The fans showed up and the Jayhawks delivered. In front of a Hoglund Park record 2,438 fans (I had no idea that many people could fit into the park!) the Jayhawks pounded Kansas State 9-3 to even up the Sunflower Showdown series at one game apiece. KU head coach Ritch Price knew the players were very aware of the support, “It was really a big-league atmosphere with the crowd tonight. I think our players fed off of it; it really got them jacked up.”
The win improved KU’s Big-12 record to 14-12 and insured the Jayhawks of their first winning conference record since the inception of the Big-12. Kansas State fell to 14-10-1. The two teams will meet for the final KU home game of the year Sunday at 6PM. If you plan to attend the game come early to get a ticket, and make sure you are in your seat by 5:40. It is senior day and there will be a pre-game ceremony honoring Buck Afenir, Preston Land, Paul Smyth and Nick Faunce for their four years at KU.
Starting pitcher T.J. Walz (8-1) was wicked good on the mound. In six innings Walz gave up five hits and a run while striking out a career high 12 batters. While Walz kept the Wildcat offense in check the Jayhawks pounded the visitor’s pitching staff. Kansas built a 9-1 lead by scoring in five of the first six innings. During the game Kansas pounded out seven singles, four doubles and two homeruns. Kansas opened the scoring in the first when Robby Price came home on a Tony Thompson ground out, Thompson’s 72 RBI on the year. They added three more in the second on a Zac Elgie double, David Narodowski sac fly and Lance Hoge wild pitch. Thompson scored in the 3rd on Zac Elgie’s second double of the game. Buck Afenir’s 8th home run of the season broke the game open in the fourth, putting KU up 7-1. Robby Price added a solo shot in the 6th, his fifth homerun on the year, and Casey Lytle wrapped up the home scoring with an RBI single plating Buck Afenir four batters later.
Walz started to lose steam after four innings but he never let the Wildcats claw their way back into the game. KSU drunked the bases in the 5th and 6th innings but Walz did not allow them to score either time. T.J. worked in the low 90’s most the game and had a lot of movement. He struck out five of the first six batters he faced and didn’t give up a good swing until the 3rd inning when KSU catcher Rob Vaughn homered to left. Walz didn’t let this mistake pitch throw him off his game. He struck out the next two batters. His twelve strikeouts are the most by a KU pitcher since Mike Zagurski struck out the same number of Missouri batters on May 14, 2005. Colton Murray, Brett Bochy and Paul Smyth each pitched one inning in relief to close out the game.
After the jump, additional game notes and the box score.
Buck Afenir going out strong: Buck had the only KU RBI on Friday night and Saturday he went 4-5 with his 8th homerun of the year and two RBI’s. For his career Buck now has 29 home runs (tied for 3rd place on KU’s all-time list with Travis Metcalf) and 152 RBI’s (10th place overall.)
Big-12 POY race: Tony Thompson went 1-3 with a double and two walks on the night. He brought home one run, giving him 72 RBIs’s. Tony’s main competition for Big-12 player of the year, J.T. Wise of Oklahoma, had a similar night, going 1-3 with two RBIs.
T.J. Walz the team "ace:" Over the last two weeks I have been hearing Walz referred to as the team’s ace even though he is the Saturday rather than the Friday starter. The team released a few quotes by Head Coach Ritch Price that add a little clarity to how he sees the rotation at this point.
[T.J.]’s pitched better than anyone on our staff has pitched all year. Usually that guy pitches on Friday night, but the reasoning behind it is that Shaffer [Hall] is a fly-ball pitcher. We try to pitch him at night when the wind’s not blowing out, which happens a lot in Kansas. He also eats up innings, because he’s a strike-thrower. He protects our bullpen and we know we’re going to get six innings out of him every time we give him the ball. If Shaeffer doesn’t sign [a professional contract this off-season], then we intend to move T.J. to Friday night and put Shaeffer in-between the two right-handed pitchers (Walz and Ridenhour) next year. If we were starting the season over today we would do that now. If we get into a [post season NCAA tournament] regional, we may switch (the rotation). We’ll look at our match-ups. If we’re facing a team that’s got five or six left-handed hitters in their line-up we’ll leave it with Shaeffer. But the bottom line is that we have confidence whenever either guy is on the mound for us.
The Omen: During the sixth inning a hawk circled the infield and then flew low over the crowd behind home plate before settling on a support beam to the 3rd base side of the press box. Cool stuff. A picture of the new mascot can be found here at shot number 11.
Tough day for Rob Vaughn: KSU catcher Rob Vaughn is going to have some bruises today. He took a check swing ball off his right knee in the second inning and was in the dirt for a minute or two. Later in the inning he had the crazy notion of blocking the plate with Preston Land bearing down on him. Land was attempting to score all the way from first on Zac Elgie’s double and he arrived at the plate a bit behind the throw. Even though Preston slid low he simply is a big dude and even the half contact rang the Wildcat catcher’s bell for the second time in the inning. Vaughn impressed by hitting a solo homerun the following inning but he was noticeably limping as he made his way around the bases. So, tip of the cap to the KSU backstop.
Notice of the "little things:" In the bottom of the first inning with the bases loaded and one out Tony Thompson hit a ground ball to short that looked like the double play ball which would get the Wildcats out of the inning. Brian Heere moved off second base, took a pause stutter step in front of the ground ball, then broke for third. KSU shortstop Drew Biery fielded the ball cleanly and got it to second baseman Carter Jurica in time for the force but the relay throw to first was off-target allowing the run to score. No one can be sure, but my thinking is that Heere’s heads up play here broke up the rhythm of the middle infielders and collapsed that double play. The Hawks put on a defensive clinic in the 7th inning in support of Colton Murray. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out Nick Martini (who has the coolest name in the Big-12 this year) hit a ground ball well to the right of second baseman Robby Price. Price again showed that he has range+wow by getting to the ball and throwing Martini out at first while falling backwards. The gold glove bug hung around for another batter. Justin Bloxom hit a slow ground ball to third which Tony Thompson scooped up and delivered to first. Because the ball arrived slow Thompson had to rush his throw. Preston Land, who is an outstanding defensive player at times like this, extended and picked the ball inches above the dirt to nip Bloxom and prevent a run from scoring. Note to Colton Murray, you own Price, Land and Thompson lunch (or another item of similar value) next time you are out.
May 16, 2009 at Lawrence, KS (Hoglund Ballpark)
Kansas State 3 (39-14-1,14-10-1 Big 12)
|Muenster, Adam dh||4||1||1||0||1||2||0||0||0|
|Jurica, Carter 2b||5||0||2||0||0||2||5||2||3|
|Martini, Nick lf||4||0||1||1||0||2||2||0||0|
|Bloxom, Justin 1b||5||0||0||0||0||2||6||0||2|
|King, Jason 3b||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||1||1|
|Biery, Drew ss||4||1||2||1||0||1||0||5||0|
|Cruz, Jordan rf||3||0||2||0||1||0||2||0||0|
|Vaughn, Rob c||4||1||1||1||0||2||7||0||3|
|Yelovich, Dane cf||4||0||0||0||0||3||1||1||1|
|Hoge, Lance p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Marshall, Evan p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Daniel, Ryan p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Bahramzadeh, Kayvon p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Hunter, Kyle p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
Kansas 9 (36-19,14-12 Big 12)
|Narodowski, David ss||3||0||0||1||1||1||0||0||0|
|Price, Robby 2b||4||2||2||1||1||0||2||1||1|
|Heere, Brian rf||5||1||2||0||0||1||2||0||0|
|Afenir, Buck c||5||2||4||2||0||0||14||0||1|
|Thompson, Tony 3b||3||1||1||1||2||0||1||2||0|
|Lytle, Casey lf||4||0||1||1||0||1||3||0||3|
|Land, Preston 1b||3||1||0||0||1||1||4||0||2|
|Elgie, Zac dh||4||1||2||2||0||1||0||0||0|
|Brunansky, Jason cf||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||0||1|
|Walz, T.J. p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Murray, Colton p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Bochy, Brett p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Smyth, Paul p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|E - Narodowski(18); Thompson, T.(9). DP - Kansas State 1. LOB - Kansas State 10; Kansas 8. 2B - Martini, Nic(14); Thompson, T.(21); Elgie, Z. 2(4). HR - Biery, Drew(9); Vaughn, Rob(4); Price, Ro.(5); Afenir, B.(8). HBP - Martini, Nic. SF - Narodowski(3). SB - Cruz, Jordan(15).|
|Hoge, Lance L,5-4||2.0||5||5||4||3||2||0||0||0||0||10||14||3||1||57|
|Walz, T.J. W,8-1||6.0||5||1||1||2||12||0||0||1||0||23||26||5||1||103|
|Win - Walz, T. (8-1). Loss - Hoge, Lance (5-4). Save - None. WP - Murray, C.(1). HBP - by Walz, T. (Martini, Nic). PB - Vaughn, Rob(2). Pitches/strikes: Hoge, Lance 57/33; Marshall, Ev 40/27; Daniel, Ryan 38/22; Bahramzadeh 15/8; Hunter, Kyle 17/10; Walz, T. 103/61; Murray, C. 16/10; Bochy, B. 25/16; Smyth, P. 19/12.
Umpires - HP: Randy Bruns 1B: Scott Wilkerson 3B: Chris Coskey