Jayhawks Meet Huskers with Big 12 Tournament Berth On the Line

May 16, 2007

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The Kansas baseball team plays host to Nebraska in a three-game series at Hoglund Ballpark to wrap up the regular season this weekend. KU will be looking to qualify for the Big 12 Tournament for the third straight year when it hosts the Huskers Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. The Jayhawks will need a series victory and help from other Big 12 teams to qualify for the conference championship. <?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

Scouting the Huskers

Nebraska enters the weekend series in Lawrence having lost its Tuesday game at Creighton, 9-2. This was after NU had strung three consecutive victories together. The Huskers have yet to win a conference series on the road, sporting a 9-8 mark away from Hawks’ Field this year.

Junior infielder Jeff Tezak leads the team with a .346 batting average and has 55 hits, 12 doubles, 33 RBIs. Senior Andrew Brown has 19 doubles, nine home runs and 38 RBIs.

Junior lefty Tony Watson has been Nebraska’s Friday evening starter this season and has compiled a 5-4 record with a 3.63 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 86.2 innings. Juniors Thad Weber and Steve Edlefsen have been the Huskers’ top pitchers out of the bullpen. Weber, a junior righty, is 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. Edlefsen, also a right-handed junior, is 0-1 with four saves, a 3.32 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 21.2 innings of work.

Head coach Mike Anderson is in his fifth season at Nebraska and has a record of 199-104 at the school. Anderson’s team returns 22 letterwinners and six position starters from last year’s squad, which finished 42-17 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers lead the all-time series with Kansas, 135-91-1. However, the teams split four meetings last season with KU taking NU in the Big 12 Tournament championship, 9-7.

Last Time Out

The Jayhawks rolled through last week, taking a Wednesday game from Missouri State, 8-5 and sweeping a four-game series with Chicago State over the weekend. KU scored 15 runs and pounded out 13 hits in the series finale Sunday. Catcher Buck Afenir led the charge, going 2-for-3 with a double and a home run, while Kyle Murphy went 2-for-3 and scored three times. Sophomore lefty Andy Marks pitched five innings and struck out six Cougars to set the KU record for most strikeouts by a sophomore in a single-season.

Postseason Scenarios

Kansas is looking to qualify for its third consecutive Big 12 Baseball Championship this weekend. However, it will need to follow one of the scenarios below:

– KU sweeps Nebraska (11-15), they get in if:

– Oklahoma wins two (11-16)

– Baylor wins two (11-16)

– Oklahoma wins one (10-17)

– Baylor wins one (10-17)

– Kansas State gets swept (10-16)

– Baylor gets swept (9-18)

– Oklahoma gets swept (9-18)

– KU wins two from Nebraska (11-15), they get in if:

– Oklahoma wins one (10-17)

– Baylor wins one (10-17)

– Baylor gets swept (9-18)

– KU wins one against Nebraska (11-15), they get in if:

-Baylor gets swept (9-18), and Texas Tech loses its series to Oklahoma.

Get Your Radio On

Kansas’ series with Nebraska will be broadcast live on KLWN (1320 AM) as well as on kuathletics.com. Sports Director Brian Hanni and veteran play-by-play man Tom Hedrick will call all the action.

Masterful Marks

Sophomore Andy Marks has turned his season around since suffering a loss to Baylor on April 15. In his last five starts, Marks has allowed three earned runs or fewer and gone at least five innings in each start.

The sophomore lefty’s ERA during the last month is 2.40, dropping his season earned run average from 6.98 to 5.29.

Mighty Murphy

Senior Kyle Murphy enjoyed perhaps his best offensive week of the season against Missouri State and Chicago State last week. The senior center fielder went 9-for-16 (.563) last week, scoring six runs and driving in three.

Murphy’s torrid week lifted his season batting average to .333, tying him for the team lead with junior John Allman. Since the beginning of conference play on March 16, Murphy’s average has not dropped below .300, reaching a peak after this past weekend.

Afenir the Fire

Sophomore Buck Afenir has enjoyed a resurgance at the plate this season. After batting .278 with four home runs and 16 RBIs last year, the second-year catcher is the team’s third-leading hitter at .296. He has doubled his power numbers with eight homers and 37 RBIs.

More importantly, the sophomore has been a lot more consistent this season. Since April 18, Afenir has gone hitless just twice and has a pair of multi-hit games in that time, including a 2-for-3 effort last Sunday against Chicago State.

Home Sweet Home

Shortstop Erik Morrison has been a good hitter on the road, but a great hitter at home this season. The junior is batting .375 at Hoglund Ballpark this season with eight doubles, five home runs and 29 RBIs.

In KU’s latest homestand, the shortstop is batting .412 with six runs scored, 10 RBIs and three extra-base hits in six games.

The Price is Right

With his three-run homer in the second inning of Friday’s win against Chicago State, junior Ryne Price moved into a sixth-place tie in career home runs at Kansas.

Price, who is the only Jayhawk with 10 or more round-trippers this season, ties former KU great Darryl Monroe with 24 career homers in a Jayhawk uniform.

Around the Horn

– KU outscored its opponents 73-12 last week in winning five games. It marks KU’s longest winning streak since capturing the first five games of the 2007 season.

– Erik Morrison and Buck Afenir both homered in Saturday’s 8-2 win over Chicago State. It marked the 13th time this season that KU has hit multiple home runs in a game. The Jayhawks are 11-2 when homering two or more times in a game.

– Catcher Buck Afenir hit his second grand slam of the season in Saturday’s 8-2 triumph over Chicago State. Afenir became the first KU player to hit two grand slams in the same season since Sean Richardson pulled the feat in 2004.

– Sophomore Preston Land showed signs of getting back on track Friday. The KU first baseman went 2-for-2 with three RBIs in KU’s 12-1 victory over Chicago State.

– Junior Ryne Price collected seven RBIs last week to become the fifth different Jayhawk to reach 30+ RBIs this season.

– Shortstop Erik Morrison also drove in seven runs in the Chicago State series and now leads the team with 42 runs batted in this season.

– Freshman Robby Price leads the team with 13 sacrifices this season. Price is four away from his older brother Ritchie’s team record of 17 sacrifices in a single-season.

– After Friday’s game, junior John Allman did not lead the team in season batting average, being passed by fellow outfielder Kyle Murphy. It marked the first time since Feb. 25 that somebody other than the junior left fielder led the team in hitting. Allman responded by going 4-for-10 over the final three games of the series to tie Murphy with a .333 season average.

– Sophomore Justin Ellrich received a pair of academic awards over the last two weeks. The first baseman/designated hitter was named to the Academic All-Big 12 team as well as Academic All-District 7. Ellrich was joined on the Academic All-Big 12 First Team by sophomore Nick Faunce, senior Ross Kelling and sophomore Paul Smyth. Second Team selections included sophomore Buck Afenir and junior Erik Morrison.

– Left-hander Andy Marks set the KU sophomore record for strikeouts in a season, fanning six Chicago State hitters Sunday. Marks has 89 strikeouts on the season. With just one K against Nebraska this week, Marks would become the 11th Jayhawk to amass 90 strikeouts in a season.

– Since joining the starting rotation on April 22, freshman Wally Marciel has allowed just four earned runs in three starts and is 2-0 with nine strikeouts. His ERA since an April 1 appearance against Missouri is 1.24.

– Sophomore lefty Nick Czyz recorded his third scoreless start of the season in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader with Chicago State. In Czyz’ four victories, he has an ERA of 0.45.

– Junior Matt Lane and freshmen Max Ellenbecker and Thomas Marcin made their first appearances since early April in the Chicago State series. Lane pitched the final two innings of Friday’s win, while Ellenbecker and Marcin pitched the final innings Sunday.

– Kansas will recognize the efforts of four seniors with a ceremony before Sunday’s home game with Nebraska. Seniors Ryotaro Hayakawa, Ross Kelling, Kyle Murphy and Dylan Parzyk will all be thanked for their efforts, along with KU baseball office assistant Laura Hayes and student trainer Pat McGinn.

Movin’ On Up

With KU’s triumph over Oklahoma April 29, head coach Ritch Price moved into sole possession of third place in all-time victories (172) at the University of Kansas. Price passed former KU coach Bobby Randall, who had 166 wins with the Jayhawks from 1996 to 2002. Price has 167 victories at KU and 383 wins in 12-plus seasons as a Division I head coach.

Afenir Named to Watch List

Sophomore catcher Buck Afenir has been named to the Coleman Company- Johnny Bench Award Watch List by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission. The award is given annually to the best catcher in NCAA Division I college baseball.

The 27-player list will be narrowed down to 10 semifinalists on Thursday, with the winner to be announced on June 27.

Afenir, a sophomore from Escondido, Calif., is batting .296 this year with 12 doubles, eight homers and 37 RBIs.

Up All Night

KU’s three-game series against South Dakota State was played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis.

The Jayhawks and Jackrabbits opened play on Saturday morning with a doubleheader at 1:30 a.m. The second game of the twinbill was suspended due to time constraints and completed Sunday morning at 3:30 a.m., prior to the third game of the series.

Oh, What a Night

On March 17, Kansas and eighth-ranked Texas A&M competed in a baseball battle of epic proportions. The teams combined for 30 runs and 33 hits in 11 innings, that ended after KU’s Erik Morrison, Dylan Parzyk and Justin Ellrich drove in runs in the top of the 11th and Jayhawk reliever Paul Smyth retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning.

KU held a 10-2 lead after the top of the fifth, but surrendered eight runs in the bottom of the inning. The Jayhawks took the lead twice before extra innings, only to be equalized again in the next half-inning.

The Jayhawks’ top three in the batting order: Kyle Murphy, Robby Price and John Allman combined for nine hits.

Major League Bloodlines

Several players on the 2007 Kansas baseball team have relatives who have played in the major leagues. They include:
– Buck Afenir’s uncle, Troy Afenir, played in 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.
– Joe Servais’ cousin, Scott Servais, played in the major leagues from 1991-2001 for Houston, Colorado, San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs.

Oh, Brother
A handful of Jayhawks have also followed older siblings onto the KU baseball team. They include:
– Nick Czyz’ older brother Don pitched at KU from 2003-06. Don was drafted by the Florida Marlins after last season.
– 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 last season.