Kansas overpowered Northwestern today to win the third and final game of the weekend series by a 10-1 score. Buck Afenir, Tony Thompson and Brian Heere all hit homeruns. Coming into the game KU knew it could score on the shallow Wildcat pitching staff. Perhaps more impressive was the ease by which the Kansas pitchers kept Northwestern’s offense in check. Five pitchers combined on a three hitter today. Cameron Selik retired 9 of the 10 men he faced, the sole exception being a runner who reached on error. Lee Ridenhour pitched the next three innings almost as effectively, allowing only one hit and a walk. Travis Blankenship, Brett Bollman and Kelson Boyer each took an inning to wrap it up.
Kansas improved to 7-3 on the year while Northwestern fell to 2-9. The next game for KU will be a much sterner test. Perennial baseball powerhouse Wichita State visits Hoglund Wednesday for a 6PM game.
A few notes on the game. Brian Heere’s 7th inning homerun was his first collegiate tater. The ball was traveling well today. Tony Thompson and Buck Afenir went on a rampage this weekend. Thompson had a 13-5-5-5 line for the series with three doubles and two home runs. Afenir went 6-5-4-4 with two homeruns. James Stanfield received his first start in game three. Stanfield played at second base. Apparently Robby Price was given the day off to rest his shoulder. Stanfield struck out in his first two at bats, then took a walk before lining a clean single to right center. Zac Elgie looked much better at first base today. He completed a pair of fairly difficult plays. Left field is apparently a cursed located for Northwestern. Jake Goebbert started in left today but looked no better than did Hamilton Wise on Friday. Mistakes and dropped balls in left cost Northwestern maybe five or six runs this weekend.
As a team Northwestern suffered from the usual problems which plague less competitive college baseball teams. Their pitching staff was as shallow as Jessica Simpson's lyrics. Only Eric Jokisch and Matt Havey appeared to control at-bats. I was unclear on why Havey did not appear in the first game. He looked capable in a 1.2 inning appearance today. Northwestern has several fair to good hitters. Goebbert, Lashmet, Avila, Williams and Stevens all came to the plate with a plan and some confidence. The team's defense was truly bad. Maybe this was just an off-week for the Wildcats in that regard. I saw more poor fielding this weekend, by both teams, then I have in several years. As far as KU goes I hope this was just an anomalous weekend. Or maybe both teams were tired, cold and feeling their way into the season. Northwestern has been on the road all year and KU did play several freshmen. Still, KU cannot afford to play defense at this level in conference play and hope for more than a handful of wins.
Pretty well every aspect of the game outside of defense came together for KU this weekend. The Hawks hit 15 extra base hits, 8 double, a triple and six homeruns. They drew 14 walks and struck out 19 times. The weekend's batting line was .306/.413/.591. The KU pitchers kept Northwestern quiet for two of the three games. The Wildcats were limited to 14 singles and 5 doubles in the series. Kansas walked 9 batters, a nice total for three games, while striking out 28! Northwestern's batting line was .192/.259/.242.
The weather was less than cheerful today. Gray, cold and windy. Only about 300 fans came out to watch the Hawks finish what they had started Saturday night. The next home weekend series is vs. Texas. I’d love to see Hoglund stuffed and loud for the Longhorns. Two weeks from now KU fans will have a pretty good idea how good this ’09 club can be. This five game winning streak has made me somewhat more optimistic but I know it has been built on wins at home over seriously flawed teams.