Kansas Faces Coastal Carolina in First Day of NCAA Tournament Friday

May 26, 2009

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Kansas at NCAA Chapel Hill Region

For the second time in four years, the Kansas baseball team will participate in the NCAA Tournament when the Jayhawks face Coastal Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. at 1 p.m. (CST), Friday. KU earned a No. 3 seed in the Chapel Hill region, which also features host North Carolina as the No. 1 seed, Coastal Carolina as the No. 2 seed and Dartmouth as the No. 4 seed.

Games will be played at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Friday through Monday with the Chapel Hill region champion slated to match up with the Greenville, S.C. region winner beginning June 5.

All of KU’s games during the NCAA Tournament will be broadcast live on KLWN (1320 AM) with Brian Hanni calling the action. Fans can also follow the action on Gametracker at kuathletics.com.

Series History

This will be the first meeting between KU and Coastal Carolina on the baseball diamond. The Jayhawks will be participating in their fourth NCAA Tournament all-time, with appearances in 1993, 1994, 2006 and 2009. KU advanced to the College World Series in 1993. The Jayhawks are 6-7 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, and 1-2 under head coach Ritch Price.

About the Jayhawks

Kansas participates in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years, and the fourth time in school history this week. KU’s 37-22 record marks the team’s fourth-highest win total in school history, and the fourth time in head coach Ritch Price’s tenure that the team has won at least 35 games.

The Jayhawks went 25-3 at Hoglund Ballpark this season, which is the best home winning percentage in team history (.892). The 25 home wins were also tied for the second-most by a Kansas team all-time.

First team All-Big 12 selection Tony Thompson paces the Kansas offense with a .374 batting average, and leads the conference in doubles (25), homers (19), RBIs (78) and slugging percentage (.730).

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 its opponents are hitting .263 against the Jayhawk pitching staff.

Scouting the Chanticleers

Coastal Carolina enters the NCAA Tournament with a 46-14 record, and is ranked No. 15 in the country by the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association. The Chanticleers captured their third-straight Big South title this past week, by knocking off Winthrop, 7-1, in the title game. Over its past 15 games, Coastal Carolina is 14-1.

Senior infielder David Anderson leads the potent Coastal Carolina offense with a .389 batting average and 20 homers and 79 RBIs. Anderson is one of six Chanticleers hitting over .300. Sophomore Rico Noel is tied for fifth in the country with 46 stolen bases on the season. As a team, Coastal is batting .333 with 118 steals and 81 homers.

On the mound, the Jayhawks will likely see sophomore right-handed pitcher Nick McCully. McCully, formerly the team’s closer, is 7-1 on the season with a 1.92 ERA in six starts. He has pitched 65 innings and held opponents to a .202 batting average with 60 strikeouts and just 22 walks.

Last Time Out

Sophomore Tony Thompson hit his record-breaking 19th home run of the season, his second grand slam in three weeks, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Shaver Hansen went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer to lead Baylor past Kansas, 8-4 in the final day of pool play at the Big 12 Baseball Championship at Bricktown Ballpark.

Thompson Thunder

Sophomore Tony Thompson has put together one of the greatest seasons in Kansas history. The Jayhawk third baseman already holds the school single-season records for homers (19) and total bases (168), and ranks second in doubles (25) and RBIs (78).

He tore up opposing pitching during the Big 12 Championship, going 7-for-12 in three games with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs. For his efforts, Thompson earned Big 12 Championship All-Tournament Team honors.

Thompson’s numbers compare favorably with just about anybody in KU history on a per-game basis. The sophomore has a .374 batting average, and averages 1.51 hits per game, 0.44 doubles per game, 0.33 homers per game, 1.37 RBIs per game and 2.95 total bases per game.

Power Surge

Junior shortstop David Narodowski earned the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year award after transferring to KU from Vernon College before this season. However, it wasn’t until recently that the shortstop’s power has shown up. Narodowski hit a pair of round-trippers during the Big 12 Championship to tie the school record in a conference championship.

Narodowski has shown power down the stretch, hitting three home runs and six doubles in KU’s last 12 games. During that time, Narodowski has a .612 slugging percentage, second to only Tony Thompson.

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

Now You See Me

Junior pitcher Travis Blankenship tied the record for most appearances by a Jayhawk by pitching in all three of KU’s Big 12 Championship games. The left-handed specialist made 37 appearances this season, including 15 of less than one inning.

Blankenship got the job done, holding left-handed hitters to a .162 batting average (12-for-74), while opponents have hit just .200 against him (7-for-35) with men on base and two outs in an inning. Blankenship’s 37 appearances tie him with former closer Don Czyz, who also pitched in 37 games in 2006.

Walk Like a Man

KU’s Buck Afenir (60) and Tony Thompson (78) have combined to drive in 138 runs this season. One of the reasons has been the ability of No. 2 hitter Robby Price and No. 3 hitter Brian Heere to get on base in front of the middle of the order. Both Lawrence, Kan. products are batting above .300 this season, however they are both drawing walks at high rates.

Price’s on-base percentage is nearly 150 points higher than his batting average. The junior second baseman has walked 38 times and also been hit by a pitch 15 times. His .451 on-base percentage ranks fifth in the conference.

Heere is batting .363 this season, but has also drawn walks at an identical rate as his teammate, Price, 38 in 58 games. The sophomore right fielder leads the conference in on-base percentage and ranks eighth in runs scored (53).

Around the Horn

– Kansas will face No. 15 Coastal Carolina in the opening day of the NCAA Tournament in Chapel Hill, N.C. This will be the first meeting between the schools.

– KU is making its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in baseball, and first since 2006. The Jayhawks are 6-7 all-time in tournament play, including 1-2 under head coach Ritch Price.

– Kansas shortstop David Narodowski, second baseman Robby Price and first baseman Preston Land combined to turn a triple play against Texas on May 21. It was the Jayhawks’ first triple play since 1999. With runners on first and second and nobody out in the top of the ninth, Narodowski caught a line drive for the first out, flipped to Price for the second out, who threw to Land to end the inning.

– KU third baseman Tony Thompson hit his second grand slam of the season on May 23 against Baylor, marking the third Jayhawk in the Price era to hit multiple grand slams in a season.

– 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 61-33 in the opening frame. KU is 19-7 when it produces at least one run in the first inning this year.

– KU has hit .302 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 25-12 this year with a 4.34 ERA.

– KU has done its best work against some of the very best in the country. The Jayhawks have a 13-12 record against Top 25 teams this season, including a 7-6 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).

– Kansas enjoyed its best season at Hoglund Ballpark in 2009. The Jayhawks went 25-3 at home (.893), including a series sweep of then-No. 1 Texas. KU’s only losses came to Baylor (two) and Nebraska (one).

– 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 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 has saved his best games for the weekends. Afenir batted .388 with seven homers and 44 RBIs during KU’s games played on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Comparitively, Afenir batted just .254 in his 17 midweek starts.

– 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 was the 16th Jayhawk to record a base hit this season.

– Senior first baseman Preston Land was a more productive player with men on base this season. Land hit .268 with runners on, while his average dipped to .171 with the bases empty.

– Freshman Zac Elgie doubled twice in the May 16 triumph over Kansas State. The freshman recorded his eighth multi-hit game of the season, tops among first-year players.

– Junior second baseman Robby Price went 3-for-5 in KU’s opening game loss to Kansas State at the Big 12 Championship. It was the junior’s 15th multi-hit game this season and sixth with at least three hits.

– 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 .303 this year with men on base.

– Junior shortstop David Narodowski hit a pair of home runs at the Big 12 Championship. Narodowski has a .363 batting average and a .648 slugging percentage since April 15.

– Sophomore Tony Thompson recorded a career-high four hits in the Big 12 Championship game against Kansas State. The four hits in a conference tournament game were a Jayhawk record.

– Senior Nick Faunce celebrated Senior Day by going 5-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored on May 17. 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 went 2-for-3 with a walk in KU’s 8-4 loss to Baylor at the Big 12 Championship. Heere heads into the NCAA Tournament as the conference’s leader in on-base percentage (.463).

– Sophomore Casey Lytle went 2-for-5 in the regular season finale against Kansas State. It marked the second-year outfielder’s third multi-hit game in the last two weeks.

– Junior transfer Brett Lisher collected his second pinch hit of the season in the loss to Baylor May 23. Lisher has hit .444 this season against left-handed pitching.

– Sophomore Brett Bochy made a pair of scoreless appearances during the Big 12 Championship last week. He recorded his 52nd strikeout of the season, marking the fourth time in five years a Kansas reliever has tallied at least 50 strikeouts.

– Junior Brett Bollman made a pair of relief appearances at the Big 12 Championship and allowed just one run in three innings of work. The junior has a 2.84 ERA as a starting pitcher this year, and a 3.57 ERA as a reliever.

– Junior Travis Blankenship matched the school record with his 37th appearance of the season Saturday against Baylor. Blankenship has not allowed a run since April 24, spanning 9 1/3 innings.

– Freshman Kevin Burk pitched a 1/3 of an inning against Baylor at the Big 12 Championship May 23. It was Burk’s first appearance since April 28.

– 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 the 9-3 win over No. 11 Kansas State on May 16. 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

The Jayhawks will play Saturday at Boshamer Stadium in the second day of competition at the NCAA Tournament. If KU wins on the first day, it will play the winner of the North Carolina-Dartmouth game at 4 p.m. If the Jayhawks lose to Coastal Carolina Friday, they will play the North Carolina-Dartmouth loser at noon on Saturday.