Kansas Preview

For the first time in program history, the Stanford Cardinal will meet the Kansas Jayhawks as the two schools play each other in a three-game series this weekend at Sunken Diamond. The 4th ranked Cardinal, fresh off a series win at Fresno State, bring a 12-game home winning streak into this series. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are looking to establish themselves nationally after years at the bottom of the Big 12 Conference. Read on for a full series preview.

Kansas (7-4-1)  at  #4 Stanford (5-1)

Friday - 6:00pm
Saturday - 1:00pm
Sunday - 11:00am

The 4th ranked Stanford Cardinal return to Sunken Diamond this weekend to take on the Kansas Jayhawks in a three-game, non-conference series.  Stanford brings a 5-1 record into this weekend's contests after consecutive series victories over Cal State Fullerton and Fresno State to open the season.  Last weekend, the Cardinal took 2-of-3 at Fresno State.  They dropped the first game by a 3-1 score before rebounding to win the next two games easily, 13-4 and 10-3.  Stanford is hitting .310 as a team to go along with a stellar 3.40 team ERA and a sparkling .991 fielding percentage.

The Jayhawks are off to a 7-4-1 start, but they enter this series on a sour note after a poor showing at the Al Ogletree Classic in Edinburg, Texas last weekend.  Kansas lost consecutive games to Lamar and UT-Pan American to open the tournament before tying Sam Houston State (game called when the Jayhawks had to catch their flight out of town) on Sunday.  Stanford is easily the toughest team Kansas has faced during this young season (other opponents include Hawaii-Hilo and Texas Southern).  The Jayhawks are hitting .318 as a team to go along with a 4.88 team ERA and a .967 fielding percentage.


PROBABLE STARTING PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday : Kansas - Ryan Knippschild (LHP; 1-1, 6.75)  vs.  Stanford - Mark Romanczuk (LHP; 1-1, 4.35)

Saturday : Kansas - Chris Smart (RHP; 2-2, 7.63)  vs.  Stanford - Jeff Gilmore (RHP; 1-0, 1.64)

Sunday : Kansas - Mike Zagurski (LHP; 1-0, 2.53)  vs.  Stanford - TBA


WHO AND WHAT TO WATCH

* Mark Romanczuk - The Stanford ace has pitched pretty well in his first two starts (10.1 IP/5 ER), but is still looking to firmly establish himself as the Cardinal's #1 guy.  Romanczuk (along with every other Stanford starter) was limited to a strict pitch count the past two weekends, but generally, Coach Marquess will stretch his starters out a little longer beginning with start #3.  And part of being the Friday night guy is eating up innings to preserve the bullpen for the next two days.  Romanczuk's control has been in check thus far in '04 (just two walks through two starts), now lets see if he can turn his overall game up a notch.

* The Baty brothers - Kansas senior first baseman Ryan Baty and sophomore second baseman Matt Baty are two key players for the Jayhawks.  The elder Baty was named a Third Team Preseason All-American prior to this year and is coming off a season in which he hit .377 with ten homers and 57 RBI.  Meanwhile, the younger Baty had a very solid freshman campaign a year ago when he hit .336 while playing excellent defense at second base.  Ryan hits fourth in the order while Matt is the leadoff hitter.

* Defense - Stanford is off to a great start defensively this year with just two errors in their first six games, including none by any of their starting infielders.  Meanwhile, Kansas led the Big 12 in fielding percentage last year with a school record .970 mark.  Shortstop Ritchie Price and third baseman Travis Metcalf were each named the Big 12's best defensive player at their respective positions by Baseball America prior to the start of the year.


STANFORD NOTES

Stanford has jumped out of the gate hot this season with a pair of series victories over two quality opponents.  After getting shut down at the plate last Friday night, the Cardinal bats responded with authority the next two games in posting 23 runs and 30 hits.  Top performers of the series included John Mayberry, Jr. who went 6-for-12 with a pair of homers while Danny Putnam finished 7-for-14 with a home run.  Stanford especially flexed their muscles in the Saturday game when they went deep five times.  The Cardinal though are still looking to get a few hitters on track this young season.  Chris Carter has smoked two homers already, but he's just 3-for-14 on the year.  Brian Hall has only five hits in 23 AB's while Chris Lewis is still looking for his first hit (0-for-8).  This would be a good weekend for all three of these guys to get things going with Texas' high-powered pitching staff coming in next weekend.

On the mound, Jeff Gilmore put forth a solid outing in his first career start last Saturday.  In six innings of work, he allowed just two earned runs while striking out a career high eight batters.  Stanford has yet to announce a starting pitcher for Sunday's game as likely what will happen is Coach Marquess will evaluate which arms are still available after Saturday's game and go with his best option.  Mark Jecmen has started the last two Sunday's, but he was pulled before even recording an out last weekend at Fresno (three runs allowed).  Sophomore Matt Manship started during the Fullerton series, but allowed three runs in just 2 1/3 innings of work.  Seniors David O'Hagan and Drew Ehrlich are other candidates to start.  Bottom line, this position on the team is very wide open.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Sam Fuld, CF (.350, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
2. Brian Hall, RF (.217, 0 HR, 2 RBI)
3. Jed Lowrie, SS (.417, 2 HR, 9 RBI)
4. Danny Putnam, LF (.458, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
5. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B (.375, 3 HR, 6 RBI)
6. Jonny Ash, 3B (.273, 0 HR, 7 RBI)
7. Donny Lucy, C (.300, 0 HR, 3 RBI)
8. Chris Carter, DH (.214, 2 HR, 6 RBI)
9. Chris Lewis, 2B (.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

* This is the probable lineup against a left handed starting pitcher.  Versus a righty, look for Adam Sorgi (.333, 0 HR, 3 RBI) to take Lewis' spot at shortstop with Lowrie moving over to second base.

Hitting Notes: Fuld has already drawn nine walks through six games which has put his on-base percentage at .552 ... Putnam is the only Stanford player to have hit safely in all six games this season ... Mayberry, Jr. has hit three homers already while he's slugging .792 (tied with Lowrie for the team lead) ... Ash is second on the club with 7 RBI while he's yet to strike out this year (22 AB's).


KANSAS NOTES

Under second year head coach Ritch Price, the Kansas Jayhawks bring a 7-4-1 record into Sunken Diamond this weekend.  Price is good friends with the Stanford coaching staff, so when he took the job in Lawrence two years ago, many guessed Kansas would pop up on the schedule at some point.  Price formally was the head man at Cal Poly (and of course, Stanford plays the Mustangs every year) while he also has strong Bay Area ties (former head coach at Menlo College and De Anza Community College before his stint at Cal Poly).  In fact, Stanford assistant coach Dave Nakama was Price's assistant at De Anza from '90-'91 while Stanford pitching coach Tom Kunis held the same job at Cal Poly under Price from 1997 to 1999.

The Jayhawks shocked the college baseball world last February when they went into Baton Rouge and swept the host LSU Tigers.  That should prove that Kansas is fully capable of coming into Palo Alto this weekend and taking a few games.  However, that was definitely the high point of the year for the Jayhawks (a perennial bottom feeder team in the Big 12) as they finished with a 9-18 conference record and a 35-28 overall mark.  Kansas returns five starting position players and two of their three starting pitchers from last year's squad.

Prior to the start of this season, Kansas was selected eighth in the Preseason Big 12 Coaches Poll which is exactly where they finished last year.  The Jayhawks aren't turning any heads yet this season, but a couple of wins this weekend would certainly do the trick. 

Hitting is the strength of this year's Kansas team.  Their .318 team batting average is probably a tad inflated since their first seven games of the year where against barely-D1 Hawaii-Hilo.  Leading the way offensively is the aforementioned Ryan Baty.  The preseason All-American is hitting at a .360 clip although he's still looking for his first home run of 2004.  His brother, Matt, is leading all regulars with a .408 average.  Kansas hasn't been hitting for a lot of power this year, but they hit a lot of doubles and steal a ton of bases (already 28 stolen bags through 12 games).

On the mound, the Jayhawks are off to a so-so start.  The Friday starter Knippschild is the staff ace.  A senior lefty, Knippschild went 8-5 with a 5.16 ERA last season while leading the Jayhawks with 113 1/3 innings pitched.  He won't overpower you, but he does throw a lot of strikes.  Knippschild is off to a rocky start in '04 as he brings a 6.75 ERA and a .375 opposing batting average into this weekend. 

#2 guy Chris Smart is a senior right hander out of Omaha.  Smart spent the second half of last year in the Kansas starting rotation as he finished the season with a 2-5 record and a 4.35 ERA.  But like Knippschild, Smart is still looking to find his groove this year (7.63 ERA, tagged for six runs in 5 2/3 innings last time out against UT-Pan American).  The #3 position has been a revolving door this year, but it appears JC transfer Mike Zagurski will get the nod this weekend.  A left hander also out of Omaha, Zagurski has thrown just 10 2/3 innings this year, but has a nice 2.53 ERA.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Matt Baty, 2B (.408, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
2. Ritchie Price, SS (.289, 0 HR, 11 RBI)
3. Sean Richardson, C (.382, 1 HR, 14 RBI)
4. Ryan Baty, 1B (.360, 0 HR, 10 RBI)
5. Matt Tribble, RF (.340, 1 HR, 13 RBI)
6. Travis Metcalf, 3B (.250, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
7. Jared Schweitzer, DH (.409, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
8. Andy Scholl, LF (.289, 0 HR, 11 RBI)
9. J.C. Sibley, CF (.231, 0 HR, 2 RBI)

Hitting Notes: M. Baty has already stolen nine bases (in ten attempts) this season ... Richardson leads the team in RBI, but he's already committed five errors behind the dish this year ... R. Baty was a teammate of Sam Fuld, Brian Hall, and Donny Lucy on the Hyannis Mets of the Cape Cod League this past summer ... Tribble is a four-year starter with 200 career hits and a .311 average.


KEYS TO THE SERIES

* Keep Swinging - Stanford has scored 52 runs in their first six games and that includes their meager one-run output last Friday night.  The Jayhawks look to have a vulnerable pitching staff, so this is a matchup that Stanford should have the edge on.  Knippschild is an experienced pitcher who could pose some problems on Friday, but the Cardinal should score plenty of runs over the last two games.

* Limit their running game - Kansas loves to steal bases, so the Cardinal pitchers are going to have to do a good job of holding them close.  If they can do that, Donny Lucy should have the opportunity to throw out his fair share.  If the Jayhawks have to limit their running on the base paths, their offense isn't nearly as effective.

* Put them away early - Nobody expects Kansas to win this series, but they could certainly take a game this weekend.  If Stanford can pound the Jayhawks on Friday night, it could severely damage their confidence as they attempt to come back in the series.  Remember, Kansas is coming into this series after struggling last weekend, so they'll want to right the ship as soon as possible.  If Stanford takes care of business on Friday, Kansas may not have enough to rebound.



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