impressive in his sixth start of the season as he pitched seven strong innings against the Leathernecks on Sunday to earn his Big 12-leading seventh victory of the season. Senior pitcher Mike Zagurski (4-2) tallied his fourth victory of the season in Friday’s contest. Zagurski fanned only two batters in the contest, but still leads the Big 12 with 55 strikeouts this season.

The Jayhawks’ bullpen was also impressive against the Leathernecks as KU relievers allowed only one earned run in 10.1 innings pitched during the series.

Freshman third baseman Erik Morrison provided the biggest offensive performance by a Jayhawk this season in Friday’s 13-7 win over Western Illinois. The Arroyo Grande, Calif., native was 3-for-5 at the plate and connected on the first two home runs of his collegiate career en route to driving in seven runs, the most by a Jayhawk this season.

Nebraska enters the weekend with a 19-2 record this season and is currently riding an 11 game winning streak. Last season, the `Huskers were able to take two of three games from the Jayhawks in Lincoln, Neb.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (19-2; 0-0 Big 12) at Kansas Jayhawks (20-8; 0-0 Big 12)

Hoglund Ballpark (March 25-27)

GAME NOTES

Site: Hoglund Ballpark (2,500) — Lawrence, Kan.

Game Time (CST): Friday (March 25) 3:00 p.m.; Saturday (March 26) 1 p.m.; Sunday (March 27) 1 p.m.

Rankings: Kansas is receiving votes in the Sports Weekly/ESPN Coaches Top 25 this week. Nebraska is ranked in all four major polls — 9th (Collegiate Baseball), 16th (Sports Weekly/ESPN Coaches), 19th (NCBWA) and 20th (Baseball America).

Coaches: Kansas head coach Ritch Price is 86-67-1 in his third year at KU and 303-295-1 in his 11th overall year of coaching at the Division 1 level. Nebraska’s Mike Anderson enters the game with a 102-43 career record in three seasons at Nebraska.

Series Information: Nebraska leads 131-88-1

Media Coverage

Audio: KLWN (1320 AM)

Gametracker: www.kuathletics.com

A Closer Look at Nebraska

The Cornhuskers defeated Western Illinois, 6-3, on Wednesday to earn their 11th consecutive win, all of which have come at Hawks Field in Lincoln, Neb. The last time Nebraska dropped a contest was at the Round Rock Tournament, where it fell to Texas State and USC in its final two games at the tournament.

Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Alex Gordon highlights the `Husker offense which is batting .337 as a team and averaging 8.4 runs a game. Grodon, a junior third baseman, is leading the team in batting average (.427), runs (30) and stolen bases (11). Senior outfielder Brandon Fusilier leads Nebraska with eight home runs and 30 RBI this season. Junior first baseman/designated hitter Brandon Buckman has also been also impressive in his first season in Lincoln, hitting .400 with two home runs and 16 RBI.

On the hill, sophomore Joba Chamberlain leads the NU pitching staff with a 4-0 record and a 0.83 ERA in five starts this season. Chamberlain has pitched 32.2 innings this season and has collected 49 strikeouts while only walking six batters. Junior Brian Duensing, who will also start this weekend against the Jayhawks, is 3-0 this season with a 1.61 ERA.

Kansas Head Coach Ritch Price on the Upcoming Series

“Our entire team is excited about the opportunity to begin the Big 12 conference season. If you look in the USA Today Top 25, our league has six teams in the top 20, so you can see that this is a phenomenal conference with great environments to play in.”

Kansas Baseball Notes

Jayhawks Rematch with SMS Postponed Due to Rain

The Jayhawks will have to wait until May 11 to avenge an early season loss to SMS as the game between the two schools scheduled for March 23 was postponed due to heavy rainfall in the Springfield, Mo., area.

The game was rescheduled for May 11 at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m.

Freshmen Come Alive at the Plate

There are many things expected of the Jayhawks’ freshman class this season and in the weeks leading up to Big 12 play, four in the group showed why by posting breakout performances.

Rookie third baseman Erik Morrison provided the biggest offensive performance by a Jayhawk this season in March 18’s 13-7 win over Western Illinois. The Arroyo Grande, Calif., native was 3-for-5 at the plate and connected on the first two home runs of his collegiate career en route to driving in seven runs, the most by a Jayhawk this season.

During the North Dakota State series, the Bison could not keep second baseman Ryne Price off the bases as the freshman reeled off an impressive .818 batting average during the series. Price also slammed his second home run of the season and tied for the team-lead in the series with five RBI.

In addition to Price’s performance during the series, fellow freshmen Brock Simpson and John Allman also posted a strong series. Simpson entered the game in the fifth inning of the March 13th contest and responded with a 3-for-3 performance, which included the first home run of his collegiate career. Simpson just missed becoming the first KU player since 1993 to hit for the cycle, needing only a single to accomplish the feat. Allman filled in for Matt Baty at the top of the KU batting order for the NDSU series and the Baker game. The St. Louis, Mo., native was more than adequate, setting the table at the top of the line-up, batting .385 during the four games.

Price Passes Coaching Milestones

Head coach Ritch Price collected his 300th career win at the Division I level on March 16 as Kansas pounded Baker 16-6 at Hoglund Ballpark.

The win gave Price a 300-293-1 record in 11 seasons at the Division I level, which includes stints at Kansas and Cal Poly. In KU’s 17-2 victory over North Dakota State on March13, Price also passed a milestone as he earned his 700th career coaching victory at all levels. The win over Baker gave Price a 701-516-1 record in 27 years at the Division I, junior college and high school levels.

“I’m really excited to get to 300 wins at the Division I level and to earn my 700th career win on Sunday,” said Price. “I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with some great young men. My biggest goal is to become the winningest coach in Kansas baseball history. Floyd Temple has 437 career wins, so I have a ways to go.”

Van Slyke Selected Big 12 Player of the Week

The University of Kansas baseball team had its second player of the season selected as Big 12 Player of the Week on March 1 when junior outfielder A.J. Van Slyke received the honor.

The Ladue, Mo., native collected five hits during KU’s series with Northern Colorado, including two dramatic home runs to pick up the weekly honor from the conference.

Van Slyke Delivers in the Clutch

Junior outfielder A.J. Van Slyke turned in an impressive performance in the Jayhawks’ series win over Northern Colorado. The Ladue, Mo., native collected five hits in the series, including two dramatic home runs.

In the series opener, Van Slyke went 2-for-3 at the plate, but collected the game’s biggest hit as he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and connected on his first home run of the season. The grand slam was the first by a Kansas player since Sean Richardson connected on a bases-loaded round-tripper against Texas on May 8 of last season.

Van Slyke saved his most dramatic hit of the weekend for the series finale. After KU fell in the day cap of a twin bill, the Jayhawks needed a win in the night cap to avoid dropping its first home series of the season. With KU trailing 8-5 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, Van Slyke began the Kansas rally by doubling down the right field line to junior Ritchie Price and cut the UNC lead to 8-6. After a wild pitch scored a second Kansas run, it was Van Slyke who forced extra innings by scoring the game-tying run on a shallow sacrifice fly off the bat of junior outfielder Gus Milner.

After neither team was able to score in the 10th inning and the Bears went scoreless in the top of the 11th, Van Slyke came to the plate with one out in the home half of the frame and connected on a pitch from UNC reliever Tyler Pearson, driving it over the wall in right centerfield for the first walk-off home run of the Ritch Price era of KU baseball.

Zagurski Dominates the Mound

Senior left-handed pitcher Mike Zagurksi got off to an impressive start in the 2005 season by setting a new career-high strikeouts on Feb. 26 against Northern Colorado only a week after he set a personal best with 11 strikeouts on Feb. 18 against South Dakota State.

Against SDSU, the Omaha, Neb., native struck out 11 Jackrabbit batters while yielding only one earned run and two walks to earn his second win of the season. Zagurski’s previous career-high in strikeouts had been nine which he set against Arkansas-Little Rock on March 14, 2004.

Zagurski’s record stood for only eight days as he took the mound on Feb. 26 against UNC and was nearly unhittable on the mound. The senior mowed down the Bears and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before yielding his only hit of the ball game, a bloop single to left field. In his seven innings of work, Zagurski recorded a new career-high 13 strikeouts to increase his total to 36 in his first four starts of the season.

Jayhawks Break Out the Brooms Against SDSU

Kansas earned its second series sweep of the season by taking all four games from South Dakota State in the team’s home-opening series at Hoglund Ballpark.

The four wins pushed KU’s overall record to 10-3, making them the first team in the Big 12 to reach the 10-win mark during the 2005 season.

During the series, Kansas outscored the Jackrabbits, 50-10, and collected a .345 team batting average and 1.50 team ERA during the series.

Senior pitcher Mike Zagurski fanned a career-high 11 strikeouts in the series finale, while junior Kodiak Quick picked up the win in the series opener to improve to 3-0 this season.

Baty Honored by the Big 12

After posting a strong performance in the Jayhawks’ season-opening road trip, University of Kansas junior outfielder Matt Baty was honored on Tuesday by being named the first Big 12 Player of the Week for the 2005 season.

The Wichita, Kan., native emerged as one of the Jayhawks’ leading hitters to begin the season, posting a .400 batting average and a team-high 10 RBI in the team’s first eight games.

Last season, Baty became the first Jayhawk to ever be named first team All-Big 12 after compiling a .344 batting average with two home runs and 30 RBI while leading the team with 62 runs scored and 26 stolen bases.

Jayhawks Sweep Season-Opening Series

The Jayhawks traveled to Hawaii-Hilo to kick-off the 2005 season with high expectations and did not leave the Aloha State disappointed, taking all six games of the series with the Vulcans.

Kansas’ 6-0 start was the best since 2002 when the team started the season 10-0. The six wins also gave KU its first series sweep since taking all three games from Kansas State in the final series of the 2004 season

Returning Firepower

A year ago, the Jayhawks led the Big 12 with a .316 team batting average and set a school record with 74 long balls. The 2005 Jayhawks will not be short of offensive firepower. Despite the loss of seniors Ryan Baty and Matt Tribble as well as junior Travis Metcalf, KU returns 62% of its offense from a year ago, including seven players who hit over .300 in 2004.

Highlighting the returners are the reigning team MVP — senior catcher Sean Richardson, the team’s first-ever first team All-Big 12 selection — junior outfielder Matt Baty, and one of the Big 12’s top shortstops — junior Ritchie Price. Richardson, earned second team All-Big 12 honors in his first season in Lawrence a year ago by hitting .332 with 12 home runs and a team-high 69 RBI. Out of the leadoff spot, Baty was able to collect a .344 batting average and a .436 on base percentage. The junior from Wichita, Kan., also collected 21 extra-base hits while leading the team with 62 runs scored. Price returns for the ’05 season as a three-year starter for the ‘Hawks at shortstop. A season ago he posted a .954 fielding percentage in 281 chances at shortstop. At the plate Price was equally impressive, compiling a .339 average, including a .448 clip with runners in scoring position.

Junior outfielder A.J. Van Slyke returns after posting a .360 average in 2004, which includes a .400 mark during Big 12 games. Over the summer Van Slyke was selected as a Summer All-American by Baseball America after he was named the Central Illinois Collegiate Baseball League Player of the Year. Senior Andy Scholl moves in from the outfield to play first base after batting .301 and collecting seven home runs and 47 RBI last season. Infielders Jared Schweitzer and Travis Dunlap each posted above .300 batting averages a season ago and combined for 10 home runs and 31 RBI.

New-Look Pitching Staff

Head coach Ritch Price and KU pitching coach Steve Abney enter the season with a new-look pitching staff and something the coaching staff lacked a year ago — confidence in the team’s starting rotation.

The Jayhawks enter 2005 with four legitimate starters, who the coaching staff feel give the team a chance to win on any given day. Seniors Mike Zagurski and Clint Schambach, join junior Kodiak Quick and sophomore Sean Land to give Price the best depth in his starting rotation since coming to Kansas prior to the 2003 season.

Zagurski is a steady performer who tallied a 4-4 record with a 4.81 ERA and 70 strikeouts a season ago on his way to honorable mention Big 12 accolades. Schambach showed improvement in the fall after making 10 starts and posting a 4-3 mark in 2004. Land, who Abney feels has the best stuff on the staff, collected a 4-2 record and 5.76 ERA in 25 appearances as a freshman last year. Quick joins KU this season after pitching the last two seasons at Stanford. During his Cardinal career, Quick posted a 3-0 record with four saves and 54 strikeouts in 63.1 innings pitched.