Jayhawks Travel to No. 7 Wichita State, Host Kansas Wesleyan

April 21, 2008

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The Jayhawks will take on a pair of non-conference foes from the state of Kansas this week in No. 7 Wichita State and Kansas Wesleyan. KU will face the Shockers Tuesday at Eck Stadium at 7 p.m., before returning home to face the Coyotes of Kansas Wesleyan at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Tuesday’s game between KU and Wichita State will be broadcast live on Metro Sports (Channel 37 – Sunflower Cable). Bruce Haertl will call the action, while Shane Dennis will handle the color commentary from Eck Stadium.

The Wichita State game will also be broadcast on KLWN (1320 AM) with Tom Hedrick calling the game. An audio feed is available on the baseball schedule page at www.kuathletics.com.

The Series vs. Wichita State

Tuesday’s contest will mark the 62nd all-time meeting between in-state rivals Kansas and Wichita State. The Shockers lead the series, 40-22, including four straight dating back to an April 5, 2006 meeting. KU hasn’t won at Eck Stadium since a 5-3 triumph over the Shockers on May 4, 2005. The Jayhawks are 10-19 in Wichita all-time and 5-8 against the Shockers under head coach Ritch Price.

The Series vs. Kansas Wesleyan

Kansas earned an 11-4 triumph over Kansas Wesleyan in the only previous meeting between the schools. Senior Casey Larson went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs in the teams’ meeting on April 4 of last season.

Scouting the Shockers

Wichita State enters the Tuesday evening game with KU having won two of three from Illinois State over the weekend. The Shockers are batting .308 as a team and have a 3.11 team ERA. WSU is also 23-2 at Eck Stadium this season.

Junior third baseman Connor Gillespie continues to swing a hot bat, leading the team with a .393 batting average, six triples, 43 RBIs and a .600 slugging percentage. Left fielder Kenny Williams Jr., has also been surging as of late, batting .369 with nine doubles, 33 runs scored and nine stolen bases.

Wichita State will send junior Justin Fleming to the hill on Tuesday against KU. Fleming will be making his first start of the season and is 2-1 with a 2.32 ERA in 12 relief appearances. Opponents are batting just .214 against the right-hander.

Head coach Gene Stephenson is in his 31st season at Wichita State and has a career record of 1,635-540-3. Stephenson led the team to a 53-22 record last season and another trip to the NCAA Regionals.

Scouting the Coyotes

Kansas Wesleyan enters the week with a 26-12 mark, and will play Ottawa University Monday before traveling to Lawrence for Wednesday’s contest with KU.

The Coyotes dropped a pair of games to Bethany College Saturday. KWU recently snapped a 12-game winning streak with a loss to Sterling College on April 12.

Last Time Out

Omaha native T.J. Walz returned to his home state and pitched 7 2/3 innings to earn his first conference win, while junior Buck Afenir backed him with three hits and two RBIs as Kansas bounced ninth-ranked Nebraska, 6-3 in front of 5,964 fans Sunday at Hawks Field.

Noting the Jayhawks

– Kansas will play their 11th straight road game against a nationally ranked opponent Tuesday when it faces Wichita State. KU’s last road game against a team not ranked in the Top 30 was March 11 at Missouri State.

– Kansas has struggled on the road this season, posting a 3-9 record at other teams’ home park. However, two of their three road wins have come against Top 25 opponents. The Jayhawks defeated then-No. 10 Texas on March 16 and No. 9 Nebraska this past Sunday.

– Kansas became the second visiting team, and first Big 12 team, to win at Hawks Field this season. Prior to Sunday’s triumph over the No. 9 Huskers, Nebraska had been unbeaten in 11 straight home contests, dating back to a March 19 meeting with Arkansas.

– With the 6-3 win on Sunday, the Jayhawks improved to 8-3 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 claiming wins in its last two.

– 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 April 16, 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.

– Junior catcher Buck Afenir continued his dominance on the road last weekend in Lincoln. Afenir hit .600 (6-for-10) in the Nebraska series with two doubles a homer and four RBIs. The junior catcher is batting .368 in away games, compared to just .196 at home.

– Senior John Allman collected two hits in all three games of the Nebraska series and is second on the team with 15 multi-hit games. Allman has been equally tough on lefties and righties, batting .356 against left-handed pitching and .353 against right-handed pitching.

– 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 a dramatic 7-6 victory over Missouri State on April 16. Faunce became the 10th different Jayhawk to homer this season.

– Freshman Brian Heere earned his second career start April 15 against Baker and scored KU’s first run of the game after drawing a leadoff walk.

– Junior Preston Land collected four hits in the first two games of the Nebraska series, including his team-leading 14th double of the season Friday. Land’s 14 doubles eclipse his career total heading into this season.

– Senior Casey Larson hit his first home run of the season Saturday against No. 9 Nebraska. Larson has hit his round-trippers against the very best as three of his four career homers have come against teams ranked in the top 10.

– Freshman Casey Lytle collected his third collegiate hit April 15 against Baker. Lytle has hit safely in each of his last two games.

– Senior Erik Morrison rediscovered his stroke in the Nebraska series, collecting six hits in 14 at-bats during the series, including a pair of doubles. Morrison seems to save his best for the end of the season. Since his sophomore year, Morrison is batting .313 in games played after April 15 with 13 doubles, six homers and 32 RBIs.

– Sophomore Robby Price collected his 22nd sacrifice of the season on Sunday to establish a new career record (36) in sacrifice hits at KU. Price had been tied with his older brother, Ritchie, with 35 career sacrifices until moving a runner over in the sixth inning Sunday.

– Senior Ryne Price drove in a run with a single on Friday against Nebraska and has at least one RBI against all five of KU’s conference opponents this season. Price leads the Big 12 with 54 driven in this year.

– Senior Joe Southers recorded a hit and two RBIs on April 15 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 April 16. 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 April 15. Bochy has dominated non-conference opponents this season, allowing just two earned runs in eight appearances.

– Sophomore Brett Bollman collected a strikeout April 16 against Missouri State to give him at least one strike out in 16 of his 18 appearances this season. In the righty’s only games that he hasn’t posted a strikeout (April 5 at Baylor, April 18 at Nebraska) he has pitched less than an inning.

– Junior Nick Czyz deserved a better fate Friday at No. 9 Nebraska. The third-year lefty allowed four earned runs over six innings to suffer his fourth defeat of the season. Czyz has now pitched six-plus innings in back-to-back starts for the first time since April of last year.

– Sophomore Max Ellenbecker made the ninth consecutive scoreless appearance of his career April 15 against Baker. Ellenbecker has not allowed a run in 9 1/3 career innings.

– Senior Andres Esquibel tossed two perfect innings against No. 9 Nebraska on Saturday before D.J. Belfonte led off the third with a double. It marked just the second hit Esquibel allowed in a 10 inning span, dating back to an April 12 performance against Texas Tech.

– Senior Hiarali Garcia earned his second career victory by holding Baker scoreless for three innings April 15. Garcia has pitched six consecutive scoreless innings, dating back to a March 29 appearance against Texas A&M.

– Sophomore Shaeffer Hall will make his eighth start of the year at No. 7 Wichita State Tuesday. Hall allowed three runs on three hits over four innings in his only previous start against the Shockers on April 1.

– Junior Daniel Manos made a scoreless appearance April 15 against Baker. Manos has allowed runs in just one of his six appearances this season.

– Junior Paul Smyth made three appearances at Nebraska over the weekend and continues to lead the Big 12 with 22 appearances this season. Smyth recorded his seventh save of the season Sunday, to match a career high.

– Freshman T.J. Walz pitched a career high 7 2/3 innings on Sunday. His outing was the longest by a freshman in the Ritch Price era at KU. Only Nick Czyz (7.0 IP vs. Creighton, 4/26/06) and Tyson Corley (7.0 IP at Texas Tech, 4/23/05) have pitched into the eighth inning as freshmen.

Wonder Walz

Freshman T.J. Walz returned to his home state of Nebraska and wowed the Husker faithful. Walz used a good mix of pitches to keep the hometown Huskers off-balance. He allowed single runs in his final three innings of work and scattered six hits over 7 2/3 innings.

Walz retired the first eight batters he faced and did not allow a base hit until a two-out double by Mitch Abeita in the fifth inning. The freshman righty was in control the whole way, throwing 69 of his 119 pitches for strikes.

Making the outing even more spectacular were the 30-40 friends and family members, who had made the trip to Lincoln for the game.

Road Warrior

Junior Buck Afenir has proven that he knows how to swing the bat – away from Hoglund Ballpark. Afenir, the Jayhawks’ clean up hitter, is batting .379 away from Lawrence (in away and neutral site games). Afenir, who is batting under the Mendoza line at home, has six doubles, a triple and three homers away from home along with 20 RBIs.

These numbers are surprising based on the catcher’s past performances. Prior to this season, Afenir was a career .306 hitter at Hoglund Ballpark and had hit five of his 12 homers in Lawrence.

Kansas Adds Games to Schedule

Due to the numerous rainouts this season, the Kansas baseball game has added a pair of non-conference games to its schedule. The Jayhawks will play Kansas Wesleyan at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 23 at Hoglund Ballpark and host Ottawa University at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 30.

The games were scheduled due to the cancellation of the March 22 doubleheader with Northwestern in Bradenton, Fla. Admission to both games will be free of charge.

Marciel Out for the Season

Kansas head baseball coach Ritch Price announced April 15 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 this 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 of the year.

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

Kansas has appeared on national television twice during the season and picked up a pair of big victories. The Jayhawks defeated Texas Tech April 12 in a game broadcast on Fox Sports Net. While Sunday, KU took care of No. 9 Nebraska in front of a national television audience on CBS College Sports. KU will appear one other time on television, Tuesday in Wichita against the No. 7 Shockers. The game will be carried by Metro Sports.

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 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 pair of mid-week games against in-state opponents, the Jayhawks will travel to Stillwater, Okla. to battle the 13th-ranked Cowboys in a three-game set, beginning Friday, April 25 at 6:30 p.m. All three games will be broadcast by KLWN (1320 AM).

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.