Jayhawks Face Baylor in Big 12 Showdown

April 12, 2007

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The Kansas baseball team will play host to Baylor in a three-game series at Hoglund Ballpark beginning Friday at 4 p.m. Saturday’s contest is slated for a 1 p.m. start, while Sunday’s finale is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. The Jayhawks and Bears both enter the weekend series looking to make up ground in the Big 12 standings. <?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

Scouting the Bears

Baylor enters the weekend series at 19-16, having won three of its last five, including two wins from No. 23 Oklahoma last weekend. The Bears lost their mid-week contest against No. 28 TCU.

Sophomore shortstop Beamer Weems leads the team with a .328 batting average, 40 hits and a .549 slugging percentage. Freshman outfielder Aaron Miller paces the team with a .428 on-base percentage, nine doubles and 32 RBIs.

On the mound, Jeff Mandel has been Baylor’s Friday starter this season, posting a 4-5 record, a 4.32 ERA and a team-high 54 strikeouts in 58.1 innings. Junior Nick Cassavechia has been the Bears’ best out of the bullpen, with a 2.28 ERA, a 3-1 record and six saves in 17 appearances this year.

In his 13th season at Baylor, head coach Steve Smith has a record of 474-300-1. Smith’s team returns 18 letterwinners and five position starters from last year’s squad, which finished 37-26 and advanced to the NCAA Regional Tournament.

The Bears lead the all-time series with the Jayhawks, 31-4. However, three of KU’s victories have come at Hoglund Ballpark. KU took its first victory in the series at Waco last season, 6-5, on March 18.

Last Time Out

Kansas won the middle game of a three-game set with No. 6 Texas over the weekend. For the fourth straight conference series, KU had a shot to win the set on Sunday, but fell in heart-breaking fashion. Freshman Robby Price led the offense with a .462 batting average (6-for-13) in the series, while junior Casey Larson chipped in a pair of homers Saturday. KU’s game against Oral Roberts scheduled for Tuesday was rained out.

Get Your Radio On

The Baylor series will be broadcast on KLWN (1320-AM) in Lawrence. The game’s audio will also be available online through CSTV’s Jayhawks All-Access in conjunction with the Rock Chalk Video feed from the ballpark.

Veteran play-by-play man Tom Hedrick will call the action along with KLWN sports director Brian Hanni.

Casey at the Bat

Junior outfielder Casey Larson stole the show in Friday’s 14-6 triumph over No. 6 Texas. The left-handed hitting outfielder belted home runs in his first two at-bats to become the third different Jayhawk to homer twice in the same game this season.

Larson, who hit his first homer at KU last Wednesday, finished the week with three round-trippers and a .500 batting average (4-for-8) in four games. The Paso Robles, Calif. native is hitting .571 in conference games this season, with all of his offense coming against Big 12 leaders Texas and Oklahoma State.

Robby Rebounds

Freshman third baseman Robby Price bounced back admirably last week after going through some growing pains the previous few weeks.

After ending his 16-game hitting streak March 21 against Northern Colorado, Price collected just three hits in his next 24 at-bats, but turned things around in the final game of the Missouri series.

In the month of April, Price is hitting .435 (10-for-23) with six runs scored, five RBIs and a .536 on-base percentage. He also has three multi-hit games so far in April, including three hits Saturday.

The Buck Stops Here

Sophomore catcher Buck Afenir has also found his stroke as of late. Since the start of the Missouri series March 30, Afenir is batting .400 (10-for-25) with 10 RBIs, two homers, two doubles and a .720 slugging percentage.

Not wanting to take his bat out of the lineup on Sunday, head coach Ritch Price gave Afenir his first collegiate start as the designated hitter. The Escondido, Calif., native rewarded Price with a 3-for-4 effort.

Marksman

Sophomore Andy Marks struck out seven Longhorns on Saturday to move back into third place in the Big 12 with 60 strikeouts this season, and first in the conference with 11.02 strikeouts/9 IP.

The second-year lefty needs to average 6.67 strikeouts in his final six starts to become just the fifth Jayhawk to amass 100 k’s in a single-season. Marks fanned a season-high 10 Oklahoma State hitters on March 25.

Hit Me

Kansas players have shown a knack not only for getting hits, but also getting hit this season. So far, the Jayhawks have been hit by pitch 63 times in the team’s first 38 games, averaging 1.7 hit batsman/game. The team record for most times hit by pitch in a season is 91, set by the 2005 Kansas squad.

Juniors John Allman and Ryne Price are also challenging Ritchie Price’s school record of 18 times hit in a single-season. Allman and Price are tied for the team lead, having both been plunked 13 times this year.

Closing In

With KU’s triumph Friday over No. 6 Texas, head coach Ritch Price moved to within three victories of third place in all-time wins at the University of Kansas. Price is chasing former KU coach Bobby Randall, who had 166 career wins with the Jayhawks from 1996 to 2002. Floyd Temple holds the program record with 438 wins.

Around the Horn

– The Jayhawks have struggled in mid-week games this season. The team is just 5-5 against non-conference opponents on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this year.

– KU scored all five of its runs Saturday with two outs. For the season, the Jayhawks are batting .297 with two men out in the inning.

– The Jayhawks hit four home runs against Texas last weekend and are tied for third in the Big 12 with 14 round-trippers in conference games.

– Sophomore catcher Buck Afenir went 3-for-4 in Saturday’s finale against Texas. For the season, Afenir is batting .307, compared to a .242 average through 38 games last year.

– Sophomore Preston Land has hit safely in five of his last six games. This, after going hitless 11 times in the month of March.

– Junior Ryne Price scored a career high three runs in Friday’s win over No. 6 Texas and was one of three Jayhawks with two hits in the game.

– Junior Erik Morrison is hitting .310 with men on base, compared to just .276 with the bases empty.

– Morrison also became the 30th player to collect 150 hits as a Jayhawk last week. The shortstop is second among active players with 158 base hits at KU.

– Freshman Robby Price collected his third three-hit game on Saturday against Texas. The KU third baseman is batting .435 in April after hitting .276 during the month of March.

– Junior John Allman hit his first home run of the season in the eighth inning Friday and became the 12th different Jayhawk to homer this season.

– Center fielder Kyle Murphy has been the model of consistency this season. Since conference play began on March 16, Murphy’s season batting average has never dipped below .300.

– Junior right fielder Brock Simpson hit his second home run of the season on Thursday against No. 6 Texas. Against KU’s two opponents from the Lone Star State this season (Texas A&M and Texas), Simpson is hitting .304 with two home runs and 12 RBIs.

– Junior outfielder Casey Larson hit home runs in his first two at-bats on Friday to become the third Jayhawk in a seven-day span to homer twice in the same game.

– Junior righty Andres Esquibel pitched 3 2/3 innings Friday afternoon to earn his team-leading fifth win of the season.

– Sophomore lefty Nick Czyz struck out seven-plus for the fifth time this season. Czyz is second on the team and eighth in the Big 12 with 51 strikeouts this season.

– Former Jayhawk, and current Pittsburgh Pirate, Tom Gorzelanny earned his first victory of the season on April 4 by scattering seven hits and allowing two earned runs over five innings in the Pirates’ 5-4 win at Houston. In two starts this season, Gorzelanny is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA and one walk and nine strikeouts in 12 innings pitched.

– Another former Jayhawk is off to a fast start to his professional season. On Tuesday, outfielder Gus Milner went 3-for-5 with two doubles and five RBIs for the single-A Lakewood BlueClaws at West Virginia. This season, Milner is batting .400 with three doubles, a triple and four runs scored in five games.

Jayhawks Add a Game

Due to the cancellation of Tuesday’s game with Oral Roberts, the Jayhawks have added a game to the Chicago State series. KU will now face the Cougars in a four game series, with single games on May 11 and May 13 and a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 12.

Save for any more rainouts, the doubleheader would be the fifth for the Jayhawks during the 2007 season.

Oh, What a Night

On March 17, Kansas and eighth-ranked Texas A&M competed in a baseball battle of epic proportions. The teams combined for 30 runs and 33 hits in 11 innings, which ended after KU’s Erik Morrison, Dylan Parzyk and Justin Ellrich drove in runs in the top of the 11th and Jayhawk reliever Paul Smyth retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning.

KU held a 10-2 lead after the top of the fifth, but surrendered eight runs in the bottom of the inning. The Jayhawks took the lead twice before extra innings, only to be equalized again in the next half-inning.

The Jayhawks’ top three in the batting order: Kyle Murphy, Robby Price and John Allman combined for nine hits, seven runs scored and seven RBIs.

Lights, Camera, Jayhawks

KU is scheduled to make three television appearances this season, including one national TV appearance. The Jayhawks’ game against in-state rival Kansas State on May 5 will be seen across the country on Fox Sports Net.

The Jayhawks appeared on Fox College Sports Central in a non-conference game against K-State last Tuesday. The same cable channel will broadcast the team’s April 20 showdown at Texas Tech.

Up All Night

KU’s three-game series against South Dakota State was played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis.

The Jayhawks and Jackrabbits opened play on Saturday morning with a doubleheader at 1:30 a.m. The second game of the twinbill was suspended due to time constraints and completed Sunday morning at 3:30 a.m., prior to the third game of the series.

The unusual starting times for the three contests were due to the Hurricane Winter Invitational, which was already scheduled in the dome that weekend. The invitational featured NCAA Division II and NAIA teams from neighboring states.

Major League Bloodlines

Several players on the 2007 Jayhawk baseball team have relatives who have played in the major leagues. They include:
– Buck Afenir’s uncle, Troy Afenir, played in four major league seasons for Houston, Oakland and Cincinnati.
– Brett Bochy’s father, Bruce Bochy, played in the major leagues from 1978-87 for Houston, San Diego and the New York Mets. He also managed the Padres from 1995-2006, and is the current manager of the San Francisco Giants.
– Casey Larson’s father, Dan Larson, played in the major leagues from 1967-82. He played for Houston, Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs.
– Joe Servais’ cousin, Scott Servais, played in the major leagues from 1991-2001 for Houston, Colorado, San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs.

Oh, Brother

A handful of Jayhawks have also followed older siblings onto the KU baseball team. They include:
– Nick Czyz’ older brother Don pitched at KU from 2003-06. Don was drafted by the Florida Marlins after last season.
– Preston Land’s brother, Sean, pitched for the Jayhawks from 2004-06. Sean was drafted by the Minnesota Twins at the conclusion of the 2006 season.
– Ryne and Robby Price’s older brother, Ritchie, also played at KU from 2003-06. Ritchie was drafted by the New York Mets last season.

Up Next

The Jayhawks will hit the road for their longest stretch away from Hoglund Ballpark, beginning Tuesday with a 7 p.m. game at Wichita State. KU will be looking to avenge a March 14 loss to the Shockers.