Jayhawks Open Baseball Season Friday Against Nevada
Feb. 13, 2013
LEADING OFF: Kansas baseball will open the 2013 season on Friday, Feb. 15 when it faces Nevada in the first contest of a four-game series at Hohokam Park in Mesa, Ariz. The Jayhawks will battle the Wolf Pack Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Central Time with the series finale scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m.
ON THE AIR: All four games from the KU-Nevada series will be broadcast on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access on KUAthletics.com. Aaron Berlin and Pete Knutson will call the action from Mesa, Ariz. Fans can listen to all four games free of charge.
SERIES HISTORY: Friday’s opener will mark the first meeting between KU and Nevada since the 1999 season, when the Wolf Pack took a pair of wins from the Jayhawks at a tournament in Phoenix. The 1999 games are the only meetings between the two schools on the baseball diamond. The Jayhawks are 10-9 all-time against current members of the Mountain West Conference.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas enters the 2013 season with high hopes after advancing to the semifinals of the Big 12 Baseball Championship a year ago. The Jayhawks return 21 letterwinners, including seven position starters and nine pitchers, from last year’s team that finished 24-34 and placed seventh in the conference standings. KU is 71-54-1 all-time in season-opening games, including 6-4 under head coach Ritch Price.
Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling is KU’s top returning hitter, batting .301 with five doubles, three triples and a .453 on-base percentage last season. Sophomore OF Connor McKay tied for the team lead with five home runs a year ago and finished with 20 RBIs in 43 games. On the mound, junior RHP Frank Duncan is one of the top returning hurlers in the Big 12 Conference. Duncan posted a 6-8 record last year with a 3.23 ERA in 15 starts to earn second team all-conference honors.
SCOUTING THE WOLF PACK: Nevada is playing its first year in the Mountain West Conference after spending the previous 12 seasons in the Western Athletic Conference. The Wolf Pack is hoping a change in leagues will help springboard an NCAA Tournament run. Nevada returns 20 letterwinners, including six position starters, from last year’s team that finished with a season record of 32-25, which earned it a share of the WAC regular season title.
The Wolf Pack finished fourth in WAC last season with a team batting average of .286, while averaging 5.2 runs per game. Senior OF Brooks Klein is Nevada’s top returning hitter. Klein hit .335 a season ago with eight homers and 42 RBIs to earn First Team All-WAC honors. Sophomore 1B Kewby Meyer also earned All-WAC mention and was tabbed Freshman All-America after batting .324 with nine doubles and 34 RBIs.
Nevada also ranked fourth in the conference with a 4.33 team ERA and held opponents to a .276 batting average. Junior RHP Braden Shipley will make the start opening day against the Jayhawks. Shipley went 9-4 and posted a 2.20 ERA in 15 starts last season, recording 88 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings. He was named WAC Pitcher of the Year in 2012. Sophomore LHP Tyler Wells (3-5, 6.42 ERA), senior RHP Tom Jameson (7-2, 2.55 ERA) and freshman RHP Mark Reece will start the final three games of the series.
Wolf Pack head coach Gary Powers is in his 31st season at Nevada and has a record of 912-730-5 at the school. Powers’ 912 wins at the Division I level are the 25th most among active head coaches. Powers has led Nevada to four NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently in 2000.
- Kansas does not have any players from Nevada on its roster. The Wolf Pack do not have any Kansas natives on their roster.
- KU has six players on its roster from California, while the Wolf Pack has 18.
- Kansas RHP Alex Cox (Corona) and RHP Taylor Rappaport (Riverside) and Nevada OF Jay Anderson (Claremont) all grew up southeast of Los Angeles.
- Kansas IF/C Alex DeLeon (Woodland Hills) and Nevada IF Hugo Hernandez (Sylmar) grew up less than 20 miles from each other in northwest suburbs of Los Angeles.
- Kansas RHP Frank Duncan (San Francisco) and Nevada C Collin Theroux (San Mateo) and LHP Barry Timko (San Bruno) all grew up in the San Francisco metropolitan area.
- Kansas LHP Jordan Luvisi (Scottsdale), OF Brian Poupore (Scottsdale), IF Marcus Wheeler (Phoenix) and OF Joe Luvisi (Scottsdale) and Nevada IF Austin Byler (Peoria) all grew up within 20 miles of each other in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
- Kansas OF Michael Suiter (Kailua), IF Justin Protacio (Pearl City), C Ka’iana Eldredge (Honolulu), RHP Robert Kahana (Ewa Beach) and Nevada 1B/P Kewby Meyer (Waipahu) all grew up on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii.
- Kansas athletic trainer Ken Wainwright is a native of Reno, Nev., and graduated from the University of Nevada in 1998.
CHANGING PLACES: Kansas returns seven players that started 40 games or more last season, but a couple of them have changed positions. The most obvious modification is behind the plate where junior Ka’iana Eldredge will open the season as the starting catcher after making 43 starts at second base a year ago. Senior Alex DeLeon, who made 22 starts at catcher and 20 as the designated hitter in 2012, is expected to make his first collegiate start at first base.
Sophomore Dakota Smith, who played exclusively in the outfield last season, will also see innings out of the bullpen this year. Other returning letterwinners who have changed positions include sophomore Joe Luvisi, who will play outfield after playing five games in the infield last season, and senior Tanner Poppe, who will be a starting pitcher this year after making 28 relief appearances in 2012.
KANSAS BASEBALL PICKED EIGHTH: Kansas baseball was selected to finish eighth in the Big 12 standings by the league’s coaches prior to the start of the season. The Jayhawks received 18 votes and were picked ahead of conference newcomer, West Virginia, and just three votes behind in-state rival Kansas State for seventh. KU has a history of outperforming its preseason prognastications. Last season, the Jayhawks were predicted to finish ninth in the league standings and placed seventh, while in 2009, KU was projected for a 10th-place finish, but ended the year in fourth-place, en route to an NCAA Tournament berth.
POPPE EARNS PRESEASON HONOR: Kansas senior RHP Tanner Poppe was named one of the Top 100 senior prospects in college baseball by Perfect Game USA, checking in at No. 18 on the list which was released Monday. Poppe, a 6-foot-5 senior from Girard, Kan., is making a return to the starting rotation after serving as the team’s closer in 2012. He has had the most success in a starting role, posting a 3.86 ERA as a starter in 2011.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas is opening its 123rd season of baseball on Friday. The Jayhawks are 1,741-1,665 all-time.
- The Jayhawks will play their first four games in Mesa, Ariz., marking the first time KU has opened a season in Arizona since 1996, when KU faced New Mexico State and Grand Canyon at a tournament in Phoenix.
- KU’s games are scheduled to be played at Hohokam Park, the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs. The Jayhawks have played 10 games in major league spring training parks since 2009.
- Kansas is opening the regular season away from home for the 11th-straight season, however this is the fourth time in that span that KU’s opening day will be played at a neutral site.
- The Jayhawks were 17-18 against non-Big 12 foes last season and are 78-55 in non-conference games over the last four years.
- Kansas is 118-92-1 (.562) all-time in the month of February and was 5-2 in the first month of the season in 2012.
- Senior IF Alex DeLeon and C Ka’iana Eldredge are expected to make opening day starts for the third-straight season; however, both will be starting at new positions. DeLeon will make his first collegiate start at first base, while Eldredge is making his first start behind the plate since 2011.
- Junior RHP Frank Duncan will start KU’s season opener for the second-straight year. He is the first pitcher to earn back-to-back opening day starts since T.J. Walz started the first games of the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
JAYHAWKS ANNOUNCE CAPTAINS FOR 2013: On Feb. 8, Kansas head coach Ritch Price announced that senior infielders Alex DeLeon, Jordan Dreiling and Kevin Kuntz would serve as the Jayhawks’ captains for the 2013 season. All three seniors will be serving as team captain for the first time in their careers.
KANSAS COMPLETES DOMINICAN WINTER TOUR: During the month of December, Kansas baseball made a week-long tour of the Dominican Republic, going 4-2 against Major League Academy Teams and participating in several community service projects. The Jayhawks came from behind to win all three games against the Kansas City Royals’ Academy Team and went 1-2 against the Cleveland Indians on their trip. Sophomore OF Connor McKay led the offense, batting .375 with a double and two triples in four games, while RHP Tanner Poppe and RHP Robert Kahana each tossed five scoreless innings to lead the pitching staff.
KU also participated in community service projects on the trip. Jayhawk players and coaches held a free skills clinic at a local park in Boca Chica, visited an orphanage in San Pedro de Macoris, packed and delivered 1,000 health kits to six rural villages near the capital city of Santo Domingo and donated several dozen baseballs, cleats, uniforms, bats, gloves, caps and shirts to youth and amateur teams across the area.
KU HOSTS INAUGURAL FLOYD TEMPLE ALUMNI GAME: Approximately 50 former Kansas baseball players spanning seven decades of the program’s history attended the inaugural Floyd Temple Alumni Game at Hoglund Ballpark on Oct. 27. Prior to the game, a special ceremony was held to recognize Floyd Temple, who passed away in June, 2012. Temple led Kansas baseball for 28 seasons from 1954-81 and remains the program’s all-time winningest coach with 438 career victories. Following the ceremony, Kansas’ current varsity team defeated the KU alumni in an abbreviated game, 5-0.
KAHANA NAMED TOP 5 PROSPECT IN HAWAIIAN LEAGUE: Sophomore RHP Robert Kahana was named a top prospect in the Hawaii Collegiate League by two different publications in August, 2012. Kahana was listed as the No. 2 prospect in the league by Perfect Game USA and the No. 4 prospect by Baseball America.
MORONEY EARNS SUMMER HONOR: Sophomore OF Joe Moroney was named to the Horizon Air Summer Series All-Star team in August for his play in the Far West Baseball League. Moroney played for the Neptune Beach Pearl and batted .325 in 35 games with five doubles, two triples, 27 runs scored and 12 stolen bases.
BACKDRAFT: KU’s roster features 12 players that were drafted by major league organizations at some point in their careers, but opted to become Jayhawks. Senior RHP Tanner Poppe has been drafted twice – by the Kansas City Royals out of high school in 2009 and by the Tampa Bay Rays following his sophomore year at KU in 2011. Other Jayhawks who have been drafted include: LHP Wes Benjamin (New York Yankees, 2011), RHP Alex Cox (Pittsburgh, 2010), RHP Hayden Edwards (Kansas City, 2012), C/IF Ka’iana Eldredge (Cincinnati, 2010), RHP Robert Kahana (Colorado, 2011), IF Kevin Kuntz (Kansas City, 2009), LHP Jordan Luvisi (Arizona, 2009), OF Connor McKay (Colorado, 2011), Tommy Mirabelli (Pittsburgh, 2012), OF Michael Suiter (Cincinnati, 2011) and LHP Tyler Watson (Washington, 2012).
JAYHAWKS ADD SEVEN IN EARLY SIGNING PERIOD: The 2012 Colt World Series batting champion and the 2011 Colorado 2A Pitcher of the Year were among the seven players that KU added during the early signing period in November.
The Jayhawks announced that OF Jovan Afenir (Murrieta, Calif.), OF M.J. Farthing (Reno, Nev.), IF Jon Hander (Sioux Falls, S.D.), LHP Denton Keys (Rye, Colo.), C Lee McMahon (Lawrence, Kan.), RHP Sean Rackoski (Chandler, Ariz.) and C/OF Michael Tinsley (Menlo Park, Calif.) will play at KU for the 2014 season.
BROTHERLY LOVE: Senior LHP Jordan Luvisi and sophomore IF Joe Luvisi are the sixth set of brothers to play at KU under head coach Ritch Price. The pair from Scottsdale, Ariz., join Ryan and Matt Baty, Don and Nick Czyz, Sean and Preston Land, Colton and Conner Murray as well as Ritchie, Ryne and Robby Price as the sets of brothers to be teammates at KU since 2003.
MAJOR LEAGUE CONNECTIONS: Several Kansas baseball players have connections to the Major Leagues:
- Freshman RHP Dylan Brett is the son of Hall of Famer George Brett, who played 21 seasons with the Kansas City Royals.
- Senior IF Kevin Kuntz is the son of former major league infielder Rusty Kuntz, who currently works in the front office for the Kansas City Royals.
- Freshman IF Tommy Mirabelli is the son of Cleveland Indians senior director of scouting John Mirabelli.
- Redshirt freshman OF Brian Poupore is the great-grandson of former Philadelphia Athletics’ manager/owner Connie Mack.
- Freshman LHP Tyler Watson is the son of Kansas City Royals director of professional scouting Gene Watson.
Wrapping Up the 2012 Season:
- Kansas played in five extra-inning games in 2012, which included a 16-inning marathon contest against Wichita State on April 9. The 16-inning game marked the longest game involving the Jayhawks since an 18-inning contest against Oklahoma State in 1967.
- The Jayhawks had a winning record at home for the 12th-straight season. KU has not had a losing mark at Hoglund Ballpark since the 2000 season.
- KU’s defense set the school record with a .977 fielding percentage, which passed the previous high of .972 set in 2004. KU’s fielding percentage ranked second in the Big 12 and 17th in the country.
- Jayhawk outfielders collected 18 assists last season, which was the team’s highest total since the 2006 season.
- KU collected 19 hits in the 11-inning win over Southern Utah, which represented the most by the team since recording 20 hits at Oklahoma State on April 30, 2010.
- KU scored a season-high 10 runs in the first inning of a game against Mississippi Valley State on Feb. 26. It was the most runs scored in a single frame by a Jayhawk team since an 11-run inning against Tabor in 2007.
- Kansas blanked in-state rival Kansas State, 6-0, on May 12. It marked the team’s first shutout in Manhattan since the 1983 season.
- Kansas pitchers Frank Duncan (at Texas) and Wes Benjamin (at Kansas State), both recorded complete games on the road. Duncan’s marked the first by a Kansas pitcher on the road since 2005.
UP NEXT: Kansas will return to the friendly confines of Hoglund Ballpark to open a 13-game homestand beginning on Friday, Feb. 22, when the Jayhawks face Northwestern at 3 p.m. KU and the Wildcats will play a three-game series with Saturday’s game slated for a 10 a.m. start and Sunday’s finale set for an 11 a.m. first pitch.