Jayhawks Host No. 20 Texas A&M This Weekend

March 27, 2008

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Kansas plays host to its first Big 12 series at home this season as No. 20 Texas A&M visits Hoglund Ballpark this weekend. KU will face the Aggies on Friday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Live audio and video will be available for all three games from Hoglund Ballpark. Veteran play-by-play man Tom Hedrick will call the action, while former Jayhawk Lee Ice will serve as the color commentator. Fans can access both features at www.kuathletics.com.

The Series vs. Texas A&M

Texas A&M leads the all-time series with KU, 36-14, including 9-6 at Hoglund Ballpark. The Aggies took two of three from the Jayhawks last season in College Station. The final two games of the series went down to the wire, with KU claiming a 17-13 triumph in 11 innings on March 17, while the Aggies took the series with a 10-9 win March 18. KU swept a three-game series from Texas A&M in Lawrence in 2006.

Scouting the Aggies

Texas A&M enters the weekend series in Lawrence at 18-6 overall, after dropping two of three games at Oklahoma State. The Aggies defeated UT-San Antonio, 5-4 on Tuesday.

Senior third baseman Dane Carter leads the Big 12 with a .457 batting average. Carter has five triples, five homers and a .772 slugging percentage. The senior infielder is one of four Aggies’ regulars hitting above .300. Junior Jose Duran (.392), junior Brian Ruggiano (.329) and junior Luke Anders (.328) are TAMU’s top four hitters.

Texas A&M will start a pair of freshmen this weekend. Left-handed pitcher Brooks Raley is 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA and 27 strikeouts, while Saturday’s starter, righty Barret Loux, is 1-1 with a 3.76 ERA. Closer Travis Starling leads Texas A&M’s bullpen with an 0.63 ERA, five saves and 20 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.

Head coach Rob Childress is in his fourth season at Texas A&M and has a record of 91-55-1. Childress led the Aggies to a 48-19 overall record last seaon and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Last Time Out

Freshman T.J. Walz pitched 5 1/3 innings of one-hit relief, while three different Jayhawks collected two hits as the Kansas baseball team posted a 7-2 triumph over Benedictine College at Hoglund Ballpark Wednesday.

Noting the Jayhawks

– Kansas will be looking for its eighth consecutive home victory on Friday against No. 20 Texas A&M. The Jayhawks are 15-2 in their last 17 games at Hoglund Ballpark, dating back to last season.

– The Jayhawks have proven they know how to come from behind. KU trailed in all four of its wins in Florida, including five-run deficits in games against Dartmouth and Northwestern. In Wednesday’s game against Benedictine, KU trailed 2-0 early, but scored seven unanswered runs for a win.

– KU’s win over Northwestern was the team’s fourth one-run victory this season. Last year the Jayhawks were 3-11 in one-run games.

– While KU’s starting pitching has struggled recently, its bullpen has picked up the slack. During the trip to Bradenton, Fla., the bullpen recorded four saves and had 16 strikeouts during the seventh, eighth and ninth innings during the trip. KU is 13-0 this season when they have a lead or are tied after seven innings of play.

– The Jayhawks’ pitching struggled in its week in Brandenton, Fla., but rebounded at home. During KU’s three mid-week games, the Jayhawks allowed six earned runs, including a shutout against Chicago State Wednesday.

– KU pitchers picked off four base runners in the three midweek games, including two by lefty Sam Freeman.

– Junior catcher Buck Afenir collected a career-high five RBIs on March 23 against Northwestern. Afenir was one of the most productive hitters on the trip to Florida, batting .353 with two homers, a double and 10 RBIs.

– Senior John Allman has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games. During that stretch, the Kansas left fielder is batting .421 with four doubles and 11 RBIs.

– Senior Matt Berner went 1-for-4 with two runs scored against Chicago State Wednesday. Berner has three hits in his last five games.

– Senior Justin Ellrich tripled in the eighth inning Wednesday against Benedictine. It was the senior’s first career triple. Ellrich became the ninth different Jayhawk to collect a three-base hit this season.

– Junior Nick Faunce collected two hits in Wednesday’s triumph over Benedictine. It was the KU center fielder’s sixth multiple hit game of the season, and first since March 9 against North Dakota State.

– Freshman Brian Heere collected his third hit of the season in Wednesday’s game against Chicago State.

– Freshman Greg Herbst was a defensive replacement March 21 against Ohio State. The 6-foot-5 freshman is still perfect at the plate this year, collecting a hit in his only at-bat.

– Junior Preston Land had three doubles in KU’s two games Wednesday. Land leads the team with 15 extra base hits.

– Senior Casey Larson has been one of KU’s better clutch players this season. Larson is batting .308 with men on base and .313 with two outs.

– Freshman Casey Lytle doubled in his first KU at-bat against North Dakota State on March 9.

– Senior Erik Morrison broke out of an 0-for-10 slump with an RBI single Wednesday evening against Benedictine. Morrison has hit .358 with men on base this season.

– Sophomore Robby Price had two more sacrifices in Wednesday’s games. Price has set the school record with 18 sacrifice hits this season, and is just three away from the career record (35) at KU.

– Senior Ryne Price had two more RBIs in the Chicago State series. Price is about to complete the most productive month of his collegiate career, as he hit .368 with six homers and 32 RBIs. Price’s 32 RBIs in the month of March are more than he had in all of 2007.

– Senior Joe Southers went 2-for-5 with two runs scored against Illinois on March 19. It marked Southers’ fourth multiple-hit game of the season.

– Freshman Tony Thompson had his third multiple-hit game of the season Wednesday. Thompson is batting .261 at home this season.

– Freshman Zach Thoma collected his second hit of the season on March 21 against Ohio State. He is 2-for-3 in four games this season.

– Sophomore Brett Bollman did some heavy lifting, making four appearances in six games during the week in Bradenton, Fla. The 5-foot-9 sophomore pitched two scoreless innings for the win against Northwestern on Sunday and picked up his first collegiate save on March 20 against Dartmouth.

– Freshman Brett Bochy retired the final two batters Wednesday against Benedictine. It marked the righty’s seventh straight appearance with at least one strikeout.

– Junior Nick Czyz struck out a career high 11 Bison in his March 9 start against North Dakota State. Czyz has pitched better in the friendly confines of Hoglund Ballpark in his career, posting a 3.86 ERA at home, compared to a 6.22 ERA away from Hoglund.

– Senior Andres Esquibel recorded KU’s longest start in two years when he tossed eight innings against Dartmouth on March 20. Esquibel’s start was the longest since Kodiak Quick logged eight innings of work against Vanderbilt on Feb. 26, 2006.

– Junior Sam Freeman pitched Tuesday against Chicago State, and posted his team-leading fourth victory of the season. The 6-foot lefty scattered six hits over 6.0 innings and allowed just one run to improve to 4-0. It was his first win at home this year.

– Senior Hiarali Garcia surrendered two runs in his first inning of work Wednesday against Benedictine, but settled down after that. Garcia seems to pitch better under pressure. He allows opponents a .242 batting average with men on base and a .222 average with two outs.

– Sophomore Shaeffer Hall leads the Big 12 with six games started this season. Hall threw five scoreless innings Wednesday to earn his second victory of the season. Of Hall’s six starts, he has allowed two runs or less in five of them.

– Senior Matt Lane pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief on March 20 against CCSU for his first victory as a Jayhawk. Lane had made 27 appearances without a decision prior to the win over the Blue Devils.

– Sophomore lefty Wally Marciel is slated to start Friday against No. 20 Texas A&M. The 6-foot southpaw is also a better pitcher at home, posting a 4-2 record with a 2.33 ERA and 31 strikeouts in seven starts at Hoglund Ballpark.

– Junior Paul Smyth earned three saves in four appearances during the week in Bradenton, Fla. The third-year reliever was especially efficient in his outing March 23 against Northwestern, needing just 10 pitches to retire six Wildcat hitters and earn his fifth save of the season.

– Freshman T.J. Walz was dominant out of the bullpen Wednesday against Benedictine. The 6-foot freshman allowed just one hit, retiring 16 of the 17 Ravens hitters he faced.

– The Jayhawks claimed victory No. 18 on Wednesday, winning 7-2 over Benedictine, in just 27 games this season. Last year, the team did not win its 18th game until the 37th game of the season. With nearly half of the regular season gone by, KU is on pace 41 wins this year.

Ramblin’ Man

Senior John Allmanhas been KU’s most consistent hitter this season, but has really turned things on in the month of March. The 6-foot-1 left fielder is batting .433 in the month with eight doubles, two homers, 22 RBIs and a .533 on-base percentage.

Allman’s resurgence should come as no surprise, being that the Jayhawks did not play at home during the month of February. In his career, Allman is a .431 career hitter at Hoglund Ballpark. This bodes well for the Kansas left fielder to finish strong as 20 of the team’s 33 remaining games are at home.

The Price is Right

Senior Ryne Price’s success at the plate has coincided with the team’s recovery from a slow start. During the month of March, Price has hit .368 with six homers and 32 RBIs and has a team-best .684 slugging percentage. His 34 RBIs rank him 13th among NCAA Division I athletes, heading into the weekend series with No. 20 Texas A&M.

As the senior right fielder goes, so has the team. In Price’s monster March, the Jayhawks have gone 16-4. Price is batting .338 with 30 RBIs in Kansas’ 18 wins, compared to .258 with four RBIs in KU’s nine losses.

Saving the Day

Kansas’ bullpen, namely the work of righties Paul Smyth, Brett Bollman and Andres Esquibel, has been a big reason for the team’s success this season. All three have been brought into tough spots and continue to get the job done.

Smyth, the 5-foot-11 junior, ranks second in the Big 12, and eighth in the country, with six saves this season. He has gone 18 2/3 innings this year without walking anybody.

Bollman, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, has excelled in the role of setting up for Smyth. He has two wins and a save to his credit and seven of his 10 appearances have been scoreless outings. While not an official stat, Bollman also has a pair of holds this season – games where he’s entered in a save situation and held onto the lead.

Esquibel, a 6-foot-1 senior, has been “Mr. Everything” for head coach Ritch Price. The senior righty has been a set up man, a long reliever and most recently a starter. He has allowed just a .193 batting average and just eight extra base hits in 120 batters faced. Esquibel will likely pitch at some point this weekend and may get the start next Tuesday when the Jayhawks take on No. 11 Wichita State at Hoglund Ballpark.

Record Breaker

Senior Ryne Price became KU’s career home run leader on March 21, belting a two-run homer against UMBC to break a tie and lift the Jayhawks to a 4-1 win. Price’s 30th homer passes former Jayhawk – and current Texas Ranger – Travis Metcalf, who had 29 round-trippers from 2002-04.

Hitting a clutch home run is nothing new for Price. During his KU career, 10 of his 30 home runs have either tied the game or given KU the lead.

Up Next

The Jayhawks will play host to No. 11 Wichita State and non-conference foe St. Mary’s next week at Hoglund Ballpark. KU will meet the Shockers at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the first of two games between the in-state rivals (the teams will also meet on April 22 in Wichita). Tuesday’s game will be broadcast on KLWN (1320-AM) with Brian Hanni and Tom Hedrick on the call.

KU will meet St. Mary’s College on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Admission to the non-conference contest is free of charge.

Season Tickets on Sale
Kansas baseball season tickets are on sale now. Fans can order tickets by calling the Jayhawk ticket office at 800-34-HAWKS or by logging on to kuathletics.com.