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Baseball: Kansas (2-3) vs. North Dakota (0-4)

Despite the cold and wet field conditions KU will open their home baseball schedule today.  They will face the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota.  This is the first year of NCAA D-I action for North Dakota so it is very hard to judge their level of play.  Last year UND went 14-23, and they have lost their first four games of 2009.  Expectations will be for KU to sweep both games.  North Dakota’s near-upset of Nebraska last week does put a bit of doubt into the outcome.  The Fightin' Sioux took a 6-5 lead late into their game vs. the Huskers before falling 10-6.


Kansas will start Lee Ridenhour on Tuesday (3PM) and Travis Blankenship on Wednesday (3PM).  Both pitchers are new to KU this year, and both are off to good starts.  Ridenhour was one of the prize recruits signed by the Jayhawks last year and this will be the first opportunity for KU fans to see him in action.  Blankenship is a local product.  He pitched at Lawrence High and Johnson County Community College before joining the Jayhawks.  UND will send veterans to the mound.  Ridenhour will face Brandon Baumgartner who went 2-3 last year with a 6.10 ERA.  Baumgartner gave up a lot of hits and walks, but must have at least one out-pitch judging by his high strikeout total (34 in 38.1 Innings).  Baumgartner went four shakey innings against Nebraska.  Blankenship will face Mike Lueck, who looks to be the UND ace.  Lueck went 4-4 last year, with an impressive 4.24 ERA.  In 63.2 innings he gave up 72 hits, and had a 19/59 BB/K ratio.  He might be dangerous.  The UND offense scored 5.4 runs a game in 2008.  Jake Magner (#21, 1B) and Aaron Cook (#20, DH) and Andrew Gudmunson (#15, 3B) look to be their most dangerous hitters.  Magner and Cook both missed almost all of 2008 but have started 2009 strong.  Gudmunson hit .270/.360/.451 as an everyday player last year.  He can drive the ball.  Complete UND stats are found here.


I’ll be at the games and will post recaps afterwards.  Let’s go Hawks! and get a couple of wins here.


Game 1:  Kansas 8 - North Dakota 2 FINAL 

Game 2: Kansas 6 - North Dakota 3 FINAL game recaps and notes after the jump.


KU Recap and Boxscore for Game 1

Kansas 6 – North Dakota 3 - Game 2 Recap and Notes:

Kansas jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead after two innings and then sleep walked to a 6-3 final score.  Shaky relief work by Colton Murray and Thomas Marcin allowed North Dakota to keep the game interesting through the ninth inning.  Paul Smyth was called on to face the heart of the Fighting Souix line-up to protect a 6-3 lead.  For the second consecutive game Smyth looked excellent, setting down all three batters with an economy of pitches.  Kansas improved to 4-3.  The Hawks will host Northwestern in a four game series this weekend.

Travis Blankenship got the start and the win today.  In my "I really don’t know what I am doing" sort of way I charted his game.  Blankenship pitched mostly in the 79 – 82 mph range.  His off-speed arsenal kept the North Dakota batters alternatively lunging and pulling out for the first four innings.  Only in the fifth did they seem to have a good read on him and even in that inning Blankenship faced the minimum.  His final line was very impressive, 5 Innings, 3 hits, one unearned run, no walks and three strikeouts.  Travis got a few outs on check swings and made at least as many NICE! pitches as WHOW! mistakes.  Late he went more to his fastball which topped out at 85mph.  He did solid work today.

Colton Murray replaced Blankenship to start the sixth.  Murray throws about five miles faster than Blankenship but struggled with control.  One out into the seventh inning and with a runner at third Price went to Thomas Marcin who, if he is reading this recap, should stop doing so at this point.  Marcin was all over the place.  According to my sketchy notes - of the 13 pitches he threw that were not put into play, Catcher Joe Lincoln, could only glove eight of them.  The other five made it to the backstop.  Marcin gave up an RBI ground ball, a walk and then ended the inning with a nice low off-speed pitch that produced a swing and miss.  As is often the case with Thomas his day was an inexplicable mix of great and wild.  Brett Bochy pitched the 8th and looked great.  Paul Smyth was a closer in even sense of the word in to end the game.

The KU bats were frustrated most of the day.  North Dakota starter Mike Lueck went the distance for the loss.  The Hawks battered him through the first two innings and then he hit a rhythm and sang KU a lullaby through the next six frames.  The only damage the Jayhawks did after the second inning was an unearned run in the fifth.

Lackluster team effort aside, two KU batters definitely deserve notice.  Tony Thompson hit the first KU homerun of the season.  In the first inning Tony slammed a 3-2 pitch over the left center field fence for a three run homerun.  Preston Land was the other standout of the game.  Land laced the first pitch he saw of the game down the third base line for a stand-up double.  In the 5th inning, with Jimmy Waters on second base and two outs, Preston waited for his pitch before delivering a line-drive single to left field to bring home the final KU run.  It was nice to see indications that Preston might be heating up.

KU did not look as sharp today as they did on Tuesday, but it’s a win.  The weather was perfect, sunny, 60 degrees, slight breeze.  Not a bad crowd for a Wednesday afternoon game.  I’d guess there were about 400-450 fans at any given time.

KU recap and boxscore here.

Kansas 8 – North Dakota 2 - Game 1 Recap and Notes:

The Jayhawks opened their 2009 home schedule with an easy win.  KU built a 6-0 lead in the first three innings and coasted to victory.

The most interesting part of the game was getting to see Lee Ridenhour pitch for the first time at Hoglund.  Ridenhour was mostly good.  He worked low and inside particularly well against right-handers.  A few pitches floated into the zone and got fat.  This wasn’t a big concern today but he will have to make fewer mistakes when facing Big-12 line-ups.  He only had three balls driven on him today.  The only inning in which he got into trouble was the fourth when he gave up two runs.  With runners at first and third and one out Lee made his pitches. The second run came in on a weak ground ball to short.  His final line was five innings, five hits, two runs, 1/3 BB/K.

Good bullpen work.  Two innings from Burk, and than one each from Bochy and Smyth.  Paul Smyth set down all three batters he faced and looked sharp and confident.  Smyth is a key part of the ’09 team and it was nice to see him pitching so effectively again.

A lot of offensive standouts today.  Nick Faunce 1-3 with two runs and two RBIs.  David Narodowski went 1-2 with a pair of RBIs.  Buck Afenir smacked a line drive double and brought home a run.  Tony Thompson went 2-4 with a double.  Casey Lytle continued his scorching hot start by going 2-3 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI.  Jake Marasco went 1-3 with and RBI and a run.  The Hawks were very aggressive on the basepads all day.  It looks like Price is going to push this part of the game this season.

It was one of the cold gray days at the park where it simply becomes impossible to stay warm after an hour.  Not a good turnout, maybe 150 fans showed up.  The weather should be majestic tomorrow and I hope to see a bigger crowd.  First pitch at 3PM.