Kansas Completes Big 12 Baseball Championship with Baylor Saturday

May 22, 2009

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Kansas at Big 12 Championship

After falling to top-seeded Texas on Thursday, Kansas will look to salvage its final game of the Big 12 Baseball Championship Saturday morning against eighth-seeded Baylor at Bricktown Ballpark. Both teams have been eliminated from advancing to the tournament championship.

All of KU’s Big 12 Championship games will be broadcast by KLWN (1320 AM) with Brian Hanni and Tom Hedrick calling the action.

Series History

This will be the second postseason game between the Jayhawks and Bears. Baylor won the initial Big 12 Championship meeting, 2-1, in 2005. The Bears lead the all-time series with KU, 35-6. Baylor was the only opposing team to win a series at Hoglund Ballpark this season, taking two of three from the Jayhawks in early April.

About the Jayhawks

Kansas makes its first visit to the Big 12 Baseball Championship since 2006, when it won the event at Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. KU is 0-2 in tournament play this season, falling to Kansas State (5-4) on Wednesday, and Texas (9-3) on Thursday.

The Jayhawks returned to the Top 25 this week, entering the Rivals.com poll at No. 24. KU is also receiving votes in the USA Today and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association polls.

First team All-Big 12 selection Tony Thompson paces the Kansas offense with a .370 batting average, and leads the conference in doubles (25), homers (18), RBIs (74) and slugging percentage (.722).

On the mound, sophomore T.J. Walz leads the team with an 8-2 record and a 4.18 ERA in 13 starts. Walz has recorded 85 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings this season. Out of the bullpen, senior Paul Smyth leads the team with nine saves. As a staff, KU’s team ERA is 4.29 while allowing opponents a .263 batting average.

Scouting the Bears

Baylor, like Kansas, is just looking to strengthen its NCAA Tournament resume Saturday, having been eliminated from reaching the conference championship. The Bears defeated Texas in their first game of the Big 12 Championship, before falling to Kansas State on Thursday evening.

Junior first baseman Dustin Dickerson leads the team with a .379 batting average and a .438 on-base percentage. Dickerson also has a team-best 15 doubles. Junior infielder Shaver Hansen leads the team in home runs with 15 and has a team-best 53 RBIs to go along with a .616 slugging percentage.

Baylor will start sophomore Jon Ringenberg Saturday. The second-year righty is 2-0 in four starts this season with a 5.19 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 26 innings. He is allowing a .295 batting average. With short outings Wednesday, it’s also likely that Kendal Volz (3-6, 4.67) and Logan Verrett (7-1, 5.23) will see action for the Bears. As a team, Baylor has allowed a 5.32 ERA, and opponents have hit .295 against them.

Last Time Out

Junior David Narodowski hit his second home run in as many days, while sophomore Tony Thompson extended his hitting streak to 15 games, but it was not nearly enough. Brandon Belt and Cameron Rupp hit home runs to power Texas to a 9-3 victory over Kansas Thursday in Big 12 Baseball Championship action at Bricktown Ballpark.

We’re Going Streaking

Sophomore Tony Thompson has had a big week at the Big 12 Championship, going 5-for-9 with three doubles in KU’s two games, and extending his hitting streak to a season-best 15 games. The 15-game hitting streak is Thompson’s third this season of 14 games or longer. He holds the second-longest hitting streak in KU history at 23 games, which includes the final nine contests of the 2008 season and the first 14 games of 2009.

Thompson has been a one-man wrecking crew this season, leading the Jayhakws in batting average (.370), hits (84), doubles (25), homers (18), RBIs (74), total bases (163) and slugging percentage (.718). He ranks in KU’s single-season Top 10 in each of those categories other than batting average.

Power Surge

Despite winning the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year award, junior David Narodowski hit just three home runs during the regular season. In two conference tournament games, the Kansas shortstop has two. Narodowski’s two round-trippers tie the KU Big 12 record.

Narodowski has shown power down the stretch, hitting three of his five home runs this season in KU’s last 10 games. During that stretch, Narodowski has a .711 slugging percentage, second to only Tony Thompson.

Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, all five of Narodowski’s homers are solo shots.

Triple Threat

During the ninth inning of Thursday’s loss to Texas, David Narodowski, Robby Price and Preston Land turned the first triple play in Big 12 Championship history. It was also the first triple play by a Kansas team since 1999, when the Jayhawks ended an inning against St. Scholastica with three outs in one play.

The triple play was also the first in KU postseason history.

Home, Sweet Home

Kansas made a habit of winning at home this season. The team’s 25-3 record at Hoglund Ballpark was the best home winning percentage in school history (.893) and tied for the second-most home wins. While the Jayhawks took care of business against non-conference foes early in the year, they also posted a 9-2 record against the Top 25 at Hoglund Ballpark, including a three-game sweep of then-No. 1 Texas in March.

Around the Horn

– Kansas will participate in its fourth Big 12 Baseball Championship this week, facing Baylor, Kansas State and Texas in pool play. KU is 4-5 in Big 12 Championship play all-time, winning the title in 2006.

– KU is the tournament’s No. 5 seed, which is the highest placing by the Jayhawks during its years in the Big 12. Kansas’ fifth-place conference finish is its best since placing third in the Big Eight Conference in 1994.

– Kansas’ 15-12 conference record was also its best during the Big 12 era, and also its most conference wins since 1994 (17).

– The Jayhawks have owned the first inning throughout the season, outscoring their opponents 61-30 in the opening frame. KU is 19-7 when it does produce at least one run in the first inning this year, including a pair of wins this past weekend against Kansas State.

– KU has hit .306 as a team, its highest average since 2004, when the Jayhawks batted .316.

– A big reason for KU’s success this year has been the stellar starting pitching. The Jayhawks have 19 quality starts this season, compared to just 10 in 2008. The Kansas starters have combined to go 25-10 this year with a 4.06 ERA.

– KU has done its best work against some of the very best in the country. The Jayhawks have a 13-10 record against Top 25 teams this season, including a 7-5 mark against teams ranked in the Top 10. Included in this record is a three-game sweep of then-No. 1 Texas (March 18-20) and a series win at then-No. 9 Oklahoma (May 1-3).

– KU extracted a measure of revenge against Kansas State this season. After being swept out of the postseason by their Sunflower Showdown rival, the Jayhawks took two of three from the 11th-ranked Wildcats to wrap up the regular season.

– The Jayhawks took two of three games from then-No. 9 Oklahoma in Norman May 1-3 to earn the team’s first series win against a ranked team on the road in three seasons. KU’s last road series win over a ranked team came at Stanford in 2006.

– Kansas swept back-to-back doubleheaders, taking down Nebraska and Chicago State in twinbills at the end of April. KU has played three home doubleheaders this season, and swept all of them.

– The Jayhawks downed Border Showdown rival Missouri, 7-3, at Kauffman Stadium on April 22, 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).

– 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.

– 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.

– Kansas junior Shaeffer Hall got the season off on the right foot by tossing the fifth individual no-hitter in team history on Feb. 20 against Air Force at the Service Academy Classic in Millington, Tenn. Hall allowed no runs on no hits over nine innings to record KU’s first individual no-no since 1980.

Senior catcher Buck Afenir wrapped up his most successful regular season to date with a bang against Kansas State. The senior catcher went 6-for-11 in the series, including a pair of homers in the two Jayhawk wins, helping him earn Big 12 Player of the Week honors.

– 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 started all 27 Big 12 games for the Jayhawks, and hit safely in 18 of them. He hit better in conference games (.245) with six doubles and two homers against the Big 12.

– Freshman Zac Elgie doubled twice in Saturday’s triumph over K-State. The freshman recorded his eighth multi-hit game of the season, and improved his batting average to .308.

– Junior second baseman Robby Price made a handful of spectacular plays at second base during the Kansas State series, and continued to enjoy his best collegiate year in the field. Price’s .980 fielding percentage this season is a career high, while his five errors are the fewest he’s had in a season.

– Freshman infielder James Stanfield entered Wednesday’s conference tournament game with Kansas State as a pinch hitter, and collected two singles, including a two-run bast hit in the seventh to give KU the lead. Stanfield is batting .324 this year against right-handed pitching.

– Junior shortstop David Narodowski went 3-for-3 in the regular season series finale against Kansas State with a pair of doubles and three runs scored. The Jayhawk leadoff man did a terrific job of setting the table this year, reaching base at a .431 clip, including a .438 on-base percentage in Big 12 games.

– Sophomore Tony Thompson recorded a career high four hits in Wednesday’s conference tournament game with Kansas State.

– 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 celebrated Senior Day by going 5-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored. His five-hit day was just the ninth in Kansas history, but the third since Robby Price went 5-for-5 against Missouri on May 11, 2008.

– Freshman Jason Brunansky hit safely in all three games of the Kansas State series. Brunansky has come a long way since the beginning of the season, batting .333 over the team’s final 25 games.

– Sophomore Brian Heere drew a pair of walks Sunday to raise his team-leading on-base percentage to .463. Heere’s percentage is the second-best in the Big 12, while his 36 walks are tied for the eighth-best total in the league.

– Sophomore Casey Lytle went 2-for-5 in the series finale against Kansas State. It marked the second-year outfielder’s third multi-hit game in the last two weeks. In the month of May, Lytle hit .279 with a pair of homers and seven runs scored.

– 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 recorded two more strikeouts in Saturday’s win over Kansas State to run his season total to 50. The second-year reliever has recorded at least one strikeout in 19 of his 26 appearances.

– Junior Brett Bollman retired four hitters out of the bullpen May 6 at Wichita State. Bollman has not walked a batter since the April 22 game against Missouri at Kauffman Stadium, a stretch that goes back 16 innings.

– Junior Travis Blankenship made his team-high 35th appearance in Wednesday’s game, and struck out Jordan Cruz to end the seventh inning. Blankenship has held left-handed hitters to a .171 batting average this year.

– 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 again kept the Kansas State bats quiet for five innings, but could not escape the sixth. In his two starts against the Wildcats he has allowed seven runs on six hits in the sixth inning, and no runs on five hits in the first five frames.

– Junior Thomas Marcin pitched an inning of relief April 28 against Chicago State. Marcin has held opponents to a .208 batting average this season.

– Senior Paul Smyth posted his ninth save of the season in the 7-4 win at Missouri on May 9. Smyth’s nine saves are the fifth-best single season total in team history, while his 27 career saves are second to just Don Czyz (31).

– Sophomore T.J. Walz recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts in Saturday’s 9-3 win over No. 11 Kansas State. The 12 K’s are the most by a Jayhawk pitcher since Mike Zagurski tallied a dozen strikeouts at Missouri on May 14, 2005.

Up Next

Kansas will learn its NCAA Tournament fate on Monday when the tournament committee announces the field of 64 teams live on ESPN at 11:30 a.m. The Jayhawks will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. at the McCarthy Family Clubhouse to discuss the national tournament with the media.