Jayhawks Open the Season at No. 1 TCU
Feb. 16, 2011
Games 1-3: at No. 1 TCU
Friday-Sunday, Feb. 18-20, 2011
Lupton Stadium (3,500) – Fort Worth, Texas
The Kansas Jayhawks open their 122nd season of varsity baseball on Friday, Feb. 18, with the first of a three-game series at No. 1 TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, at 6:30 p.m. The teams will play the second game of the series Saturday at 2 p.m., and conclude the set Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Friday and Sunday games will be televised by the Mountain West Sports Network (Channel 616 on DirecTV). Fans can also listen to all three games on kuathletics.com.
Kansas and TCU have met three times previously on the baseball diamond – most recently in 2001. TCU leads the series with Kansas, 2-1, including a 2-0 record in games played in Fort Worth, Texas. The Jayhawks lone win in the series came in the 2001 season opener, 7-3 in a game played in Round Rock, Texas.
Ironically, the schools’ other meetings came in the opening weekend of the season as KU opened the 1990 season with a pair of one-run losses to the Horned Frogs. Kansas Head Coach Ritch Price has never faced TCU in his career. KU is 13-12 all-time against current members of the Mountain West Conference.
About the Jayhawks
Kansas enters the 2011 season receiving votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association (NCBWA) preseason poll. The Jayhawks return 19 letterwinners, including five position starters and three starting pitchers from last year’s squad. KU is coming off a 31-27-1 season in 2010, marking the seventh 30-plus win season under head coach Ritch Price. The Jayhawks placed seventh in the Big 12 with an 11-15-1 record in conference games.
Scouting the Horned Frogs
TCU enters the 2011 season ranked No. 1 in the first College Baseball Newspaper and NCBWA polls of the year. The Horned Frogs return 19 letterwinners, including seven position starters from last year’s squad, which finished 54-14 and advanced to the College World Series semifinals.
The Horned Frogs return seven position starters from a year ago, including junior outfielder Jason Coats, who batted .361 with 13 homers and 69 RBIs. Sophomore third baseman Jantzen Witte has the highest batting average among returning players at .374, while sophomore catcher Josh Elander (.356) and senior infielder Joe Weik (.357) also hit above .350 last season.
On the mound, TCU returns its entire starting rotation from a year ago in left-handed pitcher Matt Purke (16-0, 3.02 ERA) and righties Steven Maxwell (11-2, 2.70 ERA) and Kyle Winkler (12-3, 3.39 ERA). The Horned Frogs did lose closer Tyler Lockwood (6-2, 2.19 ERA, eight saves) from last year, but are expected to fill the role with one of the five freshmen signed in this year’s recruiting class.
TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle is in his sixth year at the school and boasts a 305-134 mark with the Horned Frogs. TCU has won the Mountain West Conference title five years running and has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in six-straight seasons. Schlossnagle has won Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year Honors five times in his career.
Facing No. 1
The weekend series against TCU marks the third-straight season that the Jayhawks have faced an opponent ranked No. 1 in at least one of the major polls. Kansas is 6-3 against top-ranked teams since 1991 and 5-1 against No. 1 teams under Head Coach Ritch Price.
In 2009, Kansas swept then-No. 1 Texas in Lawrence in three one-run games. Last season, the Jayhawks took two out of three from then-No. 1 LSU in Baton Rouge, La.
Kansas senior T.J. Walz enters the 2011 season on the verge of setting several career pitching records at KU. Walz is tied for seventh in Jayhawk history in wins (20), tied for 10th in winning percentage (.667), tied for seventh in games started (36), fourth in strikeouts (222) and eighth in innings pitched (237.2).
Walz could become the first Kansas pitcher to rank in the top five in five different categories in team history.
Strength of Schedule
Kansas opens the 2011 season against the top-ranked TCU Horned Frogs, but will play 22 games against teams ranked in preseason polls. Along with the Horned Frogs, KU will also face No. 24 Arkansas, No. 11 Arizona State and No. 23 Wichita State in non-conference play.
KU will also face its usual difficult ledger in the Big 12, facing No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 6 Texas, No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 16 Baylor and No. 32 Kansas State.
Caught in the Draft
There are seven Jayhawks who have been drafted by major league teams on KU’s opening day roster. Included in this group are all three starting pitchers this weekend, T.J. Walz (Oakland, 2010), Wally Marciel (Tampa Bay, 2006) and Tanner Poppe (Kansas City, 2009). Other Jayhawks who have been drafted include right-handed pitcher Alex Cox (Pittsburgh, 2010), first baseman Zac Elgie (Oakland, 2008), second baseman Kaiana Eldredge (Cincinnati, 2010) and infielder Kevin Kuntz (Kansas City, 2009).
– Kansas opens the 2011 season on the road for the eighth-straight season and the 24th time since 1988. However, this is the first time since 2008 that KU opens with a true road game after facing Air Force (2009) and Eastern Michigan (2010) at neutral sites the last two seasons.
– Kansas is 5-3 in season-openers under head coach Ritch Price. After losing its first two season-openers under Price, KU won five straight from 2005-09.
– KU’s roster features 10 true freshmen, the most since 2009. Of the 10 first-year players on the roster, five of them are pitchers.
– Traveling to TCU to open the year, the Jayhawks will make their first of three trips to the state of Texas. KU’s roster features three natives of the Lone Star State in Alex Harris (Murphy), Taylor Hart (Jasper) and Tyler Smith (Cypress).
– A handful of players on the KU roster have major league connections in their families. Junior outfielder Jason Brunansky is the son of former major league outfielder Tom Brunansky, while sophomore infielder Kevin Kuntz is the son of former major leaguer and current member of the Kansas City Royals front office, Rusty Kuntz. Junior designated hitter Chris Manship is the cousin of current Minnesota Twin Jeff Manship.
– KU’s defense was key to the team’s success last season. The Jayhawks committed just 65 errors a year ago – the fewest since 1985 – and had the second highest fielding percentage (.970) in team history.
Kansas returns to Lawrence, Kan., to open a five-game homestand on Tuesday, Feb. 22 with non-conference foe Creighton at 3 p.m. at Hoglund Ballpark. The Jayhawks’ home-opener will mark their first regular season contest on the newly installed AstroTurf playing field.