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Sunday, April 12, 2009

‘Hog’ heaven for KU again

KU pitcher T.J. Walz delivers a pitch against Oklahoma State on April 11.

KU pitcher T.J. Walz delivers a pitch against Oklahoma State on April 11.

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Maybe it’s sleeping in their own beds that makes Kansas University’s baseball players so successful at home. That’s what right fielder Brian Heere thinks.

Perhaps it’s the home crowds providing extra juice for the players on the field. That’s what catcher Buck Afenir thinks.

Then again, it could be the completion of the brand-new McCarthy Family Clubhouse that has put some swagger back into the Jayhawks’ program. That’s what KU coach Ritch Price thinks.

The answers vary. The results do not. After bucking the Oklahoma State Cowboys, 13-6, at Hoglund Ballpark on Saturday afternoon, Kansas now stands a robust 17-2 at home.

Contrast that with the Jayhawks’ 5-10 record on the road, and it’s easy to see why everybody in a white, crimson and blue uniform enjoys the cozy confines just a little bit more.

“We love playing at the Hog,” KU starting pitcher T.J. Walz said.

One could try pointing to scheduling as a factor in the record disparity — KU has played eight road games against nationally ranked teams. But it’s not as if the Jayhawks are racking up cupcake victories against the Little Sisters of the Poor at home. Wins at Hoglund include: a three-game sweep of then-No. 1 Texas, victories against then-No. 7 Baylor as well as in-state rival Wichita State and now two straight to begin the series against No. 17 Oklahoma State.

Saturday, Walz relished taking the Hoglund mound so much that he struck out a career-high 10 hitters one day after KU ace Shaeffer Hall mowed down a career-high nine.

Walz (4-0) lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits while throwing 111 pitches. It marked the sophomore’s second straight win while tossing more than 100 pitches.

“We’ve always known that he had the stuff to be a great pitcher,” Afenir said. “He just had to put it all together. He’s doing that now, and I think that’s just awesome.”

The Jayhawks received key contributions from the top of their lineup to back up Walz’s solid pitching performance. David Narodowski, Robby Price, Heere and Afenir — the Nos. 1 through 4 hitters — had 10 of KU’s 13 hits.

Heere smacked a solo home run to right field in the bottom of the third, snapping a 2-all tie. Kansas then plated four runs in the fifth to go ahead, 8-2, and four more in the seventh thanks to Heere’s three-run double to left field with the bases loaded.

“He’s got surprising power for a little guy,” Price said. “I thought that was a great at-bat.”

The Jayhawks clobbered OSU pitcher Tyler Blandford (6-1), who had developed into the Cowboys’ ace this season. Blandford went 4 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs (six earned) and taking the loss.

Kansas has outscored Oklahoma State, 21-7, in the series.

“Just knowing that you can go out there and not be perfect and still come out ahead is huge,” Walz said.

Today, Kansas (22-12, 6-5 in Big 12 play) closes out its three-game series against Oklahoma State (21-13, 4-7) at 1 p.m.

“We’ve already won the series, but we’ve got to come out and play the same way (today),” Heere said. “It’s huge to sweep a team in a conference as tough as the Big 12.”

Comments

jayhawkinATL 10 years, 9 months ago

Damn!!! We just keep rollin' some good teams!!! The sweep is complete today.

lv_jhwk 10 years, 9 months ago

Great job guys!! Kudos to Coach Price and his staff who have quietly built a formidable program of their own over the past few years.

Btw, I'm trying to think of the last time all three major men's sports made the postseason in the same year. I keep going all the way back to '92-'93 when the football team won in Hawaii, the basketball team made the F4, and the baseball team went to the CWS.

jayhawkinATL 10 years, 9 months ago

Well, lv-jhwk, after recalling that KU baseball won the Big 12 tournament a couple of years ago (in 2006), I decided to do some further research:

In the 2005-2006 academic year:

*KU baseball made the field of 64, playing in the Corvallis regional, splitting with Hawaii and losing to eventual CWS champion Oregon State

*KU football won the Fort Worth Bowl (beating Houston 42-13)

*KU basketball lost to Bradley in the first round of the NCAAs

So, you just had to bring up the Bradley loss again, lv_jhwk, didn't you?!?!

lv_jhwk 10 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for doing the research I didn't, jayhawkinatl. I figured it had to have happened more recently, but wasn't sure off the top of my head. (And my apologies for making you reencounter some obviously repressed memories!)

jayhawkintx73 10 years, 9 months ago

I think that was the only time when all three major sports from any college ever went to a Bowl game, Final 4, and CWS.

jayhawkinATL 10 years, 9 months ago

No worries, lv_jhwk.

jayhawkintx73...I know KU was the first, but I saw on a post recently where another school had done it, but I can't remember who it was.

jayhawkinATL 10 years, 9 months ago

Ah, yes...it was Texas in 2002-2003.

OK, I guess I have too much time on my hands!!!

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