Prior to last night's game four Kansas seniors were honored, Buck Afenir, Paul Smyth, Nick Faunce and Preston Land. Before taking the field the entire team huddled in the dugout and began bouncing and howling. For the second consecutive night a new attendance record was set at Hoglund. Kansas was made of win Sunday night and the Kansas State Wildcats never stood a chance.
KU broke open a 2-2 game by sending a dozen men to the plate in the 3rd inning while scoring seven runs. Three more runs in the 4th put the Hawks up 12-2 and from that point forward events on the field were just going to be details added to a story whose ending everyone already knew. But they are details every KU baseball fan will love dwelling upon:
The game ended one out into the bottom of the seventh inning when Robby Price’s sac fly scored Nick Faunce. The run put KU up 17-7 and brought into effect the “run rule” in which games end once one team is up by 10 or more runs and the trailing team has batted at least seven times. The last time KU won a shortened game was the last year they went to the NCAA tournament, 2006.
Nick Faunce, Buck Afenir and Preston Land were 100% senior material last night. Faunce went 5-5 with three runs and three RBI’s, maybe the best single game of his career. Buck Afenir capped off a tremendous series by going 2-3 with his 9th homerun and 3 RBIs. Afenir moved into 3rd place on KU’s career homerun list. With a minimum of five more games still to play Buck has a chance of moving even higher on that list. Still ahead of Buck, #2 Erik Morrison (31) and #1 Ryne Price (35). Buck is now tied for 9th place on the career RBI list. Both he and Ryne Price have 155. Next on the list is #8 Brent Wilhelm (1992-1995) with 158. Preston Land didn’t set any career records last night but again showed why he is one of the most valuable pieces of this over-achieving roster. Preston went 1-3 with two walks and scored three runs. Land also played the put-out end of three “get off your butt and cheer like hell” outstanding defensive plays in the game. Perhaps the most impressive defensive gem by Land came in the top of the 6th inning when he practically completed a full split stretching out for a Nardowski throw to retire Drew Biery. Just seat of my pants guesswork here but I estimate that Preston Land has probably saved the team 10 or 12 errors this year with his glove work at first. The only senior who didn’t have a chance to shine last night was Paul Smyth, but the game was hardly one in which a closer would be needed.
Tony Thompson crushed the first pitch he saw from much hyped KSU reliever Thomas Rooke in the 4th inning over the left field fence. This was a no-doubter. Everyone at Hoglund knew from the moment they heard the crack that the only question was “How far?” The homer was Thompson’s 18th on the year, tying Travis Metcalf’s single season record. Tony will have no fewer than five more games to break the record. Thompson’s 74 RBI’s and 155 total bases puts him in second place on KU’s all-time single season record book in both categories. Josh Kliner set the two records Thompson is chasing in 1996 when he collected 85 RBI’s and 161 bases.
Moving away from individual achievements, the team as a whole also set some records this weekend. KU complied a 15-12 Big-12 record, the first time the team has had a winning record since the formation of the conference in 1997. The previous best record was 13-14 set in 2006. The Jayhawks finished in 5th place, matching their highest conference rank achieved in 2006. KU protected their house in 2009. The Hawks were 25-3 at the Hog. No one is going to want to visit this place next year. The fans also set some records of their own. Saturday night’s attendance of 2,438 was the highest in team history. The faithful one-uped themselves on Sunday by raising the mark once again. 2,639 showed up to see off the seniors with the right amount of love and racket.
The Hardball Hawks are back in action early Wednesday morning. Kansas is matched up with Kansas State for the first game of the Big-12 tournament. First pitch, 9AM. Yes, Nine in the morning. All tournament games will be streamed live. Just click here and log in. No word yet on probable starters but I don’t at all like this draw. If the Wildcats bring back A.J. Morris on four days rest KU will have to face the best pitcher in the conference twice in one week. Hopefully the Wildcats will hold Morris back for Thursday’s game and the Hawks will see Kayvon Bahramzadeh (2-1, 4.19 ERA) or Ryan Daniel (4-1, 3.69 ERA) instead. I imagine Coach Price will wait to see what KSU decides before he sets his own rotation.
After the break additional game notes and the box score.
KU dismantles KSU young guns: Kansas State brought in two of the most hyped young bullpen arms in the conference and KU just unloaded on both of them last night. After Buck Afenir’s 3rd inning home run put the Hawks up 5-2 KSU skipper Brad Hill went right to his most reliable relief pitcher, Thomas Rooke. Rooke, a sophomore lefty, entered the weekend with shocking good numbers. In 27 games he pitched 46 innings, giving up 37 hits, walking six and striking out 52! He was one nasty piece of work. Apparently the Jayhawks didn’t get the memo. Rooke retired two of the ten Hawks he faced. He gave up three singles, Thompson’s majestic home run, and walked two. An error by Carter Jurica didn’t help his night but even absent the miscue the Hawks got to him. The other hyped underclassman in the KSU bullpen, James Allen, entered the game in the bottom of the fifth inning and struck out the side to strand two runners. In the sixth inning the Hawks got to Allen as well. Nick Faunce and Robby Price singled, Brian Heere and David Nardowski walked and Buck Afenir lifted a sac fly. as KU scored twice in the inning.
KU defense outstanding again: Robby Price and David Nardowski were amazing again last night. In the top of the fifth inning with the bases drunk Robby made a great sliding stop of a Jason King hard grounder and managed to get the throw to Preston Land at first base while he was still on the ground. This play saved at least one run. Nardowski followed suit in the top of the 7th. With runners on the corners Nardowski’s head first dive stopped a Drew Biery ground ball just to the left of 2nd base. While still spitting dirt Nardowski shoveled the ball to Price who turned the double play to get the Hawks out of the inning. Earlier Nardowski had ended the 2nd inning with a similar outstanding play, robbing Dane Yelovich. Casey Lytle made a nice play of his own in the outfield. In the top of the 2nd with runners at the corners and no outs Lytle caught a Drew Biery fly ball in shallow left and hit the plate with a perfect throw to hold the runner at third. It’s nice to see Lytle developing his outfield skills like this. Outstanding defensive plays saved at least four runs last night.
Rob Vaughn exits in style: Of course KU was not the only team saying goodbye to seniors last night. KSU catcher Rob Vaughn saved his best work for the last weekend of his collegiate carrier. After hitting only eight homeruns in his first 154 games at KSU Vaughn went yard on back to back nights at Hoglund. In the two games Vaughn went 4-8 with 4 RBIs. Even though he was wearing the wrong uniform I have to admit I liked seeing this story unfold. KSU senior right fielder Jordan Cruz also had a nice final series, going 4-6 in Lawrence. Cruz has 46 RBIs on the year, six more than he collected in his first three years combined.
Nick Faunce profile: Rather than write about the game the Topeka Capital-Journal, the LJ World and KC Star all decided to write about Nick Faunce’s last day as a KU student. They are all nice stories and I’m glad to see Nick getting the love in print but, the game???? The one Kansas dominated? Are the actual games really this uninteresting to the local sports reporters? Just the same, all the stories have some nice material on Faunce, who is going to be missed next year. Here is part of Taylor Bern’s piece:
“That guy’s dedicated,” Afenir said. “During finals week you won’t see him for days. We’ll have practice and the guy will be nowhere to be found. For him to still be a quality ballplayer is really impressive. ”Faunce is an easy target in the clubhouse. He’s older than the other players and spends most of his time off the diamond in a lab coat, but that dual life has served him well in the past five years. “It’s been crazy to see how efficient I’ve learned to use my time,” Faunce said. “Now I can’t even sit down for three minutes and watch TV, unless it’s Seinfeld. I always feel like I should be doing something.”
May 17, 2009 at Lawrence, KS (Hoglund Ballpark)
Kansas St. 7 (39-15-1,14-11-1 Big 12)
|Muenster, Adam dh||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||2|
|Jurica, Carter 2b||4||0||1||1||0||0||1||2||1|
|Martini, Nick lf||4||1||2||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Bloxom, Justin 1b||4||2||2||0||0||0||7||0||0|
|King, Jason 3b||3||1||2||0||0||0||1||3||3|
|Biery, Drew ss||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||2||0|
|Cruz, Jordan rf||3||1||2||1||0||0||3||0||0|
|Vaughn, Rob c||4||2||3||3||0||1||5||1||1|
|Yelovich, Dane cf||3||0||1||0||0||1||1||0||0|
|Vogel, Todd p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Rooke, Thomas p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Applegate, Matt p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Allen, James p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Crockett, Josh p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Kansas 17 (37-19,15-12 Big 12)
|Narodowski, David ss||3||3||3||3||2||0||2||4||0|
|Price, Robby 2b||3||0||1||2||0||0||3||5||2|
|Heere, Brian rf||3||1||0||1||2||1||4||0||2|
|Afenir, Buck c||3||2||2||3||1||0||4||0||0|
|Thompson, Tony 3b||4||3||2||2||1||2||0||0||2|
|Lytle, Casey lf||5||2||2||0||0||1||1||0||0|
|Land, Preston 1b||3||3||1||0||2||1||7||0||2|
|Faunce, Nick dh||5||3||5||3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Brunansky, Jason cf||4||0||1||1||1||0||0||0||1|
|Ridenhour, Lee p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Bollman, Brett p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Blankenship, Travis p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Selik, Cameron p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Note: 1 out, 2 runners LOB when the game ended.
|E - Jurica, Cart(7); Vogel, Todd(1). DP - Kansas 2. LOB - Kansas St. 7; Kansas 11. 2B - Cruz, Jordan(9); Narodowski 2(19); Thompson, T.(22). HR - Martini, Nic(4); Vaughn, Rob(5); Afenir, B.(9); Thompson, T.(18). HBP - King, Jason; Cruz, Jordan. SH - Price, Ro. 2(13). SF - Narodowski(4); Price, Ro.(2); Afenir, B.(8).|
|Vogel, Todd L,4-1||2.1||5||5||5||0||0||0||0||0||0||11||13||0||7||42|
|Ridenhour, Lee W,6-2||5.2||9||5||5||0||3||1||0||2||0||25||27||5||8||80|
|Win - Ridenhour (6-2). Loss - Vogel, Todd (4-1). Save - None. WP - Crockett, Jo 2(4); Ridenhour(5). HBP - by Ridenhour (King, Jason); by Ridenhour (Cruz, Jordan). PB - Afenir, B.(9). Pitches/strikes: Vogel, Todd 42/26; Rooke, Thoma 37/20; Applegate, M 28/9; Allen, James 47/25; Crockett, Jo 28/15; Ridenhour 80/56; Bollman, B. 23/14; Blankenship 4/3; Selik, C. 4/3.
Umpires - HP: Scott Wilkerson 1B: Chris Coskey 3B: Randy Bruns