Kansas Baseball Hits the Road to Take On No. 13 Texas A&M

March 26, 2009

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Kansas vs. Texas A&M

Winners of five straight, the Kansas baseball team will travel to College Station, Texas for its second Big 12 series of the season. The Jayhawks will take on No. 13 Texas A&M in a three-game set, beginning Friday at 6:35 p.m. Saturday’s game will start at 2:05 p.m., while Sunday’s finale is scheduled for a 12:05 p.m. first pitch.

Live audio will be available for all three games via webcast on kuathletics.com. Veteran play-by-play man Tom Hedrick will call the action.

Series History

Texas A&M leads the all-time series with Kansas, 39-14, which dates back to 1906. The Aggies also hold a 22-5 record in games played in College Station, which includes taking 2-of-3 from Kansas at Olsen Field in 2007.

About the Jayhawks

Kansas is receiving votes in the latest USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll as well as the National College Baseball Writer’s Association (NCBWA) poll. This marks the first time since early in the 2007 season that the team has been recognized in any of the major national polls. KU has won five-straight and 12 in a row at home.

Senior catcher Buck Afenir leads the team with a .393 batting average, while third baseman Tony Thompson has eight doubles, six homers and 22 RBIs. Freshman Lee Ridenhour has a 3-1 record with a 1.82 ERA to lead the starting pitchers.

As a team, KU is batting .289, while the pitching staff has a 3.20 ERA

Scouting the Aggies

Texas A&M has won two in a row to right the ship after dropping five straight last week, which dropped the Aggies out of the Top 10. TAMU opened the season at 10-2, but is just 5-7 in its last 12 games. The Aggies are second in the Big 12 with 40 stolen bases, and have 10 triples on the season. As a team, TAMU is batting .281, while the pitching staff sports an ERA of 4.25.

Sophomore Brooks Raley – who will start Friday’s game on the mound – leads the team with a .395 batting average with 11 doubles and 15 stolen bases. Senior first baseman Luke Anders has a team-high 21 RBIs and is one of six Aggies with three home runs.

Raley is one of the top pitchers in the Big 12, boasting a 4-0 record with a 2.18 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched. Junior righty Travis Starling leads the Aggie bullpen with a 2.84 ERA and three saves in seven appearances.

Texas A&M returns four starting position players and 14 letterwinners overall from last year’s squad which went 46-19, won the Big 12 regular season championship and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals.

Last Time Out

Sophomore Tony Thompson went 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs, while Jimmy Waters and Nick Faunce also added a pair of hits as the Kansas baseball team earned its 12th consecutive win at Hoglund Ballpark Wednesday, 7-4 over Western Illinois.

Tony, Tony, Tony

After a rough weekend against Texas, sophomore Tony Thompson got back on track Wednesday against Western Illinois. The sophomore third baseman recorded his fourth three-hit game of the season, and his first career multi-home run game.

Thompson, who snapped a 23-game hitting streak on March 17 at San Diego State, has been KU’s most consistent hitter this season. He is averaging 1.5 hits per game (30 hits in 20 games played), and has surpassed his totals from a year ago in doubles (eight), home runs (six) and RBIs (22).

His .709 slugging percentage ranks fifth in the Big 12, while he is tied for fith in doubles and tied for seventh in home runs.

Starting Something

One of the biggest differences between last year’s Jayhawks and this season’s squad has been the starting pitching. In the first 22 games, KU’s starters have a combined ERA of 2.67, compared to a 6.21 ERA by its starters last season.

Even more remarkable is the fact that KU has seven quality starts (6.0+ innings pitched allowing three runs or less) through the first 22 games of the season after just 10 quality starts in 2008.

Freshman pitcher Lee Ridenhour leads the way with three quality starts, while sophomore T.J. Walz has two.

Giant Killers

In the first 22 games of the season, Kansas has proven that it can compete with the best in college baseball. Following a three-game sweep of then-No. 1 Texas, the Jayhawks improved to 5-3 against nationally ranked opponents, including a 4-2 mark against teams ranked in the top five.

The Jayhawks won just four games against ranked opponents last season, and six in 2007.The Kansas record for most wins against ranked opponents was set in 2006, when the Jayhawks downed 14 teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at the time of the game.

According to Boyd’s World’s Pseudo RPI ratings (which uses a similar formula as the NCAA), Texas A&M and Kansas have identical ratings of .585, while the teams are ranked 31st and 32nd, respectively.

Quantum Lee-p

Freshman Lee Ridenhour has quickly become a dominating force on the mound for the Jayhawks this season. The first-year right-hander from Lenexa, Kan., seems to be getting better with each start.

Ridenhour did not receive a decision in his Sunday outing against then-No. 1 Texas, where he scattered eight hits over 6 2/3 innings and allowed two earned runs with no walks and four strikeouts. Over his last three appearances – all of which have been quality starts – Ridenhour has an ERA of 1.25 and has allowed four runs on 14 hits over 21 1/3 innings. He also has two walks and 17 strikeouts in that span.

Around the Horn

– The Jayhawks travel to No. 12 Texas A&M this weekend. This marks the third-straight weekend that KU will face a ranked team. The Jayhawks are 5-3 against the Top 25 this season.

– Kansas has taken a game from the Aggies in each of its last two trips to College Station, but has never won a three-game series at Olsen Field.

– The Jayhawks are coming off a three-game sweep of then-No. 1 Texas last weekend. The sweep of the Longhorns was the first by a KU baseball team, and the first by a Jayhawk team over a No. 1 ranked opponent.

– KU’s 3-0 start in Big 12 play is the best by a Jayhawk team since 1994, when the team started 3-0 as a member of the Big Eight Conference.

– KU has been impressive at home in Ritch Price’s tenure. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, the Jayhawks are 30-7 at Hoglund Ballpark, including 12-0 this season. The 12-game home winning streak is tied for the third-longest in program history.

– The Jayhawks have been involved in several close ballgames this season, including a recent stretch where the team played in five-straight one-run games. KU is 5-5 in games decided by a single run this season.

– 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 returns to the place he seems most comfortable hitting, on the road. The Jayhawk backstop is batting .481 in road and neutral site games this year.

– Sophomore transfer Joe Lincoln had a couple of hits in the mid-week series with Western Illinois. Lincoln had been sidelined with an injury since the March 10 game against Missouri Valley.

– Catcher Chris Manship made a pinch hitting appearance in his home state of Arizona in KU’s 9-4 loss to Arizona State on March 13.

– Senior first baseman Preston Land turned things around just in time for the start of conference play. Land, who was hitting .206 against non-conference opponents, went 5-for-12 in the Texas series with a double and a big RBI in Friday’s win.

– Freshman Zac Elgie collected his second multi-hit game of the season on Tuesday against Western Illinois. The first-year Jayhawk is batting .263 in home games this season.

– Junior second baseman Robby Price has done a terrific job of setting the table for the middle of the order. When Price leads off an inning, he has reached base at a .545 clip.

– Freshman infielder James Stanfield made his first start in a Kansas uniform on March 7 against Northwestern, going 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored.

– Junior shortstop David Narodowski has enjoyed the home cooking of Hoglund Ballpark as well. Narodowski is batting .476 at home with a .510 on-base percentage in KU’s home games.

– Sophomore Tony Thompson hit a pair of home runs in the game Wednesday against Western Illinois. It was the first multi-homer game by a Jayhawk since Erik Morrison hit two round-trippers against Baylor on April 6, 2008, and the fifth multi-homer game by a Jayhawk since the beginning 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 collected a pair of hits Wednesday against Western Illinois. The senior has been outstanding this season against left-handed pitching, batting at a .385 clip.

– Freshman Jason Brunansky recorded his third two-hit game of the season on Friday, March 13 against Texas. In KU’s six Friday contests this year, Brunansky has batted .583 with a .643 on-base percentage in those games.

– Sophomore Brian Heere has been on a terror over his last 10 games. Since the beginning of the Arizona State series, Heere is batting .400 with three doubles, six runs scored and a .488 on-base percentage.

– Sophomore Casey Lytle has been outstanding against left-handed pitching the season. The second-year outfielder is batting .500 (11-for-22) against southpaws this season.

– Sophomore Jimmy Waters had a big two-run hit in KU’s win Saturday against Texas. Waters has been a pretty good RBI man for the Jayhawks, batting .400 with men on base, compared to just .174 with the bases empty.

– Junior transfer Brett Lisher made his first start since March 10 on Tuesday and went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Lisher had been nursing an injury for the past two weeks.

– Junior transfer Travis Blankenship has made eight-straight relief appearances without allowing a run. The junior lefty has been dominating out of the ‘pen, allowing just eight baserunners in 11 1/3 innings during the month of March.

– Sophomore Brett Bochy made a brief appearance Wednesday against Western Illinois, fanning the only hitter he faced. Bochy now has at least one strikeout in 21 of his 25 career outings.

– Junior Brett Bollman’s second career start went even better than his first. The junior, who will likely fill the role of midweek starter, allowed just one earned run over five innings Wednesday to earn his second victory of the season.

– Freshman Kelson Boyer pitched a perfect inning of relief Tuesday against Western Illinois, recording a pair of strikeouts. Boyer has allowed just one run and has not walked anybody in 7 1/3 innings this season.

– Freshman Kevin Burk earned his first collegiate victory Tuesday against Western Illinois, pitching three scoreless innings of relief. Other than a hiccup against Arizona State, Burk has been solid.

– Junior Shaeffer Hall earned his second victory of the season Friday against Texas, and first since his no-hitter on opening day. Hall has done an excellent job this season of finishing innings. Teams are batting .083 (3-for-36) against the lefty with two outs.

– Junior Thomas Marcin made a scoreless relief appearance Tuesday against Western Illinois, recording a season-high two strikeouts.

– Freshman Colton Murray was solid out of the bullpen again for Ritch Price’s team. Murray pitched a scoreless inning of relief in Wednesday’s win over Western Illinois. After a rough road trip, Murray hasn’t allowed a base runner in his last three appearances.

– Freshman Lee Ridenhour continues to pound the strikezone. The first-year righty has allowed just four walks in his last five starts, after walking three in his college debut, Feb. 24.

– Senior Paul Smyth converted three save opportunites over the weekend against Texas, and was named to the College Baseball Foundation’s National All-Star Lineup for the second time in his career.

– Sophomore T.J. Walz has allowed just four extra base hits in 24 2/3 innings this season. The second-year righty has allowed 23 hits in his outings, but hasn’t been hurt by them, giving up just nine earned runs.

Up Next

Following the road trip to Texas A&M, KU will return to Hoglund Ballpark for a five-game homestand, beginning with a midweek series against Northern Colorado. The Jayhawks will take on the Bears on Tuesday, March 31 and Wednesday, April 1 at 3 p.m. both days.