Wednesday, June 17, 2009

KU has filled void at short


David Narodowski’s decision to turn pro has left Ritch Price with a hole at shortstop, but Price, the Kansas University baseball coach, believes he has the vacancy filled.

Brandon Macias, a transfer from South Mountain College in Phoenix, Ariz., is the prime candidate.

“We expect him to play for us for one year and turn pro, just like Narodowski,” Price said of Macias.

Narodowski came to KU last fall from Vernon College, a two-year school in Texas, and earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after hitting .354 and leading the Jayhawks in runs scored.

Last week, Narodowski was selected by Arizona in the 15th round of the free-agent draft and signed over the weekend. The native of Vancouver, B.C., will report to the Diamondbacks’ Class A farm team in Missoula, Mont., later in the week.

“He is a player who has unlimited potential, and I wish him the best,” Price said. “He’s a big-time loss for us.”

The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Macias, a native of Flagstaff, Ariz., began at Arizona State before transferring to the Phoenix two-year school. He hit .325 as a freshman in 2008, but dipped to .273 this spring while battling a hamstring problem.

Price is also bringing in Kevin Kuntz, a switch-hitter from Tulsa Union High whom he hopes to groom as a long-term fix at shortstop after Macias leaves.

Kuntz, son of Royals’ first-base coach Rusty Kuntz, is a straight-A student who will be coming to KU on an academic scholarship. Young Kuntz, who hit .441 for Union High this spring, was selected by Kansas City in the 48th round of the draft, but isn’t expected to turn pro.

Price has three other newcomers coming in … or at least he hopes he does. One of them, right-hander pitcher Shawn Blackwell of League City, Texas, was taken in the draft’s 24th round by the Texas Rangers.

“We possibly could lose him,” Price said. “He’s the one I’m worried about.”

Tanner Poppe, a 6-6, 230-pound right-handed pitcher from Girard, was also drafted — in the 37th round by the Royals — but isn’t expected to sign. He was valedictorian of his senior class at Girard High.

Price’s other signee is Alex DeLeon, a third baseman from Woodland Hills, Calif., who will be moved behind the plate. Although not drafted, DeLeon is projected as an “impact player” by the KU coach.

Narodowski was the second KU junior to opt for the pros. Earlier, left-handed pitcher Shaeffer Hall signed with the Yankees.

A third underclassman who was drafted — outfielder Brian Heere (48th round by Boston) — has told Price he will return for his junior year.

“He knows he’s not quite strong enough for pro ball,” Price said, “so he’ll be back working on getting stronger.”

Heere was the Jayhawks’ second-leading hitter with a .364 average during his red-shirt sophomore season. The Lawrence High product was eligible for the draft because he was in his third year of college and had turned 21.

Catcher Buck Afenir and pitcher Paul Smyth, two seniors who were not drafted, have signed as free agents with the Yankees and Oakland A’s, respectively.


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