Kansas Opens Big 12 Baseball Championship with No. 12 Oklahoma

May 24, 2010


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Kansas vs. Oklahoma

After being swept in the final regular season series, the Kansas Jayhawks face a familiar foe in the first round of the Big 12 Baseball Championship in Oklahoma City, Okla. KU opens the 14th annual conference tournament with a rematch against Oklahoma on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The Jayhawks will also take on Kansas State and Baylor as part of pool play at the tournament.

KU’s games at the Big 12 Championship will be broadcast live on KLWN radio (1320 AM) with Brian Hanni and Tom Hedrick calling the action. Live video from the tournament will also be streamed on the Big 12 Conference’s website: www.big12sports.com.

Series with Oklahoma

Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Kansas, 145-87 with one tie, including a three-game sweep at Hogland Ballpark this past weekend. Prior to last weekend, KU was 10-2 against OU in the previous 12 meeings, including a win in the 2006 Big 12 Championship. The Jayhawks and Sooners have split eight previous neutral site meetings, 4-4.

About the Jayhawks

Kansas finished seventh in the final Big 12 standings with an 11-15-1 conference record. The Jayhawks dropped five of their last six Big 12 games after posting a .500 mark in the league through the first seven weeks of conference play.

KU’s offense ranks sixth in the Big 12 with a .304 batting average and a .398 on-base percentage. Junior Brian Heere leads the league with 89 base hits, and is third with a .403 batting average and fifth with a .481 on-base percentage.

The Jayhawks’ pitching staff sports a 5.45 ERA, which ranks eighth in the conference. Junior righty T.J. Walz is tied for fourth in the league with eight victories, and is sixth with 90 strikeouts in 93 innings on the hill.

Scouting the Sooners

Oklahoma earned its first series sweep of Kansas since 2004, and has won 10 of 12 since the beginning of May. With a strong tournament showing, the Sooners will likely host a NCAA Regional, entering the week with an RPI rating in the top 16 in the country.

OU’s offense ranks second in the Big 12 with a .315 batting average. The Sooners have scored 8.1 runs per game this season. Sophomore third baseman Garrett Buchele leads the team with a .387 batting average and RBIs (59) and is tied for fifth in the Big 12 with 13 homers. Sophomore Cameron Seitzer and freshman Max White have each hit 14 homers, while center fielder Chris Ellison has 20 stolen bases.

The Sooners’ pitching staff ranks third in league with a 3.78 ERA while holding opponents to a .259 batting average. KU is likely to see junior right-handed pitcher Michael Rocha in Wednesday’s game. Rocha is 7-1 on the season with a 3.33 ERA in 48 2/3 innings. Over the weekend, OU’s bullpen pitched 12 1/3 innings, and allowed just one run with senior Jeremy Erben picking up a pair of saves.

Last Time Out

Oklahoma catcher Tyler Ogle hit a game-winning three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning as the 14th-ranked Sooners rallied for the third-straight day to sweep a three-game Big 12 series from Kansas, winning 9-6 Sunday at Hoglund Ballpark.

Can You Heere Now?

Junior outfielder Brian Heere is looking to become just the 18th player in Big 12 history to finish a season batting .400 or better. The third-year outfielder enters the conference tournament with a .403 average, which ranks third in the conference.

Heere is aiming to be the first Jayhawk to bat over .400 in a season since Joe DeMarco batted .429 in 1997.

Heere Go Again

Junior Brian Heere snapped a 19-game hitting streak in Sunday’s finale against Oklahoma, but continues to hold the top career batting average in school history. Heere hit .364 last season and is currently batting .403 heading into the Big 12 Baseball Championship for a .377 career average.

Hit Me

Kansas right fielder Casey Lytle was hit by a pitch for the 22nd time of the 2010 season in the May 14 loss to Kansas State, which is the single-season record at KU. Lytle’s hit by pitch total ranks eighth in Division I baseball, and is just nine behind the nation’s leader – Vanderbilt’s Brian Harris. Amazingly, the junior was hit by a pitch just once in 58 career games prior to this season.

As a team, KU has been plunked 84 times this season, which is tied for the second-highest total in school history. The Jayhawks were hit by pitch a program-record 91 times in 2005.

May Day

Junior shortstop Brandon Macias has hit his stride at the plate during the month of May. Macias leads the team with an even .400 batting average (22-for-55) over the last month, including five doubles and 12 runs scored.

Macias has hit much better since moving to the top of the batting order on April 21, batting .386 as the team’s leadoff hitter, compared to .242 from the No. 9 spot in the order.

Wonder Walz

Junior right-handed pitcher T.J. Walz is the winningest active pitcher at KU, posting 20 career victories. Walz’ win over Missouri on May 7 made him just the eighth pitcher in team history to record 20-plus victories in his career. Walz’ 217 strikeouts also ranks in the top five all-time at Kansas.

You Da’ Man-ship

Sophomore Chris Manship enjoyed a breakout weekend against the Sooners May 21-23, going 7-for-11 (.636) with a pair of doubles. Manship recorded multi-hit games in all three contests against Oklahoma, raising his season batting average from .301 to .337.

Ninth Inning Nightmare

KU’s bullpen is looking to bounce back from a rough week. The Jayhawks allowed 19 runs in the ninth inning of their four games last week, including the go-ahead runs in the final two contests of the Oklahoma series. Over the course of the season, Kansas has been outscored 45-14 in the ninth inning of games, and have four losses this season when leading or tied after eight frames.

Team Notes:

– Kansas enters the Big 12 Baseball Championship as the No. 7 seed in the tournament. This marks the second time in KU’s five trips to the Big 12 Championship that the Jayhawks are the seventh-seed. KU also earned the No. 7 seed in 2005.

– The Jayhawks have either gone undefeated or winless at their previous four Big 12 Championships. KU was 0-2 in both the 2003 and 2005 tournaments, won the 2006 championship with a 4-0 record, and went 0-3 in last year’s tourney.

– KU will be facing Oklahoma for the second time in the Big 12 Championship, and the sixth time in conference tournament play. The Jayhawks and Sooners met four times in the Big Eight Conference tournament, splitting the games 2-2.

– The Jayhawks’ .304 team batting average in 2010 marked the highest total to end the regular season since 2004, when KU hit .316 as a club. In head coach Ritch Price’s tenure, the Jayhawks have batted over .300 four times, including each of the past two seasons.

– Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Kansas ranked 10th in the country in sacrifice flies. The Jayhawks added two more to that total (38) over the weekend, giving them the conference lead.

– KU has jumped on opponents early this season, scoring 155 runs in the first three innings of games. KU has outscored its opponents by a 59-13 margin in the first inning this season, and has scored first 35 times in 56 games.

Position Player Notes:

– Sophomore outfielder Jason Brunansky pinch ran in the Saturday game against Oklahoma, and has been used sparingly in the final month of the season. The second-year player hit .333 in the month of March, but has only started four games since then.

– Freshman catcher Alex DeLeon subbed in Saturday’s loss to No. 14 Oklahoma, and went 1-for-4 with a single in his first at bat. DeLeon reached base at a .429 clip in his four Big 12 games.

– Freshman infielder Jordan Dreiling pinch ran in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, and struck out in the ninth inning. However, Dreiling went 3-for-9 in Big 12 games this season with a pair of RBIs in a game against Baylor on March 28.

– Sophomore first baseman Zac Elgie made a pinch hitting appearance on May 18 at Arkansas-Little Rock. He is fifth on the team with four homers, and has a .383 slugging percentage.

– Junior outfielder Brian Heere snapped a career-best 19-game hitting streak in Sunday’s loss to Oklahoma. The 19-game streak is tied for the seventh-longest in Kansas history.

– Freshman infielder Kevin Kuntz made a pinch hitting appearance against Arkansas-Little Rock on May 18. The true freshman hit .273 in his first season, and has not struck out.

– Senior first baseman Brett Lisher went 3-for-11 with three RBIs in the Oklahoma series. Lisher has bounced back from a tough April by batting .326 (14-for-43) in the month of May.

– Junior outfielder Casey Lytle collected his team-leading 14th stolen base of the season on Friday against Oklahoma. Lytle’s 14 steals are the most by a Jayhawk since Kyle Murphy stole 16 bases in 2007.

– Junior shortstop Brandon Macias was 4-for-13 in the Oklahoma series with a pair of RBIs. Macias finished the conference season fourth on the team with a .327 batting average in Big 12 games.

– Sophomore designated hitter Chris Manship went 7-for-11 against Oklahoma with a pair of doubles in the series. The second-year player had eight multi-hit games this season, including a four-hit game against Sacramento State on Feb. 27.

– Redshirt-freshman infielder Jake Marasco did not play in the Oklahoma series. Marasco batted .379 against left-handed pitching this season.

– Senior infielder Robby Price bounced back from a rough week by going 5-for-11 in the Oklahoma series with two doubles and four runs scored. Price became the first Jayhawk to be named Big 12 Player of the Week three times in the same season.

– Sophomore catcher James Stanfield went 1-for-3 with a run scored in the final game of the Oklahoma series. Stanfield was a clutch hitter down the stretch for KU, batting .326 with men on base, including .340 (18-for-53) with runners in scoring position.

– Junior third baseman Tony Thompson went 3-for-9 with six walks in the Oklahoma series. Thompson hit his 32nd career home run in Friday’s game against OU, putting him alone in second-place in Kansas history, just three behind Ryne Price (35) for the school record.

– Junior outfielder Jimmy Waters went 4-for-13 in the Oklahoma series with a double and a home run. Waters leads the team, and is fourth in the Big 12 with 61 RBIs this season, including 34 in conference games.

Pitcher Notes:

– Senior left-handed pitcher Travis Blankenship made two appearances in the Oklahoma series, allowing four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. Blankenship leads the team, and is tied for second in the Big 12, with 32 relief appearances this season.

– Junior right-handed pitcher Scott Heitshusen (pronounced: Height-soo-sen) recorded an inning of scoreless relief in Friday’s loss to Oklahoma. He made six relief appearances for KU this season, allowing just one run in 10 innings of work.

– Junior right-handed pitcher Matt Kohorst pitched in the ninth inning against Oklahoma Friday night. Kohorst allowed just one run in his first nine outings of the season.

– Redshirt-junior left-handed pitcher Wally Marciel pitched 1 2/3 innings in Saturday’s game against Oklahoma. Marciel was one of KU’s best at stranding runners, holding opponents to a .207 batting average with men on base.

– Sophomore right-handed pitcher Colton Murray made two appearances in the Oklahoma series. Murray struggled down the stretch, but was lights out in April, posting a 3.38 ERA in eight appearances with 16 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings.

– Freshman Tanner Poppe earned a spot in the starting rotation in April and recorded his third quality start against Oklahoma on Sunday. Poppe posted a 4.19 ERA in three starts during the month of May, but did not receive a decision.

– Senior Cameron Selik held Oklahoma to four runs on six hits over seven innings in Saturday’s loss. Selik posted a career-high eight strikeouts against Kansas State on May 15.

– Freshman right-handed pitcher Thomas Taylor made a relief appearance in the Oklahoma series, pitching one-third of an inning. Taylor was dominant in the month of April, posting a 2-1 record with a 1.93 ERA in six April games with two walks and 24 strikeouts.

– Senior T.J. Walz lost back-to-back starts for just the second time in his career the last two weekends. In his first seven Big 12 starts this year, Walz posted a 5-1 record with 46 strikeouts in 49 innings.

Up Next
Kansas will continue play at the Big 12 Championship with a Friday afternoon game against in-state rival Kansas State at 3 p.m., in Oklahoma City. The Jayhawks will wrap up pool play Saturday against Baylor at 7:30 p.m.