KU baseball wins opener, 2-1

Saturday, February 23, 2008

— Welcome home, Wally.

Oahu native Wally Marciel allowed just one run on five hits in six strong innings to lead Kansas University's baseball team to a season-opening 2-1 victory over the University of Hawaii at Hilo on Friday at Simmons Field.

"I felt weak at the beginning, but I started feeling stronger as the game went on," a jet-lagged Marciel said. "We left Lawrence at, like, 6 a.m. (CST) and didn't get to our hotel rooms until, like, 11 p.m. (HST) last night."

The Jayhawks (1-0) - who spent 16 hours traveling Thursday - had just six hits and didn't score until the fourth inning, after the Vulcans had taken a 1-0 lead on a Thomas Brown RBI single in the third.

Kansas tacked on the go-ahead score in the sixth when Buck Afenir's popup somehow dropped between Hilo shortstop Erik Morrison and two outfielders, allowing an alert Ryne Price to score from first base on the play.

"I really wasn't thinking I'd come away with a hit on that one," said Afenir, who finished 2-for-4. "I guess it looks all the same in book."

Clayton Uyechi turned in a solid outing for the Vulcans (1-3) despite being saddled with the loss. The junior right-hander allowed two runs on six hits while striking out four and issuing four walks.

"Let's give credit where credit is due," sixth-year Kansas coach Ritch Price said. "Their guy, Clayton, pitched absolutely outstanding against us. He did a really nice job of mixing his changeup with his fastball. He's a legitimate Division I guy."

UH-Hilo threatened to get back in the game in its half of the sixth, when the Vulcans' first two batters reached base. Marciel, however, forced Peter Rodgers to pop up on a bunt attempt before retiring Dayne Ogawa and Colins Obed to end the inning.

"I was pleased with Willy Marciel," Price said. "I thought he did a really nice job matching their starter zero for zero. I thought he showed some great toughness and maturity."

This weekend's matchup marks the sixth consecutive year Kansas has kicked off its season against Hilo on the Big Island. The Jayhawks' lead the all-time series 24-7.

Price stressed the trip's importance as a way to get his team ready for the season after a frigid winter spent indoors.

"For us, it's about getting outside," Price said. "This is the first time we've been outside since October. Our whole thing is we have to get outside and play at game speed."

For Marciel - the 2006 Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year - the trip is a welcome homecoming.

"Every year, coach Price likes to come here to start up the season, just to get outside, because we don't get to get outside," said Marciel, the only Hawaiian on the Kansas roster. "And I always like to pitch in front of my parents."