9th INNING: Tony Thompson managed a one-out single in the ninth, but he wouldn't advance any farther, as a strikeout and infield popup ended the Jayhawk threat and finished off the Wildcats' 5-4 victory.
KU will take on Texas at 3 p.m. Thursday.
8th INNING: With two outs and one on in the bottom of the inning, Kansas centerfielder Jason Brunansky tried to make a diving catch on a line drive off the bat of K-State’s Rob Vaughn. Instead, he missed, and the ball rolled behind him, allowing K-State’s Jordan Cruz to score from first base, sending KU into the top of the ninth inning facing a 5-4 deficit.
Due up for Kansas in the ninth: Buck Afenir (1-for-3, one RBI, one run), all-Big 12 first-team selection Tony Thompson (3-for-4 with two doubles and a run) and Casey Lytle.
7th INNING: And they’re back.
Thanks to a clutch hit by reserve James Stanfield, the Jayhawks re-took the lead with a three-run seventh. The first four batters reached base as the Jayhawks finally got things going with runners in scoring position. Robby Price doubled to lead off the inning, Brian Heere followed with a walk, and after K-State brought in reliever Ryan Daniel, Buck Afenir and Tony Thompson followed with back-to-back singles (the former recording an RBI to make the score 3-2 in favor of the Wildcats).
K-State retired the next two KU batters, but Stanfield’s ground ball single between first and second base scored two, and Kansas finished the half-inning with a one-run advantage.
However, the Wildcats took advantage of two Kansas errors in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game at four. K-State’s Rob Vaughn reached first on a throwing error by KU shortstop David Narodowski (his team-high 19th of the season), and two batters later, first baseman Preston Land misplayed a hard grounder to put runners on the corners. Carter Jurica singled on the next at-bat to tie the game before Jayhawks reliever Cameron Selik, who started the inning, retired the next two batters.
6th INNING: Kansas State struck back in a big way in the bottom of the inning, putting up three runs to take their first lead of the game. After breezing through the first five innings (much like he did in his last outing against the Wildcats), KU starter Shaeffer Hall had a tough sixth, giving up three hits and three earned runs before being pulled in favor of freshman righthander Colton Murray.
K-State’s Dane Yelovich started off the inning with a ground rule double, and leadoff batter Adam Muenster knocked him in immediately after, tying the game at one. After getting Nick Martini to strikeout, Hall then gave up a single down the first base line that scored Muenster that gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead and forced Kansas coach Ritch Price to bring in Murray. Murray got Justin Bloxom to pop out, but then gave up an RBI single to Jason King and walked Drew Biery before Travis Blankenship entered in relief.
The top of the inning, meanwhile, was far less eventful. After striking out in his first two at-bats, KU designated hitter Zac Elgie was pulled in favor of James Stanfield, who reached base on an infield single with one out in the inning. Centerfielder Jason Brunansky followed with a single to left field, but leadoff batter David Narodowski grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The sixth inning has proved to be a nightmare for Hall against the Wildcats this season. In both of his starts against K-State, he’s pitched five scoreless innings before suffering disappointing sixths.
Hall’s final line: 5 1/3 innings, six hits, three earned runs, five strikeouts and no walks.
Stat to consider: Through six innings, Kansas has batted a dismal 1-for-13 with runners on base.
5th INNING: A day after being named the conference’s newcomer of the year, KU shortstop showed why he warranted such an honor. Narodowski led off the top of the fifth inning with his fourth home run of the year, driving a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall. Robby Price followed with a single up the middle, Brian Heere moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt, and Buck Afenir walked on four pitches, prompting K-State to pull starter Lance Hoge in favor of freshman right-hander Evan Marshall. Marshall got Tony Thompson to foul out down the first base line, then induced a groundout from Casey Lytle to limit the damage.
Hoge’s final line: 4 1/3 innings, one run, eight hits, one walk and four strikouts.
KU starter Shaeffer Hall remained effective and efficient, retiring three straight batters in the bottom of the inning. Through five innings, he’s thrown just 50 pitches, giving up three hits, striking out four and walking none.
4th INNING: Tony Thompson just missed his 19th home run of the year, slamming a ball to the deepest part of the park (right-center field, which is 415 feet) to record his second double of the game. In just about any other college park in the country, it would have been an easy home run, but Bricktown Ballpark comes to a corner in left-center, an unfriendly dimension for right-handed power hitters. He moved to third on Casey Lytle’s single to left field, but K-State pitcher Lance Hoge got three straight outs to emerge unscathed.
Justin Bloxom singled for the second time in the game with one out in the bottom of the fourth, but was picked off by KU pitcher Shaeffer Hall and Jason King flied out on the next-at bat for the third out.
At the conclusion of the fourth inning, Kansas has left six runners on base, including three in scoring position.
3rd INNING: The good news for the Jayhawks is that they appear to have an early beat on K-State pitcher Lance Hoge, recording two more hits in the third inning to push their total to four hits. The bad news is that, at this point, they haven’t been able to do much with them. Robby Price singled with two outs in the top of the third, and Brian Heere followed with a bloop single to right-center that moved Price to third. But a Buck Afenir strikeout brought the inning to a close.
Also worth noting is that, despite their lack of run production, the Jayhawks have forced K-State pitcher Lance Hoge to throw a lot more pitches than he would have liked. After three innings, the senior lefthander had thrown 50 pitches, compared to 31 by KU’s Shaeffer Hall (25 of which have been for strikes).
K-State’s Adam Muenster tried to get something going for the Wildcats in the second half of the inning. After singling to right field, he stole second and then third to tie the K-State school record for team steals at 138, set in 1985. Hall then got Carter Jurica to strikeout to end the threat.
2nd INNING: Tony Thompson recorded his 23rd double of the year to start off the second, but Kansas couldn’t capitalize. Casey Lytle and Preston Land followed with flyouts, and designated hitter Zac Elgie struck out swinging to end the inning.
In the bottom half, Hall gave up his first hit of the day, a lined single to right field off the bat of Justin Bloxom, but cleaned up by retiring the next three batters he faced.
Stat to consider: Kansas has stranded two runners through two innings; Kansas State one.
1st INNING: Not much to report after one inning at Bricktown. The Jayhawks failed to get much going in the top of the first. David Narodowski flied out to start the game and Robby Price followed with another flyout. Brian Heere recorded the game’s first hit, lining a single to left field, but KU failed to advance him. Buck Afenir struck out swinging from the clean-up spot to strand Heere at first and end the inning.
Shaeffer Hall appeared efficient in his first inning of work, enticing three groundouts — one to the pitcher, one to shortstop and one to third, in which Tony Thompson made a nice play going to his left.
One key for the Jayhawks throughout the Big 12 tournament will be their ability to score baserunners. Kansas has left a large numer of runners on base this season, and while some of this speaks to the team’s ability to get a good number of runners on base, scoring those runs will likely be of greater importance entering the postseason.
Without question, the location of the Kansas University baseball team's Big 12 tournament opener against fourth-seeded Kansas State this morning leaves little to be desired. Located in Oklahoma City's Bricktown district, the AT&T's Brickyard Ballpark is a staple of the community. Home of the Oklahoma City Redhawks, a AAA affiliate of the Texas Rangers, the stadium sits at the center of Bricktown, a large collection of bars, restaurants and hotels. On Tuesday, Kansas baseball coach Ritch Price said his team was so smitten by the place the last time it was here — in 2006 — that when the Jayhawks moved on to the NCAA tournament a week later, the location was a bit of a letdown.
Whether the game's start time — 9 a.m. — will have any effect on the fifth-seeded Jayhawks is unclear. In the short time the team has been in Oklahoma City, however, it's at least gotten used to early morning starts. On Tuesday, the team had the day's first scheduled practice, which started at 8 a.m., and today's 9 a.m. start time is the earliest scheduled game of the tournament. The Jayhawks will also play at 9 a.m. on Saturday against eighth-seeded Baylor.
As expected, K-State, the home team, will start senior lefthander Lance Hoge (5-4, 4.52 ERA), while the Jayhawks will go with junior lefthander Shaeffer Hall (4-6, 4.60).
The absence of Wildcats ace A.J. Morris has to be a pleasant development for the Jayhawks, who were handcuffed by the Big 12 pitcher of the year last Friday night in Manhattan. Throwing a complete game, Morris (12-1, 1.60) scattered seven hits and allowed just one run with an 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Against Hoge, meanwhile, Kansas fared a bit better. In his start against the Jayhawks last Saturday, Hoge was roughed up in a 9-3 loss, giving up five runs in just two innings before being pulled.
Hall is 0-1 against the Wildcats this year, pitching five shutout innings last Friday night before giving up four runs in a decisive sixth inning to take the loss.
Nothing too surprising in the Jayhawks' starting lineup today. Despite senior Nick Faunce's 5-for-5 performance against the Wildcats on Sunday from the designated hitter spot, Faunce will start the game on the bench in favor of Zac Elgie. Other than that, however, the lineup reads much like it did throughout the second half of the season.
1. David Narodowski, ss (.357 batting average, .431 OBP, 19 doubles, 56 runs)
2. Robby Price, 2b (.302, .457 OBP, 50 runs)
3. Brian Heere, rf (.363, .463 OBP, 52 runs)
4. Buck Afenir, c (.351, 9 home runs, 59 RBIs)
5. Tony Thompson, 3b (.362, 18 home runs, 22 doubles, 74 RBIs)
6. Casey Lytle, lf (.293, 23 RBIs, 11 stolen bases)
7. Preston Land, 1b (.228, eight doubles, 21 RBIs)
8. Zac Elgie, dh (.308, 21 RBIs, 16 runs)
9. Jason Brunansky, cf (.281, 12 RBIs, 19 runs)
One interesting subplot of today's matchup is the revenge factor. It is not often that the nation's No. 11 team suffers a 10-run mercy rule defeat by an unranked opponent (or by any opponent, for that matter), and while neither Morris nor K-State coach Brad Hill used the "r" word during yesterday's press conference at Mickey Mantle's restaurant, it's hard to believe the Wildcats won't be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. In the final two games of last week's series, the Jayhawks outscored K-State 26-10.
Something to think about as today's game gets underway.