Jayhawks Face Tough Road Test at No. 9 Nebraska

April 17, 2008

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Riding a five-game winning streak, the Jayhawks travel to Lincoln, Neb., to battle the ninth-ranked Cornhuskers in a three-game series at Hawks Field at Haymarket Park. The series opener will begin Friday at 6:35 p.m., while Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 3:35 p.m. first pitch and Sunday’s finale will get underway at 1:05 p.m.

Sunday’s contest will be televised by CBS College Sports (Channel 143 – Sunflower Cable) on tape delay. The broadcast is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. with Kevin Kugler providing play-by-play and Adrian Fiala serving as the color commentator.

All three games will be broadcast on KLWN-Radio (1320-AM) with Brian Hanni on the call. Fans can also access the streaming audio at www.kuathletics.com.

The Series vs. Nebraska

Friday’s contest will mark the 233rd all-time meeting between the longtime rivals with Nebraska leading the series 137-94-1. KU won the first meeting, 5-4, on May 16, 1892 in Lawrence. The Huskers lead the all-time series in Lincoln, 67-34, which includes taking two out of three from the Jayhawks during the 2006 season. KU went 1-2 against Nebraska last season, earning a 10-5 win in the series opener on May 18.

Scouting the Huskers

After dropping a series at No. 14 Oklahoma State, Nebraska made some noise during the week by shutting out No. 6 Wichita State, 3-0, on Tuesday. Nebraska became the first team this season to blank the Shockers. The Huskers enter the Kansas series having lost just once in 21 games at home this season.

Junior outfielder Nick Sullivan leads the team with a .354 batting average and 27 RBIs, while senior catcher Mitch Abeita is batting .343 with a team-high six homers and a .578 slugging percentage. Nebraska has five starters batting above .300.

KU will see three of the top pitchers in the Big 12 in Johnny Dorn (Friday), Thad Weber (Saturday) and Aaron Pribanic (Sunday). Nebraska’s weekend rotation is a combined 13-4 with a 3.07 ERA. The Huskers use a bullpen by committee as four different relievers have recorded multiple saves.

Head coach Mike Anderson is in his sixth season at Nebraska and has a record of 230-106-1 at the school. Anderson led the Huskers to an NCAA Regional appearance last year.

Last Time Out

Junior Nick Faunce’s timing was impeccable. After Missouri State broke a tie game in the seventh inning, the Kansas center fielder launched a two-run homer in the eighth to lead the Jayhawks to a 7-6 come-from-behind victory over the Bears in front of 1,337 fans Wednesday night at Hoglund Ballpark.

Noting the Jayhawks

– Kansas has won five-straight games going back to a 9-5 victory over Texas Tech on April 11. KU’s longest winning streak of the season was eight games, from March 1-12.

– During the streak, KU’s offense has scored 8.2 runs per game and allowed just 4.0 runs per game.

– The Jayhawks have played well at Hoglund Ballpark this season, going 14-4. All four of the Jayhawks’ home losses have come to nationally ranked opponents (three to then-No. 20 Texas A&M and one to then-No. 8 Wichita State). In three of the four losses, the Jayhawks led at some point during the game.

– With the 5-2 win on Sunday, the Jayhawks improved to 7-3 this season in games played on the first day of the week. KU had dropped back-to-back Sunday games (to Texas A&M, March 30 and Baylor, April 6) for the first time all year before the win over the Red Raiders.

– KU’s pitching staff allowed just eight runs during the three-game series against Texas Tech (2.67 per game), which is a far cry from the 33 runs it allowed in the Baylor series, April 4-6 (11.0 runs per game). The eight runs allowed to the Red Raiders is KU’s best conference series total since it held Texas Tech to five runs in three games during the 2007 series in Lubbock.

– The Jayhawks’ continued their come-back kids routine on Wednesday, rallying from a five-run deficit to defeat Missouri State, 7-6. KU has erased five-run deficits (March 20 vs. Dartmouth, March 23 vs. Northwestern and April 16 vs. Missouri State) in three of its wins this season.

– Kansas used a season-high 28 different players in its 11-6 victory over Baker Tuesday night, including 21 position players. The 21 different position players used were the most during the Ritch Price era at Kansas.

– Kansas has hit three consecutive home runs with an 0-1 count. Both of the team’s round-trippers in the seventh inning April 13 came with a one-strike count, while Nick Faunce’s game-winning homer Wednesday also came with when he was down in the count, 0-1.

– Junior catcher Buck Afenir has been a road warrior this season, batting .339 away from Hoglund Ballpark. Afenir has also collected seven of his 11 extra base hits on the road.

– Senior John Allman drove in two runs with a single Wednesday against Missouri State. Allman has been a key contributor in the clutch, batting .390 with men on base and .386 with runners in scoring position.

– Utility infielder Matt Berner enjoyed a career game Tuesday against Baker. The senior went 3-for-3 with three runs batted in as KU scored an 11-6 triumph. The three hits and three RBIs were both career highs for Berner.

– Senior Justin Ellrich became the first Jayhawk to collect a pinch hit homer this season with a seventh inning round-tripper against Baylor, April 5. KU’s last pinch hit home run came on March 21, 2007, by Eric Snowden against Northern Colorado.

– Junior Nick Faunce hit his first career home run in Wednesday’s dramatic 7-6 victory over Missouri State. Faunce became the 10th different Jayhawk to homer this season.

– Freshman Brian Heere earned his second career start Tuesday against Baker and scored KU’s first run of the game after drawing a leadoff walk.

– Junior Preston Land hit two home runs in the Texas Tech series, including a three-run shot to extend a two-run lead on April 11. Land’s blast on April 11 was his first round-tripper since hitting a pair against Iowa on March 2.

– Senior Casey Larson has hit safely in his last six starts, including a two-hit game April 13 against Texas Tech. Larson led off all three games of the Texas Tech series with a base hit.

– Freshman Casey Lytle collected his third collegiate hit Tuesday against Baker. Lytle has hit safely in each of his last two games.

– Senior Erik Morrison collected his 10th stolen base of the season Wednesday against Missouri State. The senior’s 10 steals are a career high.

– Sophomore Robby Price snapped a five-game hitting streak Wednesday against Missouri State. The Kansas second baseman had hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games at Hoglund Ballpark prior to Wednesday’s game.

– Senior Ryne Price collected another RBI Wednesday against Missouri State. Price has driven in at least one run in 10 of his last 11 games, including three RBIs Tuesday against Baker and three on April 12 against Texas Tech.

– Senior Joe Southers recorded a hit and two RBIs on Tuesday against Baker. It was the senior catcher’s second multi-RBI game of the season and first since March 9.

– Freshman Tony Thompson went 2-for-4 against Missouri State Wednesday. It was the third baseman’s seventh mulit-hit game of the season and first since he collected three hits against No. 8 Wichita State on April 1.

– Freshman Jimmy Waters hit a solo home run April 13 against Texas Tech. Waters has been a pretty good hitter at home this season, hitting .333 (4-for-12) with two homers and three runs scored.

– Freshman Brett Bochy pitched two innings of scoreless relief against Baker on Tuesday. Bochy has dominated non-conference opponents this season, allowing just two earned runs in eight appearances.

– Freshman Brett Bollman collected a strikeout Wednesday against Missouri State to give him at least one strike out in 16 of his 17 appearances this season. Bollman’s only game that he did not record a strikeout was April 5 at Baylor when he pitched only 2/3 of an inning.

– Junior Nick Czyz held Texas Tech to three earned runs over 6 1/3 innings Friday to earn his second victory of the season. Czyz’ 6 1/3 innings pitched was his longest outing since he went seven frames against Arkansas on March 10 of last season.

– Sophomore Max Ellenbecker made his ninth consecutive scoreless appearance of his career Tuesday against Baker. Ellenbecker has not allowed a run in 9 1/3 career innings.

– Senior Andres Esquibel pitched eight innings of one-hit ball Saturday against Texas Tech. The senior righty retired the first six he faced and matched a career high with seven strikeouts.

– Senior Hiarali Garcia earned his second career victory by holding Baker scoreless for three innings Tuesday. Garcia has pitched six consecutive scoreless innings, dating back to a March 29 appearance against Texas A&M.

– Sophomore Shaeffer Hall finished the seventh inning Friday afternoon against Texas Tech. Hall entered the game with the tying run on third, but forced Roger Kieschnick into an inning-ending ground out to earn a hold – credited when a pitcher enters a game in a save situation, records at least one out, and leaves the game never having relinquished the lead.

– Junior Daniel Manos made a scoreless appearance Tuesday against Baker. Manos has allowed runs in just one of his six appearances this season.

– Junior Paul Smyth picked up his third victory of the season by pitching two perfect innings against Missouri State on Wednesday. Smyth leads the Big 12 this season with 21 appearances and has three wins and six saves.

– Freshman T.J. Walz made his first start against a Big 12 opponent Sunday and was impressive through 5 1/3 innings. The 6-foot righty held the Red Raiders to one run on three hits and recorded three strikeouts. Walz has made a pair of starts this season and allowed single runs in five-plus innings in those starts.

The Price is Right

Senior Ryne Price continued to terrorize opposing pitchers this week. Price drove in four more runs in two mid-week games to move his Big 12-leading RBI total to 53. Price is also tied for third in the conference in homers (nine), third in total bases (92), sixth in hits (50) and seventh in slugging percentage (.617).

Making his totals even more impressive is the fact that he is batting nearly 70 points higher than his career average coming into the season. He passed his single-season best for RBIs on April 5 and matched his career high for hits in a season with his 50th on Wednesday. He is also closing in on his single-season highs in homers (9/10), runs scored (35/46) and total bases (92/99).

In the Nick of Time

Junior Nick Faunce picked a good time to hit his first collegiate home run, blasting an 0-1 pitch over the fence in left-center to lift Kansas to a 7-6 victory on Wednesday against Missouri State. It was the junior’s first home run in 84 career games in the Crimson and Blue.

However, hitting the game-winning homer was just part of the story for the Kansas center fielder. In the fifth inning, his lead-off single set the table for the Jayhawks to score assemble a four-run rally, while his sacrifice bunt in the sixth set up Casey Larson’s game-tying sacrifice fly.

With the opportunity to play nearly every day, the junior outfielder has blossomed, hitting .308 heading into KU’s series at No. 9 Nebraska with 24 runs scored and a .395 on-base percentage.

National Spotlight

Senior Andres Esquibel impressed a national television audience allowing just one hit over eight innings Saturday against Texas Tech. The senior righty teamed up with Hiarali Garcia to toss KU’s first combined one-hitter against a Big 12 opponent.

Esquibel did not allow a base hit until there were two outs in the fifth inning, and pitched around a career-high seven walks for his third win of the season. The game marked the first time KU has held a conference opponent to just one hit since Craig Mulcahy shut out Oklahoma on a lone base hit May 7, 1988.

KU’s win, which was broadcast on Fox Sports Net, was the team’s first on a televised game since a 9-7 win over Nebraska for the 2006 Big 12 Championship game.

Kansas in National Statistics

During the 2008 season, the Jayhawks have put up some eye-opening numbers. Below are national team and individual rankings prior to games Tuesday:

– Left fielder John Allman ranks 28th in the country in times hit by pitch (28).

– First baseman Preston Land ranks 47th in doubles (13).

– Second baseman Robby Price ranks first in the country in sacrifice bunts (21) and first in sacrifices per game (0.56).

– Outfielder/catcher Ryne Price ranks sixth in the country in runs batted in (49) as well as 31st in RBIs per game (1.29).

– Relief pitcher Paul Smyth ranks 25th in the nation in saves (six).

– As a team, KU ranks 37th in runs scored (270), 30th in triples (13), 47th in walks (157), 16th in sacrifices (35) and 10th in times hit by pitch (58).

Marciel Out for the Season

Kansas head baseball coach Ritch Price announced Tuesday that sophomore left-handed pitcher Wally Marciel will miss the remainder of the 2008 season due to a torn ligament in his pitching elbow. Marciel, a 6-foot lefty from Kailua, Hawaii, will have Tommy John surgery next week.

Marciel ends his sophomore year with a 3-4 record and 22 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings pitched. The 6-foot sophomore earned victories in two of his first three starts.

He is the second starting pitcher that Kansas has had to shut down this season. During the team’s week in Florida, it was determined that junior Andy Marks would not be fully recovered from a shoulder injury until later in the spring. Marks, who did not pitch this year, will receive a red-shirt for the 2008 season.

In My 30 Years of Coaching…

Kansas head coach Ritch Price has achieved two milestones last month. Price collected his 800th career victory in 30 years of coaching on March 11 with an 8-1 triumph against Tabor College. Price’s 800 wins include time spent at Jasper (Texas) and Phoenix (Ore.) high schools, Menlo (Calif.) and De Anza (Calif.) junior colleges as well as at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and KU.

On March 12, Price’s team helped him earn victory No. 400 at the Division I level with an 11-7 win at Missouri State. This includes 217 wins at Cal Poly and 183 victories with the Jayhawks. Price’s next milestone will be win No. 200 at KU (three wins shy), something only two other coaches have ever achieved.

Lights, Camera, Jayhawks

CBS College Sports, a national cable station devoted to college athletics, announced Feb. 25 that it will broadcast Kansas’ game at Nebraska scheduled for April 20 on tape delay.

This marks the second time the Jayhawks can be seen on national television during the 2008 season. KU defeated Texas Tech, 9-1, on Fox Sports Net this past Saturday.

Fourteen Jayhawks Named to AD’s Honor Roll

Fourteen Kansas baseball players have been named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for the fall 2007 semester. This list includes redshirt sophomore Max Ellenbecker, who posted a perfect 4.0 GPA for the fall semester.

Other players on the AD’s Honor Roll include seniors John Allman, Justin Ellrich, Hiarali Garcia, Matt Lane and Ryne Price; juniors Buck Afenir and Nick Faunce; sophomores Ellenbecker and Robby Price as well as freshmen Casey Lytle, Phil Parrish, Zach Sperry, Tony Thompson and T.J. Walz.

Price Named Assistant For US National Team

Kansas baseball head coach Ritch Price has been named a USA Baseball National Team assistant coach for the summer 2008 tour, USA Baseball announced in December. The veteran Jayhawk skipper is one of three collegiate head coaches to make up national head coach Rob Walton’s staff next summer.

Price is joined by Old Dominion’s Jerry Meyers and the University of San Francisco’s Nino Giarratano.

Allman Named to Preseason Watch List

Kansas senior John Allman highlights the list of players named to the preseason release of the 2008 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award Watch List.

Allman, a 6-foot-1 outfielder from St. Louis, Mo., led the Jayhawks with a .333 batting average last season, with four homers, 16 doubles and 44 RBIs. He led the team with 14 multi-RBI games and also hit. 354 (23-for-65) with runners in scoring position. Allman enjoyed a career-best 10 game hitting streak from Feb. 10 to March 7, which saw him hit around .400 during the first month of the season.

The Wallace Award is presented to the nation’s top collegiate baseball player in conjunction with the College Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual induction festivities. The 2008 award banquet will be held Thursday, July 3, in the United Spirit Arena on the campus of Texas Tech University.

Major League Bloodlines

Several players on the 2008 Jayhawk baseball team have relatives who have played in the major leagues. They include:

– Buck Afenir’s uncle, Troy Afenir, played 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.

Oh, Brother

A handful of Jayhawks have also followed older siblings onto the KU baseball team:

– Nick Czyz’ older brother, Don, pitched at KU from 2003-06. Don was drafted by the Florida Marlins after the 2006 season.

– Jordan Jakubov’s older brother, Ryan, pitched at KU from 2002-03. Jordan has another brother, Matthew, who played at Wichita State.

– 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 in 2006. He is now serving as an assistant coach at South Dakota State University.

Up Next

After a three-game set in Lincoln, the Jayhawks will continue their road swing with a Tuesday evening game at No. 5 Wichita State starting at 7 p.m. The Shockers earned a come-from-behind win over KU on April 1 in Lawrence. The mid-week tilt will be broadcast on KLWN-Radio (1320 AM) with Tom Hedrick on the call.

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.