Jayhawks Travel to Stillwater to Face No. 13 Cowboys

April 24, 2008

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After dropping a Tuesday evening game at No. 7 Wichita State, the Jayhawks will take aim at 13th-ranked Oklahoma State in a three-game Big 12 series this weekend. Kansas will meet the Cowboys Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium in Stillwater, Okla.

All three games of the series will be carried live on KLWN-Radio (1320 AM). Brian Hanni will call the action from Stillwater. A link to all three broadcasts as well as Game Tracker is available at www.kuathletics.com.

The Series vs. Oklahoma State

This weekend will mark the 175th, 176th and 177th meetings between the Jayhawks and the Cowboys. OSU leads the all-time series 125-49, including 66-13 in Stillwater. KU’s last series victory came in 2005 in Lawrence. The Jayhawks’ last series win in Stillwater came in 1992. The Cowboys took two of three from the Jayhawks in Lawrence last season.

Scouting the Cowboys

Oklahoma State enters the series with Kansas on a roll, having knocked off No. 7 Wichita State, 5-3, on Wednesday evening. Prior to that, the Cowboys swept Texas in Austin last weekend, becoming the first Big 12 team to do so. OSU has won six in a row and 11 of its last 13. The Cowboys are 17-2 at home this season, batting .324 as a team and have an overall ERA of 3.90.

Freshman second baseman Thomas Belza is the team’s leading hitter at .392 with five doubles, 19 RBIs and a .544 slugging percentage. Senior first baseman Rebel Riedling is Oklahoma State’s top power hitter with 10 homers, 40 RBIs and a .599 slugging percentage.

The Cowboys will start a trio of sophomores this weekend as lefties Andrew Oliver and Tyler Lyons will start the first two games of the series and right-hander Tyler Blanford is the scheduled starter for Sunday’s finale. Oliver is one of the top pitchers in the Big 12 with a 2.32 ERA, and 61 strikeouts in 62.0 innings. Opponents are batting just .194 against the second-year southpaw. Junior Jordy Mercer, who also plays shortstop, is the team’s closer with a 3.97 ERA and seven saves.

Head coach Frank Anderson is in his fifth season at OSU and has a record of 179-101 at the school. He led the Cowboys to a 42-21 record and a NCAA Regional appearance last season.

Last Time Out

Senior John Allman and freshman Tony Thompson hit home runs, while Allman and Ryne Price each had two hits, but it was not enough. Seventh-ranked Wichita State scored six runs on six hits in the bottom of the fourth to score a 6-4 triumph over Kansas Tuesday evening at Eck Stadium.

Noting the Jayhawks

– Kansas will play their 12th straight road game against a nationally ranked opponent Friday in Stillwater, and fifth-straight against a team ranked in the top 15.

– Kansas has struggled on the road this season, posting a 3-10 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 the April 20 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, April 20, 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 a recent three-game series against Texas Tech (2.67 per game). The eight runs allowed to the Red Raiders is KU’s best conference series total since it held 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 .357 in away games, compared to just .196 at home.

– Senior John Allman has rebounded from a rough week with four-straight two-hit games. Allman has done a lot of his damage against KU’s best competition. The senior is batting .305 with a homer, 10 RBIs and a .431 on-base percentage against nationally ranked opponents this year.

– Utility infielder Matt Berner enjoyed a career game April 15 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, on 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 April 18. Land’s 14 doubles eclipse his career total heading into this season.

– Senior Casey Larson hit his first home run of the season April 19 against No. 9 Nebraska. Larson collects his hits in bunches. He has hit safely in 18 games this season and has seven multiple-hit games, including a four-hit effort on March 20 against Dartmouth.

– 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 April 20 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 against Nebraska on Sunday.

– Senior Ryne Price continues to surpass his career bests. After Tuesday’s game with Wichita State, Price is batting 70 points higher than his career average and has broken his previous career highs in hits (55 this year/50 previous career high), doubles (13/12) and RBIs (54/40). Not only that, he is dangerously close to breaking career highs in: runs (38/47), triples (1/4), homers (9/10), total bases (97/99), times hit by pitch (12/19) and stolen bases (7/8).

– 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 hit a two-run home run Tuesday against No. 7 Wichita State. Amazingly, Thompson has three extra base hits this season and all of them are home runs. He also homered against North Dakota State (March 8) and at Baylor (April 5).

– 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 strikeout in 16 of his 18 appearances this season. He has pitched less than an inning in both of his appearances without a K this year.

– Junior Nick Czyz has pitched better than his numbers indicate this season. Since his second start of the season at then-No. 7 Vanderbilt, Czyz has posted a 4.98 ERA and has surrendered just 33 hits in 34 1/3 innings pitched. He also averages more than a strikeout per inning with 38 K’s in his last seven starts. Czyz also has a 4.28 ERA against Big 12 opponents this season.

– Senior Andres Esquibel tossed eight innings of one-hit ball against Texas Tech on April 12, and did not allow a base hit until the fourth inning of his April 19 start at No. 9 Nebraska. Esquibel will be making just his sixth start of the year on Saturday against Oklahoma State.

– Senior Hiarali Garcia was dominant pitching in relief of Shaeffer Hall at No. 7 Wichita State Tuesday. The 6-foot-1 righty retired 10 of the 11 Shockers he faced, allowing just one walk over 3 1/3 innings of relief. The righty has not allowed an earned run since a March 28 appearance against then-No. 20 Texas A&M, spanning 9 1/3 innings.

– Sophomore Shaeffer Hall allowed just two infield singles through three innings Tuesday before getting knocked out in the fourth. The 6-foot-1 sophomore has not allowed a run in the first inning all season, but has been hit hard in the later innings.

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

– Sophomore Thomas Marcin pitched a scoreless eighth Tuesday at No. 7 Wichita State. Dating back to a March 21 outing against Ohio State, Marcin has not allowed a run in five consecutive appearances.

– 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 April 20, to match a career high.

– Freshman T.J. Walz pitched a career high 7 2/3 innings on April 20 against No. 9 Nebraska. 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 from Omaha, who had made the trip to Lincoln for the game.

Johnny Be Good

Senior John Allman has been pretty good after a rough weekend at Baylor. For just the second time in career, the senior left fielder was held hitless during a three-game weekend series April 4-6 in Waco. Since then, Allman has hit safely in eight of his last nine games, including a six-game hitting streak dating back to the series finale with Texas Tech.

Allman has played an intregral role in the team’s success this season. He is batting .440 with eight doubles, three homers and 26 RBIs in KU’s 25 victories this season. Compare that to a .254 average with five extra base hits and 11 RBIs in the Jayhawks’ 19 defeats.

Walz Named to CBF National All-Star Lineup

Kansas freshman pitcher T.J. Walz has been named to the College Baseball Foundation’s National All-Star Lineup for the week of April 22.

He is the first Kansas player to be named to the CBF All-Star Lineup this season and was the only Big 12 player to be honored on the team this week.

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, had Tommy John surgery earlier 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. On Sunday, KU took care of No. 9 Nebraska in front of a national television audience on CBS College Sports. KU’s only other television appearances was a 6-4 defeat to No. 7 Wichita State, in a game state-wide on Metro Sports on Tuesday.

Jayhawks in the Pros

Several former Kansas players are enjoying success in the professional ranks this season. They include:

– Zach Ashwood has been a tough-luck loser this season. The 6-foot-4 lefty, who played at KU during the 2007 season, is 0-3 with a 3.54 ERA in four starts for the Peoria Chiefs – a Class A affiliate for the Chicago Cubs. Ashwood has allowed earned runs in just two of his four starts this season.

– Don Czyz, who played at KU from 2003-06, has put together a sparkling resume in his second year with the Greensboro Grasshoppers – a Class A affiliate of the Florida Marlins. Czyz collected his first save of the season on April 6 and has an ERA of 3.72 in six appearances this season.

– Tom Gorzelanny, who played at KU in 2002, has struggled early in his fourth season in the majors. The 6-foot-2 lefty has had two quality starts in four games. He picked up his first win of the season against Cincinnati, going 6 1/3 innings and allowing one run on four hits on April 13.

– Travis Metcalf, who played at KU from 2002-04, continues to rehab and hopes to be back by mid-May for the Texas Rangers. Metcalf has been on the disabled list since March 21 with a torn hamstring.

– Gus Milner has swung a hot bat for the Clearwater Threshers – a Class A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Milner, who played at KU from 2005-06, is riding a five-game hitting streak and has collected three hits in back-to-back games, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. This season the 6-foot-5 outfielder is batting .274 with three doubles, two triples, a homer and 11 RBIs.

– A.J. Van Slyke, who played at KU from 2004-05, continues to fight his way up the ranks of the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system. Now in Class AA with the Springfield Cardinals, the 6-foot-2 outfielder is batting .250 with a triple, four runs scored and a stolen base in nine games this season.

– Les Walrond has struggled early in the season for the Iowa Cubs – the Class AAA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Walrond, who played at KU from 1996-98, is 1-1 this season with a 6.98 ERA in six relief appearances for the Cubs.

– Mike Zagurski, who played at KU from 2004-05, recently had reconstructive elbow surgery and will be out for the year. Zagurski pitched in 20 games for the Philadelphia Phillies last season after starting the year in Class A.

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 weekend series in Stillwater, KU will play a pair of non-conference games next week, highlighted by a Tuesday meeting with Border Showdown rival Missouri at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., at 7 p.m. The Jayhawks will then return home for a 10-game homestand beginning with an April 30 game with Ottawa University at 1 p.m.