For the second game in a row Kansas stormed out of the gate in Norman. The Jayhawks scored three runs in the top of the first, two of them on a Tony Thompson double. OU head coach Sunny Galloway had no stomach for an early grave and pulled his starter, Garrett Richards (6-2), in the first inning. Jeremy Erben, Richards' replacement, kept the KU bats under control into the sixth inning and the home team closed within 4-2. Though the Sooners threatened crooked numbers in the 2nd, and 3rd KU starter T.J. Walz (6-1) never let an inning get out of hand. By the time Walz left the game one batter into the 7th inning, although they did not know it yet, the Sooners had already lost their opportunity for a win - by that point the Kansas offense had revived. KU scored in each of the final four innings. Buck Afenir’s two run single with two outs in the 8th inning gave KU an 8-2 lead. The Sooners kept the pressure on, scoring three runs in the last two innings, but the cushion was already too thick and OU’s late push proved to be too little, too late. Paul Smyth got the final five outs and earned his 8th save of the year.
The two wins in Norman have vastly improved KU’s standing, not only in the Big-12 but also in terms of claiming an at-large selection in the NCAA tournament. Kansas sits at 33-15 overall and 12-8 in the Big-12. While KU is in 4th place in the conference they are less than one full game out of first. Texas (14-8-1), Texas A&M (13-8) and Kansas State (11-7-1) are above KU but by the slimmest of margins. Oklahoma entered the weekend in second place but have been pushed all the way down to sixth by Kansas over the last two days.
Kansas will attempt to complete a road sweep today. If the weather cooperates first pitch will be at 1PM. Here is a link to a free live video cast of the game. There are many ways to highlight the significance of KU’s victory in this road series. I’ll just sum it up in short. In the last two days Kansas has gone from a pretty good team having a surprising season to a legitimate title contender in perhaps the best NCAA baseball conference in the nation.
Additional game notes and the box score after the jump.
Preston Land in the zone: Preston got on base four of his five plate appearances today. He hit two doubles, was hit twice and drove in two runs. Land now has a batting line of .252/.359/.412 with 3 homeruns and 18 RBIs. He seemed to hit his stride during the Texas Tech series. He took a line of .239/.320/.289 with no homers and 6 RBIs into Lubbock. In the following twelve games Land has 10 hits, 8 of which for extra bases, 12 RBI’s and has added 162 points to his OPS. When asked about Preston after the game Coach Price didn’t immediately talk about his white hot bat, he opened his comments with “Preston Land made two or three nice defensive plays, and those were as big time as the base hits he got.”
Pitching staff wins with less than their best: Kansas used five pitchers today and none of them came with their best stuff. T.J. Walz got 18 outs before leaving but uncharacteristically struggled with the strike zone. Control issues forced him to throw 114 pitches in the abbreviated start. You know when less than 60% of Walz’ pitches are strikes he is off. Price agreed, “I thought he did a great job of grinding it out.” Price used three pitchers to get through the 8th inning. Brett Bochy was ineffective, throwing 9 balls vs. 6 strikes, and was pulled after walking two of the three men he faced. Cameron Selik, in a rare relief appearance, did not look much better. Selik’s first pitch of the day was wild and allowed a run to score. Cameron walked the first batter he faced before inducing Ross Hubbard to pop to short. Price went to Paul Smyth at that point and asked the senior closer to get the final five outs for the long save. Paul ended up facing nine batters and throwing 45 pitches before he could hit the shower. Smyth walked the first two men he faced in the 9th inning, both of which ended up scoring, and then settling down and retired the last three men he faced in order. This long outing, combined with the inning he threw on Friday, may limit his usage on Sunday. All told Kansas pitchers issued a season high 9 walks in the game, more than three times their 2.9 per game average.
Despite the pitchers collectively working with lesser stuff the staff held together and limited the best offense in the Big-12 to eight hits and five runs. Prior to this weekend OU was averaging 11 hits and 8 runs in conference play. You have to tip your cap to a pitching staff that works through frustration and keeps an offense like this in check. I don’t know if the credit goes to Coach Graves, or Coach Price, or to the make-up of this roster but the team plays with maturity and composure.
May 02, 2009 at Norman, OK (L Dale Mitchell Park)
Kansas 9 (33-15,12-8 Big 12)
|Narodowski, David ss||5||2||2||0||1||1||4||2||2|
|Price, Robby 2b||5||1||2||1||0||1||0||3||0|
|Heere, Brian rf||4||1||2||1||1||2||2||1||0|
|Afenir, Buck c||4||1||2||3||1||0||7||1||2|
|Thompson, Tony 3b||4||0||1||2||1||1||0||1||0|
|Lytle, Casey lf||4||2||0||0||1||0||1||0||2|
|Land, Preston 1b||3||0||2||2||0||1||11||1||0|
|Waters, Jimmy dh||4||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Lisher, Brett dh/ph||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Brunansky, Jason cf||4||1||0||0||1||2||1||0||1|
|Walz, T.J. p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Blankenship, Travis p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Bochy, Brett p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Selik, Cameron p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Smyth, Paul p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
Oklahoma 5 (33-14,11-9 Big 12)
|Johnson, Jamie cf||4||1||1||0||1||2||3||1||0|
|Herren, Kaleb cf/rf||2||0||0||0||0||1||2||0||3|
|Johnson, Casey lf||3||2||0||0||2||1||0||1||1|
|Hernandez, Bryant ss||4||1||1||1||1||1||0||0||0|
|Wise, J.T. c||5||0||4||2||0||0||10||2||0|
|Baker, Aaron 1b||4||0||0||0||1||1||4||1||1|
|Buechele, Garrett 3b||4||0||1||0||1||1||2||3||0|
|Hubbard, Ross dh||3||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||1|
|Ogle, Tyler dh||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Harughty, Matt 2b||2||1||1||1||2||1||1||1||0|
|Ellison, Chris rf||2||0||0||0||0||0||5||0||3|
|Richards, Garrett p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Erben, Jeremy p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Anderson, Chase p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Rocha, Michael p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Blue, C.J. p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Score by Innings R H E ------------------------------------------- Kansas.............. 300 001 131 - 9 12 2 Oklahoma............ 001 100 012 - 5 8 2 -------------------------------------------
|E - Afenir, B.(4); Bochy, B.(1); Wise, J.T.(2); Harughty, M.(6). DP - Oklahoma 1. LOB - Kansas 10; Oklahoma 11. 2B - Narodowski(14); Afenir, B.(11); Thompson, T.(18); Land, P. 2(8); Wise, J.T.(9). HR - Harughty, M.(7). HBP - Land, P. 2; Lisher, B.. SB - Narodowski(6); Heere, B.(6); Lytle, C.(8); Johnson, J.(15); Johnson, C.(9).|
|Walz, T.J. W,6-1||6.0||5||2||2||4||5||0||0||0||0||22||26||6||6||114|
|Smyth, Paul S,8||1.2||2||2||2||2||2||0||0||0||0||7||9||0||3||45|
|Richards, Garrett L,6-2||0.2||3||3||3||1||1||1||0||1||0||5||7||1||0||32|
|Win - Walz, T. (6-1). Loss - Richards, G (6-2). Save - Smyth, P. (8). WP - Selik, C.(6); Richards, G(5). HBP - by Richards, G (Land, P.); by Anderson, C. (Land, P.); by Blue, C.J. (Lisher, B.). Pitches/strikes: Walz, T. 114/68; Blankenship 14/10; Bochy, B. 15/6; Selik, C. 9/3; Smyth, P. 45/25; Richards, G 32/18; Erben, J. 83/48; Anderson, C. 48/26; Rocha, M. 14/11; Blue, C.J. 15/8.
Umpires - HP: Bill McGuire 1B: Mark Wagers 3B: Bob Homolka