No. 23 Jayhawks Travel to Columbia to Meet Missouri
May 7, 2009
Kansas vs. Missouri
After wins in seven of its last games, the 23rd-ranked Kansas baseball team travels to Columbia, Mo. this weekend to battle Border Showdown rival Missouri in a three-game Big 12 series beginning Friday evening at Simmons Field. Friday’s game will begin at 6:30 p.m., while Saturday’s contest is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start. Sunday’s finale will be played at 1 p.m.
All three games between the Border Showdown rivals will be broadcast on KLWN (1320 AM).
The Jayhawks and Tigers have met 318 times on the baseball diamond in a series that dates back to 1894. Missouri holds a 193-123 edge in the series, and there have been two ties. MU has won 88 of 117 meetings in Columbia, and hasn’t lost a series to KU at Simmons Field since 1983. Earlier this year, the Jayhawks defeated Missouri in a non-conference game at Kauffman Stadium, 7-3.
About the Jayhawks
Kansas is ranked in three of the four national polls this week, coming in at No. 23 in the Baseball America poll and No. 24 in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30. KU is also No. 29 in the NCBWA poll.
KU’s offense is led by Brian Heere’s .367 batting average, while sophomore third baseman Tony Thompson is the team leader in doubles (18), homers (15) and RBIs (66). As a team, the Jayhawks are batting .302.
On the mound, KU is paced by T.J. Walz’ six victories and Brett Bollman’s 1.98 ERA. As a team, KU has a 3.99 ERA.
Scouting the Tigers
Missouri enters the weekend series looking to solidify itself in both the Big 12 standings and the NCAA selection committee’s eyes. The Tigers are 28-22, but have an RPI of 28, and are close to securing an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. MU is 16-7 at home this season.
Junior outfielder Greg Folgia leads the Tigers with a .330 batting average, and has a team-high nine homers and 52 RBIs. Austin Holt (.317), Aaron Senne (.313) and Kyle Mach (.307) are also hitting over .300 this season, with Senne tied for the team lead in doubles (15). As a team, Missouri is batting .275.
Junior Kyle Gibson is the decided ace of the Tiger pitching staff, posting a Big 12 best five complete games and 107 strikeouts. Gibson is 8-3 with a 3.66 ERA. Sophomore righty Brad Buehler has taken on the closer’s role in recent weeks and has posted five saves with a 2.22 ERA in 27 appearances. MU’s staff ERA is 4.88, while opponents are batting .280 against the Tigers.
Missouri returns 20 letterwinners and six position starters from last year’s squad, which finished 39-21 and advanced to the NCAA Regionals.
Border Showdown Update
Missouri currently leads Kansas 20-17.5 in the Border Showdown series – a points-based competition between the two schools’ athletic departments. Each of the games during this weekend’s series will count as one point, meaning Kansas needs a series victory to stay alive, while the Tigers can virtually lock up this year’s competition with a series win.
Last Time Out
Sophomore Tony Thompson hit his team-leading 15th home run of the season and collected four RBIs, while five different Kansas players collected two hits as No. 23 Kansas recorded an 8-3 victory over Wichita State Wednesday night at Eck Stadium.
Tony on a Terror
Sophomore Tony Thompson earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors last week after belting a pair of homers in Sunday’s loss to No. 9 Oklahoma, and batting .429 during the series with the Sooners. However, he’s well on his way to being selected as the league’s best hitter for a second-straight week. The sophomore homered and drove in four runs in KU’s 8-3 win at Wichita State Wednesday.
Thompson leads the conference in RBIs (66), and is tied for the lead in homers (15). Both totals are the most by a Kansas sophomore, and rank in the top five all-time at KU.
Below is a look at KU’s single season leaders in both categories:
Walz-ing Through the Top 25
Sophomore right-handed pitcher T.J. Walz earned his team-leading sixth victory of the season May 2, holding No. 9 Oklahoma to just two runs on five hits over six innings.
Downing ranked teams has become a habit for Walz, who leads the team with a 6-1 record. During the current season, Walz has defeated then-No. 4 Arizona State (March 14), then-No. 9 Baylor (April 4), then-No. 17 Oklahoma State (April 11) and then-No. 9 Oklahoma (May 2). In his Kansas career, Walz is 10-2 with four career victories against teams ranked in the top 10.
He also leads the Jayhawks this year with 62 strikeouts.
Junior Brett Bollman has been one of the biggest surprises in the Kansas rotation this season. The former relief pitcher turned starter has been one of the best in the league this season. He has posted the fifth-best ERA (1.98), fourth-best batting average against (.217) and the fewest walks (five) among Big 12 pitchers who have a minimum of 50 innings.
That the junior has been so dominant has to be a surprise to many, as he entered the season without a defined role. He found a niche as a midweek starter, but lately has pitched in relief in conference games, posting a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings against the Big 12. He will start Sunday’s game against Missouri.
Around the Horn
– The Jayhawks will face Border Showdown rival Missouri this weekend in a big three-game conference series. With a win, or a Oklahoma State loss, KU will qualify for the Big 12 Championship for the first time since 2006.
– KU’s bullpen has been outstanding this season. The Jayhawks’ relief pitchers have recorded a 12-8 record with nine saves and held opponents to a .234 batting average.
– Over the last five weeks, KU has been much better on the road than earlier in the season. After starting the year 1-8 in away games, the Jayhawks have gone 7-3 over their past 10 contests away from Hoglund Ballpark. The seven wins include two wins at Oklahoma and Iowa, and single wins at Creighton, Texas Tech and Wichita State.
– One thing the Jayhawks have stressed this season is putting up crooked numbers at least once a game, and limiting opponents’ big innings. This year, the Jayhawks have scored three runs or more in an inning 51 times, and allowed three runs or more 31 times.
– Kansas swept back-to-back doubleheaders, taking down Nebraska and Chicago State in twinbills last week. KU has played three home doubleheaders this season, and swept all three of them.
– The Jayhawks downed Border Showdown rival Missouri at Kauffman Stadium the evening of April 22, 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 11-9 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.
– 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 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 went 2-for-5 Wednesday with a pair of singles. The senior is batting .345 on the season, nearly 100 points higher than his batting average from last year.
– Sophomore transfer Joe Lincoln tallied his first multi-hit game of the season April 28 against Chicago State. Both of Lincoln’s hits drove in runs, including a two-out double in the third inning, which capped a rally.
– 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 went 2-for-3 with two RBIs doubles in the May 2 game at No. 9 Oklahoma. Land now has 45 two-base hits in his career, which is the fifth-most by a Jayhawk in the Ritch Price era.
– Freshman Zac Elgie singled and scored KU’s first run in the Wednesday win at Wichita State. Elgie has been an excellent base runner this season, scoring seven runs in his previous seven games.
– Junior second baseman Robby Price had a bunt single in Wednesday’s win at Wichita State. The junior has done a tremendous job of starting rallies this season, hitting .586 when leading off an inning.
– Freshman infielder James Stanfield filled in admirably for an injured Robby Price on April 26, going 2-for-7 in the junior’s absence with three RBIs and three runs scored.
– Junior shortstop David Narodowski went 1-for-4 Wednesday and has reached base in 18 straight games, dating back to the Iowa series on April 7-8.
– Sophomore Tony Thompson has been KU’s best hitter in away games this season. Thompson is batting .378 in road games with a team high .695 slugging percentage, seven homers and 29 RBIs.
– Sophomore Greg Herbst went 1-for-3 on April 21 against Baker. Herbst has now hit safely in four of his last five 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 has also been a stellar hitter on the road, batting .327 away from Hoglund Ballpark with seven RBIs and a .392 on-base percentage.
– Sophomore Brian Heere is KU’s best hitter in Big 12 contests, batting at .372 in conference games with seven doubles, a trouble and two homers. He has also reached base at a .474 clip in Big 12 games.
– Sophomore Casey Lytle recorded two hits, including a double Wednesday at Wichita State. Lytle has 10 multi-hit games this season, including four on the road.
– Junior transfer Brett Lisher recorded his first multi-hit game in a Kansas uniform April 28, going 2-for-4 against Chicago State. Lisher has hit well against left-handed pitching, batting .444 against southpaws this season.
– Sophomore Brett Bochy pitched five scoreless innings April 28 to record his fourth victory of the season. Since a rough outing against Baylor on April 5, Bochy has allowed just four runs (three earned) over his last seven appearances, which spans 14 1/3 innings.
– Junior Brett Bollman retired four hitters out of the bullpen Wednesday against Wichita State. Bollman has not walked a batter since the April 22 game against Missouri at Kauffman Stadium, a stretch that goes back 13 2/3 innings.
– Junior Travis Blankenship rebounded from a rough appearance Friday, by pitching a perfect seventh frame in Saturday’s win at Oklahoma. Blankenship has dominated left-handed hitters, allowing lefties to reach base at a .177 clip.
– Freshman Kevin Burk pitched a scoreless inning April 28 against Chicago State. Burk has now held opponents scoreless over his last 6 1/3 innings.
– Junior Shaeffer Hall will look to get the series out on the right foot Friday at Missouri. The Jayhawks have won every Big 12 series that Shaeffer has won his Friday night start, including sweeps of Texas and Oklahoma State.
– Junior Thomas Marcin pitched an inning of relief April 28 against Chicago State. Marcin has held opponents to a .208 batting average this season.
– Freshman Colton Murray bounced back from a walk-off loss Sunday, by facing three hitters in an inning of work at Wichita State Wednesday. Murray has allowed just one earned run in his last nine appearances, which spans 9 2/3 innings.
– Senior Paul Smyth returned to a familiar role of closer, earning two saves in the Oklahoma series. Smyth retired the side in order in the ninth Friday to protect a one-run lead and pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning in Saturday’s win.
– Sophomore T.J. Walz held the top hitting team in the Big 12 to just two runs on five hits in the win over OU May 2. Walz’ five hits allowed over six innings were the fewest by an opposing starter that pitched at least five innings since Texas Tech’s Chad Bettis allowed four hits over nine innings of April 11.