24th-ranked Kansas Faces Creighton at Rosenblatt Stadium

April 13, 2009

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Kansas vs. Creighton

Riding a five-game winning streak, the Kansas baseball team hits the road for a Tuesday evening game at historic Rosenblatt Stadium against Creighton. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

The game will be carried on sports cable network CBS College Sports (Channel 143 on Sunflower Cable). This marks the first televised game of the season for KU. Radio station 1320 AM (KLWN) will also broadcast the game from Rosenblatt Stadium with Tom Hedrick calling the action.

Series History

Tuesday’s contest with Creighton will be the 26th all-time meeting between the schools on the baseball field. The Bluejays hold a 17-8 edge, including a 7-1 record in games played in Omaha. This will be KU’s first trip to Omaha since 1997, when Creighton won a 15-10 slugfest. The Jayhawks earned a 9-1 victory in the schools’ last meeting, April 29, 2006.

About the Jayhawks

For the first time since 2006, Kansas finds itself ranked among the Top 25, holding the No. 24 position in this week’s Baseball America poll. The Jayhawks are 23-12 overall, including 9-8 against Top 25 teams.

KU’s offense is led by Tony Thompson’s .391 batting average. Thompson also leads the team with nine homers, 44 RBIs and a .692 slugging percentage. As a team, KU is batting .298.

On the mound, KU is paced by Shaeffer Hall’s 2.52 ERA. Opponents are batting .249 against KU this season, while the team has an ERA of 3.78, which ranks second in the Big 12.

Scouting the Bluejays

Creighton enters the midweek game with Kansas on a roll, having won nine of its last 11, including midweek wins over Kansas State (April 1) and Nebraska (April 7). The Jays opened the season dropping seven of their first eight, but have rebounded to sit at 17-16 and first place in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Junior outfielder Robbie Knight leads the Jays with a .362 batting average and a .497 on-base percentage this season. Senior infielder Darin Ruf is Creighton’s top power source, with nine doubles and seven homers to go along with a .313 batting average and a team-high 37 RBIs. As a team, Creighton is batting .309.

Junior right-handed pitcher Kirk Clark is expected to get the start Tuesday against KU. Clark has been used exclusively out of the bullpen this season, posting an 0-2 mark with a 2.95 ERA. He has a WHIP of 1.27 with 17 hits and 10 walks allowed in 21 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting just .210 against Clark. The Jays’ bullpen has been outstanding this season, as three other relievers: junior Bob Lackovic, junior Mike Patterson and freshman Brandon Koenigstein have ERAs below 3.00.

Creighton returns 17 lettermen and four position starters from last year’s squad, which went 37-21 and placed third in the Valley.

Last Time Out

Sophomore Tony Thompson’s bases loaded single plated the winning run in the bottom of the 10th as Kansas overcame an extra inning deficit to knock off No. 17 Oklahoma State 4-3, and complete a three-game sweep of the Cowboys Sunday at Hoglund Ballpark.

Tony, Tony, Tony

Sophomore Tony Thompson continued to grow the legacy of his sophomore campaign Sunday afternoon. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th, Thompson laced a single to the left field fence to plate the winning run in KU’s 4-3 triumph over then-No. 17 Oklahoma State.

It has been a dream season so far for Thompson, who is batting nearly 140 points higher than he was at this time last year. The sophomore third baseman leads the team in batting average (.391), hits (52), doubles (13), homers (nine), RBIs (44) and total bases (92). His average with runners in scoring position is an amazing .480 (24-for-50).

On Sunday, Thompson also extended his current hitting streak to 12 straight games, marking the second time this season he has a hitting streak of 12 games or longer.

Role Reversal

Junior right-handed pitcher Brett Bollman has won four consecutive starts in midweek duty, including a 9-3 decision at Iowa on April 8. Bollman’s presence has solidified the pitching rotation, which is great news to the junior righty.

Last season, the junior was used exclusively out of the bullpen. But with the emergence of several freshman arms, Bollman did not pitch in any of KU’s first 11 games. However, since a relief appearance against Northwestern on March 7, the junior has started a midweek game each of the last four weeks and has victories in each start.

Bollman has a 2.36 ERA as a starting pitcher with just three walks in 19 innings on the mound. Opponents are hitting .268 against the right-hander.

Can You Heere Now?

Kansas outfielder Brian Heere continues to produce at his torrid pace. Against Iowa and Oklahoma State last week, the sophomore batted .600 (12-for-20) with a double, a homer and six RBIs.

Heere came within one hit of the school record April 7 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 by nearly 50 points.

Heere seems most comfortable hitting deep in the count. Over the team’s past 13 games, the Kansas outfielder has 10 hits when he has two strikes on him, including five base hits when he is behind in a two-strike count.

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 12 games, the Jayhawks are averaging 7.8 runs per game and 11.8 hits. As a team, the Jayhawks are batting .328 during the recent stretch.

Brian Heere’s .500 batting average over the 12-game span leads the team, while fellow sophomore Tony Thompson is hitting .431 with five doubles, three homers and 22 RBIs.

Around the Horn

– The Jayhawks take on Creighton in a Tuesday evening game at Rosenblatt Stadium. Kansas is 11-3 in midweek games this season, but 3-3 in those games on the road with all three losses coming by one run.

– The KU-Creighton game is being televised by CBS College Sports Tuesday, marking the Jayhawks’ first national TV game of the season. Kansas is 7-6 in televised games since 2005, including a win in its only appearance on CBS College Sports (April 20, 2008 at Nebraska).

– KU has been pretty good against ranked opponents this season. The Jayhawks have gone 9-8 against the Top 25, including three-game sweeps of then-No. 1 Texas (March 20-22) and then-No. 17 Oklahoma State (April 10-12).

– Kansas brushed off Oklahoma State in a three-game sweep April 10-12, the Jayhawks’ first sweep of the Cowboys since March 26-28, 1993.

– During the Oklahoma State series, Kansas went 12-for-36 (.333) with two outs in the inning, and had 15 two-out RBIs. Comparatively, OSU was 11-for-39 (.282) with two outs and did not drive in a run with two outs.

– The Jayhawks collected 17 singles and no extra base hits in their win at Iowa on April 7. 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 drove in three of KU’s four runs in Sunday’s win over Oklahoma State. Over the team’s last 10 games, Afenir has 16 RBIs, and is batting .381 with runners in scoring position.

– Sophomore transfer Joe Lincoln went 1-for-3 in the Jayhawks’ win at Iowa on April 7. 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 the April 5 loss to Baylor. Manship is the 16th Jayhawk to record a base hit this season.

– Senior first baseman Preston Land grabbed hits in the final two games of the Oklahoma State series. Land has done a pretty good job against the Big 12, hitting safely in eight of KU’s 12 conference games.

– Freshman Zac Elgie hit his first collegiate home run in Friday evening’s game against Oklahoma State. Elgie hit a state record 34 home runs during his 2008 American Legion campaign in Minot, N.D.

– Junior second baseman Robby Price got back on track last week, going 8-for-16 in games against Iowa and Oklahoma State. Price was a pest for opposing pitchers at the top of the lineup, also drawing seven walks and scoring nine runs.

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

– Junior shortstop David Narodowski returned to form after missing four games with an injury. The KU infielder was 5-for-13 in the Oklahoma State series and started the 10th inning rally Sunday with a bloop single to right.

– Sophomore Tony Thompson leads the Jayhawks with a .417 batting average away from Hoglund Ballpark this season. The junior hasn’t provided as much power on the road, but has 25 hits in 60 road at bats compared to 27-for-73 at home (.370).

– Sophomore Greg Herbst went 2-for-4 in the April 8 game at Iowa, giving him multiple hit games in each of his past three starts.

– Senior Nick Faunce drove in another run April 8 to give him 22 RBIs this season. In Faunce’s first three seasons at Kansas, he had just 21 RBIs combined.

– Freshman Jason Brunansky drew a walk and collected an RBI single in the April 8 game at Iowa. Despite a .233 batting average, Brunansky has reached base at a .349 clip.

– Sophomore Brian Heere hit his second home run of the season Saturday against Oklahoma State. The sophomore has shown surprising power this year, posting a .535 slugging percentage.

– Sophomore Casey Lytle stole three bases Saturday against Oklahoma State, becoming the first Jayhawk to accomplish this feat since Kyle Murphy turned the trick in 2006. Lytle has five of KU’s 25 base thefts this season.

– 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 versus Northern Colorado 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 allowed a two-run home run in his Saturday appearance, but was effective in two games out of the bullpen. Blankenship has held left-handed hitters to a .156 batting average.

– Sophomore Brett Bochy picked up his second win out of the bullpen Sunday, pitching three innings of relief and striking out six Cowboys. In 8 1/3 innings against the Big 12 this year, Bochy has 14 strikeouts.

– Junior Brett Bollman struck out a career high seven hitters in his April 1 start against Northern Colorado. In 20 innings this season, Bollman has 16 k’s.

– Freshman Kelson Boyer was the only Jayhawk pitcher to appear in the April 5 loss to Baylor 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 pitched his second complete game of the season Friday, holding Oklahoma State to one run on five hits. The junior lefty becomes the first Kansas pitcher to throw multiple complete games in the same season since Mike Zagurski tossed a pair in 2005.

– Freshman Colton Murray pitched an effective 1 1/3 innings of relief Sunday against Oklahoma State. Murray has allowed just two earned runs in seven appearances against Big 12 teams and has no walks and five strikeouts in those appearances.

– 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 gutted out five solid innings Sunday against Oklahoma State. The freshman surrendered seven hits, but pitched out of trouble and left the game with the lead.

– Sophomore T.J. Walz struck out a career high 10 Cowboys in his Saturday start against Oklahoma State. Walz’ 10 strikeouts are the most by a Kansas pitcher since Nick Czyz fanned 11 against North Dakota State on March 9, 2008.

Jayhawks in National Numbers

The NCAA released its national collegiate baseball statistics prior to games April 7. 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.

Walz Earns Pitcher of the Week Honors

Kansas sophomore T.J. Walz has been selected as the Big 12 Conference’s Pitcher of the Week for the week of April 6. This marks the second time a Kansas pitcher has earned the distinction this season.

Walz, a sophomore righty from Omaha, Neb., pitched a complete game shutout against No. 7 Baylor on April 6. He allowed no runs on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts in nine innings, marking the second complete game shutout by a Jayhawk this year. Walz’ shutout was also just the fifth by a Big 12 pitcher this season.

Up Next

Kansas will hit the road this weekend to face conference foe Texas Tech in a three-game series at Dan Law Field in Lubbock, Texas. The teams will meet at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. All three games will be broadcast by KLWN-AM (1320), and available on the internet at klwn.com.