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Kansas (24-16, 4-8) @ Nebraska (26-6, 11-3-1)

Kansas Jayhawks (24-16) vs. Nebraska (26-6)
Kansas Baseball has a tough weekend in store for them.  Nebraska has been the biggest surprise in the Big-12 this year.  The Huskers have put together a great season.  At 11-3-1 they stand one-half game out of first place.  They are ranked #13 in the RPI, and Baseball America has them at #9.  Nebraska's six losses have all been to very good teams, two at Stanford, two at Oklahoma State and one each to Arkansas and Texas.  This does not bode well for the Jayhawks - The Huskers win at home, beat the teams they are supposed to beat, and have never stumbled in 2008.  Coming into 2008 I expected Nebraska to be one of the weaker teams in the conference.  Shows how much I know.  Kansas is playing great baseball right now but will be hard pressed in Lincoln.  Winning one of the three will have to be considered a perfectly respectable performance.  If KU is going to maintain its standing as one of the top eight teams in the conference avoiding a sweep will be the top priority.

Friday 6:30PM: Nick Czyz (2-3, 6.16 ERA) vs. Johnny Dorn (4-1, 1.98 ERA)
Saturday 3:30PM: Andres Esquibel (3-2, 3.49) vs. Thad Weber (6-2, 3.93 ERA)
Sunday 1PM: T.J. Walz (2-0, 4.15 ERA) vs. Aaron Pribanic (3-1, 3.42 ERA)

Media: KLWN AM-1320 will broadcast all three games live.  For those outside the Lawrence area steaming audio will be available through this site.  Sunday's game will be telecast on CBS College Sports (Sunflower Cable channel 143) on tape delay at 6:30PM.

Complete Nebraska stats are located here.  Jayhawk stats here.

Scouting Nebraska

You may have noticed, Nebraska has some good starting pitching.  No, strike that, Nebraska has a horrifying weekend rotation.  Dorn is looking very All-American.  Weber would be the ace on about 95% of other NCAA teams.  Pribanic has already pitched two complete games this year, including a shutout.  In terms of starting pitching this year, NU has an embarrassment of riches.

Nebraska's offense is really pretty average.  The Huskers are hitting .282/.372/.404 on the year and scoring 6.6 runs per game.  The low power is partially off-set with a plus running game (49 of 65 stolen bases) but in the big picture, KU has a slight edge here.  The Huskers have five regulars hitting over .300 but no true stars.  Nick Sullivan and Jake Opitz share the team lead in RBI's at 26.  Mitch Abeitz has six homeruns.  No other Husker has hit more than three.  A strong performance by any KU starter could shut down this offense.

NU is allowing 4.0 runs per game, which is phenomenal in the NCAA.  The low run production of opponents is almost entirely due to Nebraska pitching.  The Huskers defense is a bit below average.

How can KU win a game or two this weekend?  The Hawks cannot count on getting into a shootout.  They need the great starting pitching seen last weekend vs. Texas Tech again this weekend, plus they need to put balls in play.  I can't see swinging for the fences as the best approach when facing pitchers of this caliber.  Make contact, test the Nebraska defense, force their starters to throw pitches by working counts, get into their bullpen.  Nebraska's relief corp looks good (not great) on paper, but only one reliever has accumulated more than 15 innings this year.  Their most commonly called upon arms look much more vulnerable then do their starters: Zach Herr (15.1 Innings, 3.52 ERA), Erik Anderson (10 innings, 3.60 ERA), Mike Nesseth (14 innings, 5.14 ERA) and Erik Bird (17.1 Innings, 5.19 ERA).

Corn Nation, RCT's Nebraska sister blog, always provides great baseball coverage.  I'm sure there will be some banter to be found there over the weekend.  Nebraska baseball has a great following and the fans up North are pretty pumped about how this season is playing out.  Hopefully the Hawks will show their best stuff this weekend and take their pound of flesh before leaving Lincoln.

Nebraska Prospect Report by bkmhoxx

C Mitch Abeita - 6'1, 189 SR - Abeita is one of the top 15-20 catchers in the nation. He is hitting .347 with 6 HR, 25 RBI, 6 doubles and 23 walks to 14 K's and he even has some speed with 6 steals. Im not sure about his defense but if he can stay at catcher and put up decent offensive numbers, he will play at the next level. I’d expect him to go somewhere around round 10.
2B Jake Opitz - 6', 188 SR - Opitz has a nice bat for a second baseman. He is at .328 with 3 HR, 26 RBI, 8 doubles, 2 triples, 18 walks and 11 K's. He was drafted in '04 in the 39th round by Seattle. I think he could go somewhere near round 30 this summer if he can finish strong.

Other position players with a chance of being drafted in the late rounds or in the future: Nick Sullivan – JR left fielder who is short and stocky and strong. Hits for a high average with a little pop. Bryce Nimmo – SR outfielder that is very small with a high average and good on base skills. Craig Corriston – SR first baseman that is 5'11, 200 pounds. Decent avg. guy with developing power. David Stewart – FR outfielder drafted in the 31st round in 07 by Washington Brett Sowers – FR infielder drafted in the 47th round in 06 by the Dodgers Drew Gray – JR catcher drafted in the 27th round in 07 by Texas

RHP Johnny Dorn - 6'3, 210 SR - Dorn is the ace. He is one of the top pitchers in the country. KU will be lucky to score more than a run or two in tonight’s contest. Great pitchers frame. Dorn has a 1.98 ERA in 54.2 innings. He has given up 35 hits while only walking 13 and striking out 55. He is a strikeout pitcher with great control. I’d expect Dorn to be drafted in the top 3 rounds.
RHP Aaron Pribanic - 6'4, 200 JR- Pribanic has a perfect pitchers build. He has a 3.42 ERA in 47.1 innings. He has given up 47 hits, 20 walks and 36 strikeouts. He is hittable and doesn’t have perfect control or command, but will be very difficult to score against. Pribanic will be drafted in the top 10-15 rounds I would guess.
RHP Thad Weber - 6'2, 204 SR - Weber is another strikeout pitcher for the Huskers. He was drafted in the 35th round in 07 by Cincinnati. He has a 3.93 ERA in 50.1 innings, giving up 51 hits, 14 walks and 47 K's. Yet another great weekend starter for Nebraska that will be drafted. I’d guess Weber to go near round 20.
LHP Dan Jennings - 6'3, 183 JR - Jennings has been untouchable this year. He has a 1.65 ERA in 43.2 innings, giving up 20 hits with 17 walks and 40 K's. He is a starter and a closer and id expect him to be in relief this weekend. He should be drafted in the top 10 rounds.

Other pitchers with a chance at being drafted: Ryan Christensen – FR leftie drafted in the 35th round in 07 by the Dodgers Zach Herr - bullpen guy with great numbers Erik Anderson - bullpen guy with great numbers Mike Nesseth - bullpen guy with great numbers.