Kansas Baseball Hosts Nebraska This Weekend

April 23, 2009

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Kansas vs. Nebraska

Winners of three straight, the Kansas baseball team plays host to Nebraska in the final full weekend series at Hoglund Ballpark this season. The Jayhawks and Huskers will take the field at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings and wrap up the set with a 1 p.m. contest Sunday.

All three games from the Nebraska series will be broadcast on KLWN (1320 AM) with Tom Hedrick and Brian Hanni on the call. Live video from all three games will also be available through Jayhawk All-Access on kuathletics.com.

Series History

Kansas and Nebraska have met 235 times on the baseball diamond, dating back to 1892, making this one of the oldest rivalries in Division I baseball. The Huskers hold a 139-95 edge in the series, including a 57-43 record in Lawrence. Kansas hasn’t won a series from Nebraska since sweeping the 1997 three-game set.

About the Jayhawks

Kansas is receiving votes in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association poll. Kansas dropped out of the national rankings in both the Baseball America and NCBWA polls this week.

KU’s offense is led by Tony Thompson’s .378 batting average. Thompson also leads the team with 12 homers, 54 RBIs and a .705 slugging percentage. As a team, KU is batting .303.

On the mound, KU is paced by Brett Bollman’s 1.98 ERA. Opponents are batting .256 against KU this season, while the team has an ERA of 4.02, which ranks third in the Big 12.

Scouting the Huskers

Nebraska has struggled over the last month of the season, but earned a 12-inning win at Creighton on Tuesday to move to 18-21-1. After beginning the season 15-7-1 after a four-game sweep of Cal State Northridge, the Huskers have gone 3-14 since then and have dropped 10 straight Big 12 games.

Senior Jeff Tezak leads Nebraska’s offense with a .328 batting average and a .438 on-base percentage, while outfielder Adam Bailey is the Huskers’ top power threat with nine homers, 40 RBIs to go with his .315 batting average.

The Huskers will send the trio of Jordan Roualdes, Mike Nesseth and Sean Yost to the hill against KU this weekend. Nesseth had previously been used primarily out of the bullpen, but boasts a 3-2 record with a 4.03 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings this season. Roualdes, the team’s Friday evening starter is 4-4, including 3-3 in the Big 12. As a team, Nebraska has a 6.51 ERA, which ranks 10th in the Big 12.

The Huskers were hit hard by the MLB Draft last June, and return just 15 letterwinners and five position starters from last year’s team which finished 41-16-1, and hosted a regional in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Last Time Out

Senior Preston Land’s three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth erased a two-run deficit and carried Kansas to a 7-3 win over Missouri in a non-conference baseball game played Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

Afenir the Fire

While Tony Thompson has garnered most of the attention, senior catcher Buck Afenir has quietly been KU’s most productive hitter in Big 12 play. Afenir has hit safely in 11 straight conference games, and has only gone hitless in two of KU’s 15 Big 12 games this year.

Afenir leads the team with a .393 batting average in conference games, and has multiple hits in nine Big 12 contests. The Kansas catcher has also become one of the best two-strike hitters on the team. During his 11-game hitting streak in conference games, Afenir has seven two-strike hits.

No Free Rides

During the 2009 season, the Kansas pitching staff has clamped down on giving up walks. The Jayhawks rank 11th in the country in fewest walks allowed per nine innings (2.78).

Juniors Brett Bollman and Shaeffer Hall have the best rates. Hall has allowed six walks in 55 2/3 innings (0.97 per nine innings), while Bollman has five walks in 36 1/3 innings (1.24). This has been a big reason for KU’s improvement on the mound this season.

In 2008, the Jayhawks averaged 3.98 walks per nine innings and had a team ERA of 5.49. This year, the team has allowed 2.78 walks per nine innings and has an ERA of 4.02.

Tony, Tony, Tony

Sophomore third baseman Tony Thompson has been an impressive force in the Kansas lineup this season. The second-year player is close to a triple crown in the Big 12, ranking fourth in batting average (.378), tied for second in homers (12) and first in RBIs (54).

Should he finish the year tops in all three categories, Thompson would be the first player in the Big 12 era to accomplish the feat. The last player to win the triple crown in a league KU competed in was Oklahoma State’s Pete Incaviglia, who finished the 1985 season with the Big Eight Conference lead in batting average (.464), homers (48) and RBIs (143).

Off on the Right Foot

The Jayhawks scored seven first-inning runs in Sunday’s 15-6 triumph at Texas Tech, which the most productive inning KU has had this season. It was also the team’s most prolific opening frame since the Jayhawks scored seven first-inning runs at Oklahoma on April 5, 2005.

Getting off to a good start has been vitally important for Kansas this season. The Jayhawks are 12-4 when they score in the first inning and 20-4 in games when they are the first team to produce a run. KU has also outscored its opposition 45-15 in the first inning this year.

Around the Horn

– The Jayhawks will host Nebraska in a three-game series this weekend. Kansas has not won a three-game series against the Huskers since 1997, which was a three-game sweep.

– The Jayhawks are 19-2 at home this season, including 7-2 in Big 12 games. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, KU is 37-9 at Hoglund Ballpark.

– KU has cut down its strikeout rate by a large margin over the past couple of weeks. Through the first 25 games of the season, the Jayhawks averaged 7.72 strikeouts per game. Since the beginning of April, the Jayhawks have struck out just 6.38 times per game.

– Through the last month of the season, the Jayhawks have also been good at scoring runs with two outs in the inning. In the Jayhawks’ 7-3 win over Missouri Wednesday, all seven Kansas runs were scored with two outs. Over the last 10 games, KU has 41 two-out RBIs, and has scored 46 percent of its runs (41-of-89) with two outs in the inning.

– The Jayhawks downed Boarder Showdown rival Missouri at Kauffman Stadium Wednesday evening, 7-3, to improve to 5-4 in games played at major league ballparks. KU has won both annual meetings with MU at the home of the Kansas City Royals (also won 3-0 in 2008’s game).

– 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).

– The Jayhawks earned their second-straight extra innings win April 14 against Creighton. It marked the first time since 2005 that the Jayhawks have played in back-to-back extra innings games. KU is 2-1 in bonus baseball games this year.

– 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.

– 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 doubled home Brian Heere for the first run in Wednesday’s 7-3 win against Missouri. Afenir has hit .400 in the first inning of games this season, including three doubles and a homer.

– Sophomore transfer Joe Lincoln recorded a pair of RBIs in a 1-for-5 effort. It was the catcher’s first multi-RBI game.

– 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 hit a huge home run Wednesday evening at Kauffman Stadium to give him three round-trippers in his last four games. Prior to the April 17 game at Texas Tech, Land had gone nearly an entire calander year without a home run.

– Freshman Zac Elgie collected a pinch hit single in Wednesday night’s game to extend the eighth inning and scored on David Narodowski’s two-run single. Elgie has been KU’s top pinch hitter, collecting three hits in four pinch hit at bats this season.

– Junior second baseman Robby Price recorded a sacrifice in Wednesday’s game against Missouri, giving him 10 for the season. Price’s 10 sacrifices rank 16th nationally. He is KU’s career leader with 48 sacrifice hits.

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

– Junior shortstop David Narodowski went 3-for-4 in the Wednesday game at Kauffman Stadium, giving him multi-hit games in his last three starts. The junior is batting .390 in at bats after the sixth inning.

– Sophomore Tony Thompson recorded his second multi-homer game of the season April 19 against Texas Tech. Thompson’s 12 home runs this year are the most since Erik Morrison hit 14 round-trippers in 2006 and the seventh-most by a Jayhawk in one season.

– Sophomore Greg Herbst went 1-for-3 Tuesday against Baker. Herbst has hit safely in each of his last four 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 collected a first-inning single against Missouri, giving him base hits in nine of his last 10 starts. Since the end of March, Brunansky has raised his batting average by 53 points (.218 to .271).

– Sophomore Brian Heere tripled in his only official at bat Wednesday against Missouri, giving him the team lead with three this season. Heere regained the conference lead with a .494 on-base percentage.

– Sophomore Casey Lytle hit safely in all three of the games at Texas Tech, and is batting .284 this season.

– Sophomore Jimmy Waters collected a big RBI single to extend the sixth inning for Preston Land Wednesday night. Since starting the month mired in a 1-for-18 slump, Waters has hit safely in four of his last five games.

– 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-13 in games at Hoglund Ballpark this year.

– Sophomore Brett Bochy recorded the final two outs of the game Wednesday evening, including a strikeout of Austin Holt to end the contest. Bochy has the team’s best strikeout rate, averaging 1.55 K’s per inning (or 13.9 per nine innings).

– Junior Brett Bollman held Missouri to just two earned runs on three hits over 5 1/3 innings Wednesday. Opponents are batting just .221 against the junior righty, the lowest average on the team.

– Junior Travis Blankenship rebounded from a tough weekend in Lubbock, by pitching 1 2/3 spotless innings Wednesday against Missouri. The junior southpaw has dominated lefties, holding them to a .185 batting average.

– Freshman Kevin Burk pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings Tuesday against Baker to pick up his second victory of the season. Burk recorded a season-high three strikeouts in his outing.

– Junior Shaeffer Hall retired the leadoff hitter in all nine innings of his complete game April 10 against Oklahoma State. His two complete games this year are the most since Mike Zagurski tossed a pair of CGs in 2005.

– Junior Thomas Marcin pitched an inning of relief Tuesday against Baker. It was the righty’s first appearance since the April 1 game against Northern Colorado.

– Freshman Colton Murray was also nearly flawless Wednesday, allowing just one hit in 1 1/3 innings of relief to pick up his second win of the season. Murray has not allowed an earned run in his last four appearances.

– Freshman Lee Ridenhour earned his fourth win of the season April 19 at Texas Tech, pitching six innings and allowing one run. Ridenhour had not picked up a victory since March 11, when he tossed eight shutout innings against Wichita State.

– Sophomore T.J. Walz struck out a career high 10 Cowboys in his April 11 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.

Up Next

Kansas will host Chicago State in the final midweek series at Hoglund Ballpark this season. KU and the Cougars will square off on Tuesday, April 28 at 6 p.m., and conclude the series Wednesday, April 29 at 1 p.m.