Kansas Preview

The 6th ranked Cardinal baseball team returns home this weekend for a three-game series against the Kansas Jayhawks. Stanford will try to build on the momentum of their big win over Cal State Fullerton in the series finale last week. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are off to a hot start, but encounter their first major test of the '05 season this weekend.

Kansas (6-0)  at  #6 Stanford (4-2)

Friday - 5:00pm
Saturday - 1:00pm
Sunday - 11:00am

A week after dropping a series to defending national champion Cal State Fullerton, the Cardinal return to Sunken Diamond for a three-game set against the Kansas Jayhawks.  Stanford lost the first two contests down south last weekend by the scores of 5-3 and 4-3 before responding with a 15-10 thrashing of the Titans in the finale.  The Cardinal swept away visiting Fresno State during the opening weekend of the season and thus bring a 4-2 record into this series.

The Jayhawks are coming off a 31-31 season from a year ago that saw the team struggle in conference play to just a 7-19 mark (second-to-last place in the Big 12).  Kansas is expecting a better season this year and are off to a good start as they swept the lowly Hawaii-Hilo Vulcans in a six-game series earlier this week.  The Vulcans, however, are quite possibly the worst team in Division I Baseball (they went 9-43 last season), but it was still a good beginning of the year for Kansas as they try to build some confidence heading into their biggest non-conference series of the season.


PROBABLE STARTING PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday : Kansas- Sean Land (LHP; 0-0, 0.00)  vs.  Stanford- Mark Romanczuk (LHP; 1-1, 4.22)

Saturday : Kansas- Clint Schambach (RHP; 1-0, 0.00)  vs.  Stanford- Jeff Gilmore (RHP; 1-0, 2.25)

Sunday : Kansas- Mike Zagurski (LHP; 1-0, 0.00)  vs.  Stanford- TBA


WHO AND WHAT TO WATCH

* Stanford's Sunday starter:
Coach Marquess has yet to officially announce a starting pitcher for Sunday's series finale.  Sophomore Greg Reynolds has struggled in that role the previous two weeks surrendering eight runs (seven earned) in 5 1/3 innings.  His strike out total is high with seven, but the towering right-hander has also allowed 13 hits.  If Marquess elects to go with someone else, sophomore lefty Blake Holler is a strong possibility.  Holler has twice pitched in long relief of Reynolds and has posted outstanding numbers with just one earned run allowed in 8 1/3 innings with 10 strike outs.  A sleeper candidate is freshman Nolan Gallagher who has displayed electric stuff in his two relief stints (5 IP, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 SO).

* The Kansas rotation: The three pitchers scheduled to start this weekend for the Jayhawks combined to allow zero earned runs in 17 2/3 innings this week at Hawaii-Hilo.  Certainly a reason for the tremendous success is the low level of competition and we'll see if any of these hurlers are for real this weekend.  Land is a sophomore lefty who was one of Kansas' most-used relievers a year ago (4-2, 5.76).  Schambach is a senior right-hander who split time between the rotation and the bullpen in 2004 (4-3, 5.26).  Meanwhile, Zagurski is a senior southpaw coming off a solid season in which he earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 Honors as a member of the Jayhawks starting rotation (4-4, 4.81 ERA, 73 IP, 70 SO).

* Michael Taylor: The Cardinal freshman right fielder struggled mightily at the plate versus Fresno two weeks ago going 0-for-10 in the three games.  He made much better contact down in Fullerton and had slightly better results finishing 2-for-9 with three walks.  Marquess even moved Taylor up to the leadoff spot in the lineup for the series finale last weekend in an attempt to shake things up.  We'll see if the slugging freshman remains at the top of the order, but more importantly, will he continue to improve at the plate after showing some signs of life last weekend against the potent Titans pitching staff?


STANFORD NOTES

The Cardinal looked like two completely different teams at the plate last weekend down south.  Stanford combined for just six runs on six hits over the first two games losing both contests by narrow margins.  Sunday saw major lineup shifts and a much better result as the Cardinal pounded out 15 runs on 15 hits en route to the big victory.  Left fielder Chris Lewis sparked the offense on Sunday blasting a couple of solo home runs while shortstop Chris Minaker also went deep.  Minaker continues to lead the team in batting average at an even .400 clip (10-for-25) while Jed Lowrie (.375) and John Mayberry, Jr. (.364) are right on his tail.

The same seven pitchers who threw in the Fresno series again saw action down in Fullerton.  Mark Romanczuk once again had excellent stuff allowing just four hits in 5 2/3 innings, but poor command did him in as five walks led to the lefty taking the loss last Friday.  Jeff Gilmore tossed another brilliant game as after struggling initially on Saturday, he finished his outing retiring 15 of the 17 batters he faced.  Meanwhile, sophomores Blake Holler and Matt Leva (0 ER in 6 1/3 IP) continue to throw very well out of the bullpen while frosh Nolan Gallagher and Erik Davis are seeing plenty of early action out of the 'pen.  Marquess has yet to turn to the experienced arms of Jeff Stimpson or Matt Manship this season.  Through six games, the Cardinal bullpen has an ERA of 2.25 (24 IP/6 ER).

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Chris Lewis, LF  (Jr., .250, 2 HR, 3 RBI)
2. Chris Minaker, SS  (Jr., .400, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
3. Jed Lowrie, 2B  (Jr., .375, 3 HR, 10 RBI)
4. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B  (Jr., .364, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
5. John Hester, C  (Jr., .333, 0 HR, 7 RBI)
6. Michael Taylor, RF  (Fr., .105, 0 HR, 1 RBI)
7. Jim Rapoport, CF  (So., .238, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
8. Ben Summerhays, DH  (Jr., .143, 0 HR, 1 RBI)
9. Adam Sorgi, 3B  (So., .200, 1 HR, 5 RBI)

Fri- Mark Romanczuk, LHP  (Jr., 1-1, 4.22 ERA, 10.2 IP, 9 BB, 8 SO)
Sat- Jeff Gilmore, RHP  (Jr., 1-0, 2.25 ERA, 12.0 IP, 1 BB, 10 SO)
Sun- TBA

Notes: Lewis dropped down to the seventh spot in the lineup last Sunday and promptly blasted two home runs in the Stanford rout ... Minaker has scored a whopping 12 runs through the first six games ... Lowrie had a relatively quiet Fullerton series going 3-for-12, but still finds himself with a season slugging percentage of .792 ... Hester and Summerhays have both struggled with the strike out in the early going - Hester has 9 K's in 24 AB's while Summerhays is at 7 K's in 14 AB's ... Romanczuk is holding opponents to a paltry .171 batting average against ... Gilmore has an even lower mark at .143.



KANSAS NOTES

The Jayhawks were swept away by Stanford last year at Sunken Diamond as the Cardinal posted victories of 7-1, 6-3, and 10-6.  The final contest saw the Cardinal rally for seven runs in the bottom of the ninth with Brian Hall capping the rally with a grand slam home run to left.  Overall last season, Kansas had an outstanding non-conference record although by the end of the year it was clear it was because their schedule was filled with cupcakes.  With the exception of Stanford (and a tilt with Mississippi State next month), it looks to be more of the same this year for the Jayhawks as they filled up on Hawaii-Hilo (who is already 0-11 in 2005) this week in recording a six-game sweep.  Kansas outscored the Vulcans 56-18 as they posted a .338 team batting average and a 1.56 ERA.

Concerning conference play, the Jayhawks sputtered to a 7-19 record a year ago which brought their end-of-the-year overall mark all the way down to .500.  Better results are expected this season as Kansas was picked to finish 7th in the 10-team Big 12 Conference by Baseball America (up from a ninth place finish a year ago).  That still would leave the Jayhawks shy of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, but it's all about baby steps right now for third-year head coach Ritch Price as he tries to turn around this program.

Despite the early success of the pitchers this year, hitting is expected to be the strength of the team.  The Jayhawks led the Big 12 in batting average a year ago at a .316 clip and they return three of their primary hitters in '05.  Left fielder Matt Baty (.344, 2 HR, 30 RBI in 2004), shortstop Ritchie Price (.339, 1 HR, 47 RBI), and catcher Sean Richardson (.332, 12 HR, 69 RBI) are those three players and each is again expected to put up big numbers.  Baty was a First Team All-Big 12 selection last year.

The starting rotation features plenty of experienced arms, but this was a pitching staff that struggled for a most of the year last season - especially against the strong competition of the Big 12.  Zagurski is the most experienced of the hurlers and he's scheduled to start on Sunday this week.   I expect the Jayhawks to again rack up plenty of non-conference wins this year (playing the likes of Hawaii-Hilo, South Dakota State, and Northern Colorado among others), but how they fare against the Cardinal and then in the Big 12 largely depends on whether these starting pitchers can turn it up a notch.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Matt Baty, LF  (Jr., .400, 0 HR, 8 RBI)
2. Jared Schweitzer, 1B  (Jr., .400, 0 HR, 2 RBI)
3. Ritchie Price, SS  (Jr., .417, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
4. John Allman, DH  (Fr., .357, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
5. Sean Richardson, C  (Sr., .615, 1 HR, 3 RBI)
6. A.J. Van Slyke, RF  (Jr., .333, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
7. Gus Milner, CF  (Jr., .429, 0 HR, 3 RBI)
8. Ryne Price, 2B  (Fr., .261, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
9. Erik Morrison, 3B  (Fr., .238, 0 HR, 5 RBI)

Fri- Sean Land, LHP  (So., 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.2 IP, 1 BB, 6 SO)
Sat- Clint Schambach, RHP  (Sr., 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7.0 IP, 3 BB, 3 SO)
Sun- Mike Zagurski, LHP  (Sr., 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7.0 IP, 0 BB, 8 SO)

Notes: Baty is the catalyst for the Jayhawks at the top of the lineup ... In addition to hitting .344 a year ago, he also stole 26 bases and is off to a good overall start this season ... Ritchie Price is the son of the head coach and a very steady player at shortstop ... He's a career .329 hitter through his first two seasons in Lawrence ... Allman is a redshirt-freshman, but was one of Kansas' top hitters in intrasquad games and so he's moved into the clean-up spot in the order ... Richardson went a sizzling 8-for-13 with two doubles and a home run versus Hilo ... Ryne Price is a true-freshman and the younger brother of Ritchie - his middle infield partner ... Land didn't allow any earned runs in his start last weekend although he did surrender five runs total and eight hits in his 3 2/3 innings ... Schambach yielded only one hit in his seven innings pitched while Zagurski surrendered only three hits during his start.

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