This year’s Sunflower Showdown weekend is much more interesting than any previous meeting. Both schools are having excellent years on the diamond. Kansas has been in and out of the national polls. The Jayhawks are likely to earn an at-large selection to the NCAA tournament and are on the verge of recording their first ever winning Big-12 season. Kansas State has one-upped all those Kansas accomplishments. The Wildcats climbed as high at #10 in the Baseball America poll, although they fell back to #11 this week. K-State is already a lock for the NCAA tournament and is still under consideration to be one of the 16 host schools. The Wildcats are already assured of their first winning conference season. Their 13 wins are two more than their previous high of 11 set last year. Two flat out good teams will be battling this weekend, and there will be plenty more at stake than just state bragging rights. These are both teams that can do some damage in the post-season.
How do the two teams match-up? Overall KSU has the better resume.
Rest of the series preview after the jump.
Offensively Kansas State outscores KU by a 7.7 vs. 7.3 average per game. Looking at the raw numbers it is surprising the scoring averages are so close as KSU outperforms KU in almost all categories. KSU’s team batting line (.322/.407/.485) trumps KU’s across the board (.301/.391/.454). KSU and KU have almost identical power numbers - 109 vs. 108 doubles, 48 vs. 47 homeruns, .163 vs. 153 ISP. Kansas trails badly in speed categories. The Wildcats have 135 (yeah, 135!) stolen bases this year, more than three times KU’s total of 40. The Wildcats run often and run well, with a success rate of 76%. After you break down the numbers the only conclusion is that KSU is damn dangerous at the plate.
In terms of pitching and defense Kansas State holds a larger advantage over KU than they do at the plate. The Wildcats give up an average of 4.5 runs per game, KU surrenders 5.1. The Wildcats are led by All-American candidate A.J. Morris (11-1, 1.67 ERA in 91.2 innings). Morris and Kyle Gibson of Missouri are the top two contenders for Big-12 pitcher of the year. KSU’s Saturday and Sunday starters, Lance Hoge and Todd Vogel, are both seniors and plenty good. The Cat bullpen is anchored by two underclassmen, sophomore James Allen (4.55 ERA in 29.2 innings of work) and freshman Thomas Rooke (3.33 ERA in 46 innings). Ryan Daniel (3.69 ERA in 46.1 innings) and Kayvon Bahramzadeh (4.19 ERA in 34.1 innings) will both be available as well. The Hawks are going to see plenty good arms this weekend. Full KSU stats found here.
The only clear advantage KU has this weekend is the Hog where KU has won 23 of 26 games this year. Friday’s game is in Manhattan, Saturday’s and Sunday’s will be in Lawrence. If Kansas can take two of three games this weekend they will finish the year in the top five of the conference which will punch their NCAA ticket with certainty. Taking only one game will leave KU in 6th or 7th place and make selection day a nervous one. The Bat Cats have good reason to believe a series win this weekend will earn them a regional host slot and allow them to play the first round of the NCAA tournament at home.
One other note, Sunday is senior day. Come out early. The pregame ceremony honoring departing seniors is emotional. Sunday will be the last home game for Buck Afenir, Paul Smyth, Nick Faunce and Preston Land. That is a special group. We should see them off in loud fashion.
All three games will be broadcast live on KLWN (AM 1320 or www.klwn.com). Sunday’s game will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest (Sunflower channel 36).
Friday 6:30PM – Shaeffer Hall (4-5, 4.58 ERA) vs. A. J. Morris (11-1, 1.67 ERA)
Saturday 6PM – T. J. Walz (7-1, 3.67) vs. Lance Hoge (5-3, 4.07)
Sunday 6PM – Lee Ridenhour (5-2, 4.09) vs. Todd Vogel (4-0, 4.43)