Kansas Baseball Takes On 17th-Ranked Cowboys

April 9, 2009

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Kansas vs. Oklahoma State

Following a pair of non-conference wins during the week, the Kansas baseball team will play host to No. 17 Oklahoma State in a three-game Big 12 series this weekend. The Jayhawks will face OSU Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Friday and Sunday’s games will be broadcast on KLWN (1320 AM) in Lawrence with Brian Hanni and Tom Hedrick calling the action.

Friday’s game will also be televised on tape-delay by student television station KUJH-TV. The game can be seen on Sunflower Broadband Channel 31 at 10 p.m., Friday evening as well as 10 a.m., Saturday morning.

Series History

Kansas and Oklahoma State have met 177 times on the baseball field, in a series that dates back to 1921. The series has been fairly one-sided with Oklahoma State winning 128 of the 177 meetings, including four in a row dating back to 2007. KU’s last series win came in 2005, when the Jayhawks took two of three from the Cowboys in Lawrence.

About the Jayhawks

Kansas is coming off a two-game midweek sweep of Iowa in Iowa City. The Jayhawks collected 31 hits in the two-game series, including a season-high 17 in Tuesday’s game.

The Jayhawks’ offense is led by Tony Thompson’s .388 batting average. Thompson also leads the team with nine homers, 38 RBIs and a .711 slugging percentage.

On the mound, KU is paced by Shaeffer Hall’s 2.82 ERA, while Brett Bollman’s 4-0 record is tops on the club. Opponents are batting .247 against KU this season, while the team has an ERA of 3.87, which ranks third in the Big 12.

Scouting the Cowboys

Oklahoma State comes to Lawrence looking to get back on track. The Cowboys have dropped four of their last six, including a 4-3 decision at Missouri State on Wednesday evening. OSU is 4-4 on the road this season.

Junior outfielder Neil Medchill is the Cowboys’ top hitter, batting at .375 with 10 homers, 40 RBIs and a .703 slugging percentage. Junior catcher Kevin David leads the team with 11 doubles and has a .324 batting average. As a team, OSU is averaging 8.3 runs per game and has a .313 batting average.

On the mound, junior Tyler Blandford will put his perfect 6-0 record on the line in Sunday’s game. Blandford has a 3.42 ERA, allowing just 25 hits in 47 1/3 innings. He has walked 25 and struck out 58. Freshman Randy McCurry has been OSU’s ace out of the bullpen, posting six saves and a 1.89 ERA in 14 appearances. As a team, OSU has a 4.71 ERA and has allowed a .261 batting average.

The Cowboys return 17 letterwinners, including four position starters, from last year’s team which finished 44-17 and hosted an NCAA Regional. OSU placed second in the Big 12 last season.

Last Time Out

Freshman Zac Elgie went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs, while Tony Thompson hit his team-leading ninth homer of the season as the Kansas baseball team completed a two-game sweep of Iowa, 9-3 Wednesday at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City, Iowa.

Can You Heere Now?

Kansas outfielder Brian Heere continues to produce at his torrid pace. The KU sophomore came within one hit of the school record Tuesday at Iowa, going 5-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. For the series with the Hawkeyes, Heere went 7-for-8, raising his season average to .371.

Since March 13, Heere is batting .438 (28-for-64), with five doubles and a triple. He has hit safely in 17 of 19 games during that span, reaching base at a .537 clip with 18 runs scored.

Heere seems most comfortable hitting deep in the count. Over the team’s past 10 games, the Kansas outfielder has eight hits when he has two strikes on him, including three base hits when he is behind 0-2.

Wonder Walz

Sophomore T.J. Walz was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week on Monday, after tossing a complete game shutout against No. 7 Baylor on Saturday. Walz becomes the second Kansas pitcher to throw a complete game shutout this season, joining junior Shaeffer Hall – who tossed a no-hitter in the season opener.

Walz allowed no runs on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts in nine innings. Walz’ shutout was also just the fifth by a Big 12 pitcher this season, and second against a conference opponent.

Walz has seven wins in his Kansas career, with three of them coming against Top 10 opponents (2008 vs. then-No. 9 Nebraska, 2009 vs. No. 4 Arizona State and 2009 vs. No. 7 Baylor).

Zac Attack

Kansas freshman Zac Elgie is also swinging a hot bat for the Jayhawks. Elgie had back-to-back three-hit games during the Iowa series, driving in five runs, including the winning run in Tuesday’s game.

While he came to Kansas as a power hitter, Elgie has shown a knack for doing the little things at the plate. In 15 games this season, Elgie has 13 RBIs and has successfully advanced runners at a 63 percent rate.

In recent weeks, he has shown the ability to handle off-speed pitches as well as the fastball.

Back on Track

After being shut out by Texas A&M on March 27, the Kansas offense has rebounded in a big way. Over the team’s last nine games, the Jayhawks are averaging 7.7 runs per game and 12.2 hits. As a team, the Jayhawks are batting .337 during the recent stretch.

Brian Heere’s .538 batting average over the nine-game span leads the team, while fellow sophomore Tony Thompson is hitting .436 with four doubles, three homers and 16 RBIs.

Around the Horn

– The Jayhawks take on No. 17 Oklahoma State this weekend. The teams are tied for seventh in the Big 12 with identical 4-5 conference records. The top eight teams in the league qualify for the Big 12 Championship at the end of the season.

– The Jayhawks have been exceptional in home games this season, posting a 15-2 mark. Over the past two seasons, KU is 33-9 at Hoglund Ballpark.

– KU has been pretty good against ranked opponents this season. The Jayhawks have gone 6-8 against the Top 25, including a three-game sweep of then-No. 1 Texas March 20-22.

– The Jayhawks collected 17 singles and no extra base hits in their win at Iowa on Tuesday. It marked the most hits KU has had in a game without an extra base hit since a 2004 win at Hawaii-Hilo.

– Kansas rallied from three runs down in the eighth and two behind in the ninth March 31 against Northern Colorado. The Jayhawks have come back from multiple run deficits in the last three innings of a game six times this season.

– Kansas collected five doubles in the April 1 win over Northern Colorado, marking the third time this season that that Jayhawks have had at least five two-base hits.

– Kansas swept then-No. 1 Texas March 20-22, which was the Jayhawks’ first-ever sweep of the Longhorns and first sweep of a No. 1 ranked team. The win over UT on March 20 was KU’s first over a top-ranked team since 1993.

– 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 struggled in the designated hitter role again Tuesday, going 1-for-5 against Iowa. Afenir is batting .398 in games he starts behind the plate, and .143 in the three games he’s started at DH.

– Sophomore transfer Joe Lincoln went 1-for-3 in the Jayhawks’ win at Iowa on Tuesday. Lincoln has at least one hit in six of his 11 starts this year.

– Catcher Chris Manship collected his first collegiate hit as a pinch hitter in Sunday’s loss to Baylor. Manship is the 16th Jayhawk to collect a base hit this season.

– Senior first baseman Preston Land had a forgettable series against No. 7 Baylor, but continues to swing a good bat against Big 12 opponents this season. Land is batting .290 in conference play with three doubles.

– Freshman Zac Elgie recorded back-to-back three-hit games this week at Iowa. The first-year player has hit safely in six of his last eight starts.

– Junior second baseman Robby Price got back on track against Iowa this week, going 4-for-7 in the series. Price became the eighth different player to triple with a three-base hit in Wednesday’s game.

– Freshman infielder James Stanfield has played well in place of injured shortstop David Narodowski. Stanfield is 5-for-14 (.357) in Narodowski’s absence from the lineup, and has made just one error defensively.

– Junior shortstop David Narodowski snapped his 12-game hitting streak Wednesday, going 0-for-3 at Iowa. Narodowski had missed the previous three games with an injury.

– Sophomore Tony Thompson has hit three home runs in the team’s last four games. Thompson’s nine home runs this season are the most by a KU sophomore since Erik Morrison hit 14 in 2006.

– Sophomore Greg Herbst went 2-for-4 in Wednesday’s game at Iowa, giving him multiple hit games in each of his past three starts.

– Senior Nick Faunce drove in another run Wednesday to give him 22 RBIs this season. In Faunce’s first three seasons at Kansas, he had just 21 RBIs.

– Freshman Jason Brunansky drew a walk and collected an RBI single in Wednesday’s game at Iowa. Despite a .239 batting average, Brunansky has reached base at a .357 clip.

– Sophomore Brian Heere went 7-for-8 in the Iowa series to raise his batting average by exactly 50 points. The only time the Hawkeyes retired Heere, he nearly beat out a ground ball to the first baseman.

– Sophomore Casey Lytle collected singles in his first three at-bats of the April 5 loss to Baylor. It was the sophomore’s second three-hit game of the season and seventh multi-hit game.

– Sophomore Jimmy Waters came off the bench in the March 31 game against Northern Colorado and singled in a run in the ninth inning. It was the sophomore’s second pinch hit of the season in seven tries.

– Junior transfer Brett Lisher went 1-for-2 in the April 1 game after entering as a defensive replacement in the fifth inning. Lisher is 4-for-11 in games at Hoglund Ballpark this year.

– Junior transfer Travis Blankenship pitched his 12th scoreless outing of the season in the April 3 game against Baylor. Blankenship is second in the conference with 17 appearances and has allowed a .208 batting average.

– Junior Brett Bollman took over the team lead in wins on Wednesday, allowing two earned runs over five innings at Iowa. The junior righty has allowed three runs or less in all four of his starts.

– Freshman Kelson Boyer was the only Jayhawk pitcher to appear in Sunday’s game that did not give up a run. The first-year righty struck out Dustin Dickerson to end Baylor’s half of the ninth.

– Junior Shaeffer Hall earned his second victory of the season March 20 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 .104 (5-for-48) against the lefty with two outs.

– Freshman Colton Murray earned a win out of the bullpen Tuesday at Iowa, pitching the final 2 2/3 innings. Murray also became the first Jayhawk pitcher to have a plate appearance since Kyle Klem in 2005, when he was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning Tuesday.

– Junior Thomas Marcin pitched out of trouble in the ninth inning April 1 against Northern Colorado. He has not been hit hard this year, with opponents batting just .222 against him.

– Freshman Lee Ridenhour pitched four scoreless innings Wednesday against Iowa to pick up his first collegiate save. Ridenhour, who will start Sunday’s game against Oklahoma State, allowed two hits and a walk over four innings to go along with three strikeouts.

– Junior Cameron Selik pitched well enough to win Tuesday, but again took a no-decision. Selik has not taken a decision since a win against Northwestern on March 7.

– Sophomore T.J. Walz pitched the second complete game shutout by a Jayhawk this season. Walz allowed three hits over nine innings to No. 7 Baylor on Saturday. This marks the first time since 2001 that the Jayhawks have recorded multiple complete game shutouts.

Jayhawks in National Numbers

The NCAA released its national collegiate baseball statistics prior to games Tuesday. Individually and as a team, the Jayhawks have put up some impressive numbers:

– Kansas ranks 28th nationally in ERA with a 3.96 average.

– The Jayhawks are also ninth nationally with just 2.53 walks per nine innings.

– Kansas is 46th in the country with 23 sacrifice bunts. Junior Robby Price is 21st individually with eight.

– The Jayhawks are 20th in the country with 18 sacrifice flies. Senior Buck Afenir is ranked 50th with four.

KU-Creighton Game to be Televised

CBS College Sports – a national cable network – announced that it will televise the Kansas-Creighton game on Tuesday, April 14 live from Rosenblatt Stadium. This marks the second KU baseball game that will be picked up by a national cable station.

It also marks the second time in as many seasons that a Kansas game was picked up by CBS College Sports (Channel 143 on Sunflower Broadband; Channel 235 in HD). Last season, KU upset then-No. 9 Nebraska on April 20 in a game shown on the cable network devoted to college athletics.

All Good Things Must End

Sophomore Tony Thompson went 0-for-3 in the March 17 game at San Diego State, snapping a streak of 23 consecutive games with at least one base hit. Thompson’s hitting streak was the second-longest in Kansas baseball history, ranking just one behind Jared Schweitzer, who hit safely in 24 consecutive games in 2005.

Two Jayhawks Up for National Awards

Two members of the Kansas baseball team, senior catcher Buck Afenir and senior outfielder Nick Faunce, are in the running for national awards.

Afenir has been named to the watch list for the Coleman Company’s Johnny Bench Award – which honors the top catcher in college baseball each year. Faunce is one of 30 national finalists for the Senior CLASS Award presented by Lowe’s, which honors the top senior student-athlete in college baseball.

Jayhawks Tour Kansas City Royals’ Camp

Prior to their 3-2 win March 14, members of the Kansas baseball team were given the opportunity to visit spring training camp with the Kansas City Royals. The Jayhawks are played a three-game series with Arizona State at Surprise Stadium March 13-15 – 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.

Hall Earns Several National Honors

Junior left-handed pitcher Shaeffer Hall was named Player of the Week and Pitcher of the Week by several publications on Feb. 24, after firing the fifth no-hitter in Kansas baseball history. Hall was honored by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, Louisville Slugger and College Baseball Insideras a Pitcher of the Week.

This marked the first time a Kansas baseball player has been honored as a national player of the week since Gus Milner earned the honor by College Baseball Insider on Feb. 15, 2006.

Hall Honored by Big 12

Junior left-handed pitcher Shaeffer Hall was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week by the conference office on Feb. 23 after tossing the fifth no-hitter in team history.

Hall, a junior from Lee’s Summit, Mo., became just the second Kansas pitcher to earn the distinction from the Big 12, joining Don Czyz, who earned the honor twice in his career.

KU to Face K-State on FSN

The May 17 showdown between Kansas and in-state rival Kansas State will be one of six Big 12 games televised nationally by Fox Sports Net.

The television appearance marks the third straight year that a national television audience will be welcomed to Hoglund Ballpark, and the fourth time in five years. In 2005, ESPNU broadcast games between Texas and Kansas, while FSN has made appearances in Lawrence during both the 2007 (vs. Kansas State) and 2008 (vs. Texas Tech) seasons.

Afenir Named Preseason All-Big 12

Senior catcher Buck Afenir has been named pre-season All-Big 12 Second Team by the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. Afenir, a senior from Escondido, Calif., hit .253 last season with nine homers with a career-high 42 RBIs and a .482 slugging percentage. The team was selected by the staff of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. It marks the first time a Jayhawk has been selected to a pre-season all-conference team since Preston Land earned the honor in 2007.

Take Me To Your Leaders

Prior to KU’s first game of the season, the Jayhawks named their team captains for the 2009 season. Seniors Buck Afenir, Nick Faunce and Paul Smyth as well as junior Robby Price will serve as the team captains this year. All four student-athletes are serving as captains for the first time in their collegiate careers.

Up Next

Kansas will travel to Omaha, Neb. to play a non-conference game against Creighton at historic Rosenblatt Stadium on Tuesday, April 14 at 6:30 p.m. The game will air on KLWN radio (AM 1320) with Tom Hedrick on the call. The game will also be televised by CBS College Sports (Channel 143 on Sunflower Broadband).