Jayhawks Commence Season at Music City Classic
Feb. 15, 2012
LEADING OFF: The University of Kansas begins its 109th season of baseball by participating in the Music City Classic. The Jayhawks open the season by facing Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Friday, 3 p.m.) and will take on Bowling Green (Saturday, 10:30 a.m.), Belmont (Saturday, 2 p.m.) and Lipscomb (Sunday, 1 p.m.) in Nashville. The Jayhawks are 70-48-3 in season-openers, including 5-4 under head coach Ritch Price.
SERIES HISTORIES: Kansas lost its only meeting with Middle Tennessee, 6-5, in 2003 in a similar tournament. The Jayhawks defeated Lipscomb, 10-4, in that tourney and 15-10 in a 2006 meeting in Nashville. KU also won its only previous meeting with Belmont, 4-2, in 2006. The Jayhawks and Bowling Green will be facing off for the first time on the baseball field.
ABOUT KANSAS: Kansas enters the 2012 season looking to get back to the postseason. The Jayhawks return 17 letterwinners, including six position starters, from last year’s team which finished 26-30 overall and 9-18 in the Big 12 Conference.
KU’s top returning hitter is 3B Zac Elgie, who batted .297 with a team-best 22 doubles, seven homers and 37 RBIs. Elgie’s 22 doubles were the fifth-most in a season by a Jayhawk and ranked fourth in the Big 12 in 2011. The Jayhawks’ opening day starting pitcher is sophomore RHP Frank Duncan, who went 0-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 24 relief appearances last season. Duncan posted a 2.63 ERA and allowed a .170 batting avarage against non-conference foes last year.
SCOUTING THE BLUE RAIDERS: Middle Tennessee enters the 2012 season picked to finish fifth in the Sun Belt Conference by Baseball America. The Blue Raiders return 20 letterwinners from a year ago, including six position starters and two starting pitchers. MTSU finished 10th in the Sun Belt last season with an 18-37 overall record and a 9-21 mark in conference play.
Middle Tennessee State’s offense ranked seventh in the Sun Belt Conference last season with a .277 team batting average with 99 doubles and 37 homers. The Blue Raiders averaged 4.8 runs per game last season. MTSU’s top returning position player is preseason All-Sun Belt 1B/OF Justin Guidry. Guidry batted a team-best .349 last year with 39 runs scored, 13 doubles and four homers. Sophomore 3B Hank LaRue also earned preseason all-conference honors after batting .306 with 33 runs scored, 11 doubles and a team-best 37 walks.
On the mound, MTSU ranked ninth in the league with a 5.85 team ERA in 2011, allowing 342 runs overall. KU will face RHP Hunter Adkins. Adkins went 2-9 in 14 starts in 2011 with a 5.44 ERA in 86 innings last year. Sophomore RHP Paul Mittura handled closing duties for MTSU a year ago, posting a 2-5 record with six saves, holding opposing hitters to a .251 batting average.
Head coach Steve Peterson is in his 25th season at MTSU and has an overall record of 760-609-3 at the school. Peterson has led the Blue Raiders to 11 Sun Belt titles and nine appearances in the NCAA Tournament in his tenure. The Jayhawks are 0-1 against the Blue Raiders all-time, falling 6-5 in a game on Feb. 28, 2003 in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
SCOUTING THE FALCONS: Bowling Green enters the season picked to finish third in the Mid-America Conference’s Eastern Division by Baseball America. The Falcons return 21 letterwinners, including nine starting players (pitchers and hitters), from last year’s squad which finished 20-31 overall and 11-14 in the MAC.
BGSU finished sixth in the conference with a .275 team batting average with 72 doubles and 20 homers in 2011. The Falcons averaged 5.2 runs per game last season. Sophomore OF Andrew Kubuski is BGSU’s top returning hitter, batting .267 with nine doubles, two homers and 23 RBIs last season, while junior IF Matt Pitzulo batted .290 with 25 RBIs and a .377 on-base percentage in 2011.
Bowling Green’s pitching staff ranked ninth in the MAC last season with a 5.17 ERA, allowing 306 runs in 449 innings. Junior RHP Cody Apthorpe will get the start against KU on Saturday. Apthorpe went 5-6 last year with a 4.42 ERA in 13 starts. He recorded 50 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings on the mound. Junior RHP Michael Frank led the team with five saves last season, going 1-1 with a 5.05 ERA in 22 appearances.
Head coach Danny Schmitz is in his 22nd season at Bowling Green and owns a record of 568-517-5 at the school. Schmitz helped the Falcons receive back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids in the late 1990’s. This will be the first meeting between KU and BGSU in baseball.
SCOUTING THE BRUINS: Belmont is coming off one of its most impressive seasons in school history, winning the Atlantic Sun tournament title and eliminated Oklahoma State and Troy before falling to Vanderbilt in the NCAA Regionals. The Bruins are picked to finish third in the A-Sun by Baseball America. BU returns 19 letterwinners, five position starters and three starting pitchers from last year’s team that finished 38-26 overall.
Belmont finished eighth in the Atlantic Sun in batting average last year, hitting .291 as a team with 131 doubles and 64 homers. The Bruins averaged 6.7 runs per game a year ago. Sophomore 3B Greg Brody is BU’s top returning hitter. Brody was named to the A-Sun All-Freshman Team a year ago after batting .315 with 20 doubles, seven homers and 42 runs scored.
Belmont finished fourth in the league with a 4.63 ERA and allowed 370 runs in 64 games. The Bruins’ top two pitchers from last season – RHP Matt Hamann and LHP Chase Brookshire – are both back this year. Hamann was a first team all-conference selection, going 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA in 86 1/3 innings. He will get the nod against Kansas on Saturday afternoon.
Head coach David Jarvis is in his 15th season at Belmont with a 395-367-1 record at the school and a 719-519-1 mark in 23 seasons as a college head coach. KU won the only previous meeting between the schools, 4-2, on Feb. 24, 2006 in Nashville.
SCOUTING THE BISONS: Lipscomb enters the 2012 season picked to finish ninth in the Atlantic Sun Conference by Baseball America after going 19-36 last season. The Bisons return 21 letterwinners from a year ago, including four position starters.
Lipscomb was 10th in the Atlantic Sun last year, batting .287 as a team with 95 doubles, 24 homers and averaging 5.1 runs per game. Senior OF M.L. Williams is the Bisons’ top returning hitter after batting .354 with 17 doubles, three homers and stealing 24 bases as a junior.
The Bisons’ pitching staff posted a 4.90 team ERA last year, which ranked fifth in the conference. Redshirt junior Josh Fonfara will get the start Sunday against the Jayhawks. Fonfara went 2-3 last season with a 5.09 ERA in eight starts. He held opponents to a .265 batting average in 58 1/3 innings. Lipscomb used a closer-by-committee approach last season with eight different pitchers recording saves. Senior LHP Gil Rhwinkel led the group with three and a 4.71 ERA in 21 relief appearances.
Head coach Jeff Forehand is in his sixth season at Lipscomb and holds a 123-164 mark in his first five seasons. Forehand led the Bisons to the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and an opening-round upset of host Georgia. KU is 2-0 all-time against Lipscomb, claiming wins over the Bisons in 2003 and 2006.
300 GAME: Kansas head coach Ritch Price enters the 2012 season needing just one victory for his 300th with the Jayhawks. He would become just the second KU head coach to record 300 wins with the Crimson and Blue, joining Floyd Temple, who guided the program to 438 wins from 1954-81.
Price would also become the fourth active head coach to amass 300 wins at a Big 12 institution, joining Baylor’s Steve Smith (619 in 17 seasons), Missouri’s Tim Jamieson (571 in 17 seasons) and Texas’ Augie Garrido (666 in 15 seasons).
CHANGING PLACES: Four key members of the Kansas baseball team will be changing positions to start the 2012 season. Senior IF Zac Elgie has started 83 games at first base over the last three seasons, but is slated to be the team’s starting third baseman to open the year. Junior IF Jake Marasco, who has started games at third base (45), designated hitter (36) and left field (10) in his career, will be making the transition to first base this year. Marasco played first base during his time at Maize High School.
The Jayhawk pitching staff will also have a different look in 2012. Junior RHP Tanner Poppe started 13 games a year ago, but will open the year as the team’s closer. Pitching in relief is not new to the KU righty. He has made 12 career appearances out of the bullpen and recorded two saves in his career. Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan made a team-best 24 relief appearances last season, but will pitch in the starting rotation to open the season. Duncan was also a starting pitcher in high school.
– Kansas opens the season in Nashville, Tenn., marking the second time in the last four seasons that KU has played its first game in the Volunteer State.
– KU is 18-9 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt, 19-13 against current Mid-American Conference members and 4-3 against Atlantic Sun members.
– KU is opening on the road for the 10th-straight season (the 2010 season opener was played at a neutral site). The Jayhawks are 70-48-3 in season-openers, including 5-4 under head coach Ritch Price.
– The Jayhawks were 17-13 against non-conference foes last season and are 61-37 against non-Big 12 opponents over the last three years.
– Kansas is 113-89-1 (.559) all-time in the month of February, including 54-32-1 (.626) under Price.
– Redshirt junior IF Jake Marasco is likely to start his fourth-straight season-opener at a fourth different position. Marasco started the 2009 opener against Air Force in left field, in 2010 against Eastern Michigan as the designated hitter and the first game of 2011 at third base against TCU.
– Junior C Alex DeLeon and IF Ka’iana Eldredge both enter the season on seven-game hitting streaks.
– Kansas does not have any players on its roster from the state of Tennessee.
– Senior RHP Matt Kohorst’s uncle, Garry Kohorst, played baseball at Bowling Green and was named the team’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 1977.
– Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin grew up in St. Charles, Ill., and likely played against Belmont LHP Dan Ludwig, who grew up in nearby Naperville, Ill. Other players in the tournament that grew up in the Chicago area include: Bowling Green’s Taylor Rhoads (Wheaton), Belmont’s Dan Huenecke (Palatine) and Matt Hamann (Northbrook) as well as Lipscomb’s Diego Martinez (Oak Forest).
– Middle Tennessee State OF Trent Miller is from Kansas City, Mo., and graduated from Rockhurst High School.
– Lipscomb LHP Gil Rehwinkel and RHP Connor Sinclair are both from Wichita, Kan. Rehwinkel graduated from Maize High School and was teammates with current Jayhawks Jake Marasco and Jordan Jakubov. Sinclair graduated from Goodard High School and attended Butler Community College before transferring to Lipscomb.
BACKDRAFT: KU’s 2012 roster features nine players who were drafted by Major League organzations out of high school, but decided to become Jayhawks. Senior IF Zac Elgie (Oakland) was selected in the 2008 Amateur Draft. Juniors IF Kevin Kuntz (Kansas City), LHP Jordan Luvisi (Arizona), RHP Tanner Poppe (Kansas City) were all selected in the 2009 draft. Sophomore IF Ka’iana Eldredge (Cincinnati) was drafted in 2010, while freshmen LHP Wes Benjamin (New York Yankees), RHP Robert Kahana (Colorado), OF Connor McKay (Colorado) and OF Michael Suiter (Cincinnati) were selected in last year’s draft. Poppe was also drafted last season by the Tampa Bay Rays.
STANFIELD NAMED PRESEASON ALL-BIG 12: Kansas senior C/DH James Stanfield was named a Preseason All-Big 12 First Team selection by College Baseball Daily on Feb. 3. Stanfield became the first KU player to earn preseason all-conference honors since Tony Thompson and Brian Heere garnered the same distinction prior to the 2010 season.
Stanfield, a 5-foot-9 senior from Owasso, Okla., hit .327 last year with five doubles, two triples and two home runs. Compared to his 2010 campaign, Stanfield raised his batting average by 89 points and his slugging percentage by 198 points (from .262 to .460). He also proved difficult to strike out, fanning just 13 times in 129 plate appearances.
JAYHAWKS’ 2012 SIGNING CLASS EARNS TOP 40 RANKING: Kansas baseball has pulled in the 40th-ranked recruiting class according to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s annual rankings, which were released in September. The Jayhawks added 12 freshmen and one transfer – LHP Jordan Luvisi from Pepperdine – to their roster for their 2012 signing class.
KU’s recruiting class ranked fifth among Big 12 teams, ahead of Missouri (49th overall), Baylor (66th), Texas Tech (77th) and Kansas State (NR).
KU-OSU GAME ON FSN: Five games will be featured on the Big 12’s Fox Sports Net Game of the Week schedule, including the Kansas-Oklahoma State game to be played at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium on April 7 at 2:30 p.m.
The television appearance marks the sixth-straight season that FSN has chosen the Jayhawks to appear on its national college game of the week. Last season, KU fell to Oklahoma on FSN on May 7 in Norman, Okla.
KANSAS BASEBALL ON THE AIR: For the first time in program history, all 56 Kansas baseball regular-season games during the 2012 season will air on Jayhawk All-Access or KLWN Radio (1320 AM). It marks the first time that the entire baseball schedule has been carried via live broadcast.
Jayhawk All-Access will carry audio for 26 games throughout the season with free video coverage available for a majority of the home contests. KLWN Radio will pick up coverage on Tuesday, March 27 for the game at Missouri State at 6:30 p.m., and continue throughout the regular season. Fans can still tune in to Jayhawk All-Access for video coverage during KU home games.
KU ANNOUNCES 2012 TEAM CAPTAINS: Senior RHP Jordan Jakubov, senior IF Chris Manship and redshirt-junior IF Jake Marasco have been named team captains of the Kansas baseball team for the 2012 season head coach Ritch Price announced Jan. 28. All three players will be captains for the first time in their careers.
FORMER KU COACH INDUCTED INTO KANSAS HALL OF FAME: Former KU baseball head coach Dave Bingham was elected to the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame in Wichita. Bingham, along with former Wichita State pitcher Darren Dreifort, former college umpire Bob Homolka, former major leaguers Lee Stevens and the late Joseph Vaughan and 14 Negro League players, were enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Feb. 4.
Bingham coached at KU from 1988 to 1995 and led the Jayhawks to the first NCAA Tournament and College World Series appearances in school history in 1993. His 1993 team shattered a host of program records, including the school record for wins in a season with 45.
JAYHAWKS INK SEVEN IN EARLY SIGNING PERIOD: The top high school baseball prospects in the state of Kansas and Arizona, and two other players with ties to the Major Leagues, are among seven players who signed with Kansas during the fall 2011 signing period.
KU’s signing class includes: 1B Jacob Boylan (Lee’s Summit, Mo.), RHP Hayden Edwards (Shawnee Mission, Kan.), IF Tommy Mirabelli (Rocky River, Ohio), C/1B Nick Sweatt (Mission Hills, Kan.), LHP Tyler Watson (Georgetown, Texas), IF Marcus Wheeler (Phoenix, Ariz.) and IF Colby Wright (Castro Valley, Calif.).
FORMER JAYHAWK COMMISSIONED INTO MARINE CORPS: Former Kansas pitcher Thomas Marcin held a ceremony for commission into the United States Marines Corps on Friday, Sept. 16 with several of his former Jayhawk teammates and coaches in attendance at Hoglund Ballpark.
Marcin, who played at KU from 2007-10, graduated from KU in May, 2011 and attended Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Va. He completed his flight school and passed his physical prior the ceremony.
SMITH NAMED MVP OF WORLD SERIES: Kansas freshman outfielder Dakota Smith was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2011 Connie Mack World Series on Aug. 16 as his Midland Redskins won their third title at Rickets Field in Farmington, N.M.
Smith, a 5-foot-11 freshman from Leavenworth, Kan., collected a tournament-high 15 total bases, which included a pair of homers and eight RBIs. He also received the tournament’s Comcast “Big Stick” Award.
MANSHIP NAMED POSTSEASON ALL-STAR: Kansas senior 1B Chris Manship was named to the Northwoods League’s Postseason All-Star team, which was announced by the league office on Aug. 9.
Manship, a 6-foot-2 senior from Cave Creek, Ariz., batted .291 in the wood bat league in 65 games during the summer. His summer numbers included 23 doubles, four homers, 35 RBIs and 30 runs scored. Manship, who played the year with the Duluth Huskies, was selected to the league’s midseason all-star team.
HOMECOMING FOR PRICE: Former South Dakota State head coach – and Jayhawk standout – Ritchie Price was named an assistant coach for the Jayhawk baseball program on June 30. Price will work with the team’s offense, infielders, handle recruiting duties and also be the team’s third base coach.
Price, who played for his father Ritch Price at KU from 2003-06, spent the last three seasons as the head coach at South Dakota State University. In his time at SDSU, Price has led the Jackrabbits to a 102-71 career record, with signature wins over Arkansas, Minnesota, Iowa and Creighton. He helped SDSU appear in the Summit League Championship game for a third consecutive year in 2011, falling to eventual NCAA Tournament participant Oral Roberts.
CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT: Three Kansas pitchers, Colton Murray (Philadelphia, 13th round), T.J. Walz (Oakland, 15th round) and Tanner Poppe (Tampa Bay, 37th round), were taken during the three-day Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which concluded on June 8.
BROTHERLY LOVE: Junior LHP Jordan Luvisi and freshman IF Joey 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:
– Senior OF Jason Brunansky is the son of former major league outfielder Tom Brunansky.
– Junior 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.
– Senior 1B Chris Manship’s cousin, Jeff Manship, has pitched for the Minnesota Twins each of the last two seasons.
– Freshman OF Brian Poupore is the great-grandson of former Philadelphia Athletics’ manager/owner Connie Mack.
UP NEXT: Kansas will hit the road for the second-consective weekend on Feb. 24 when the Jayhawks travel to Starkville, Miss., to battle host Mississippi State and Mississippi Valley State at Polk-DeMent Stadium. KU will play the Bulldogs on Friday, Feb. 24 (6:30 p.m.) and Saturday, Feb. 25 (4 p.m.) and the Delta Devils on Friday (2:30 p.m.) and Sunday, Feb. 26 (11 a.m.). All four games will be carried on Jayhawk All-Access at kuathletics.com.