Jayhawks Head South for Three Games in Arkansas
Feb. 21, 2013
LEADING OFF: After cancelling its three-game series originally scheduled to be played in Lawrence this weekend, Kansas baseball will hit the road and take on SIU-Edwardsville, Central Arkansas and Jackson State in Little Rock and Conway, Ark., Friday and Saturday. The Jayhawks will play SIU-Edwardsville at 3 p.m. on Friday at Gary Hogan Field. KU will then face Central Arkansas (1 p.m.) and Jackson State (5 p.m.) in a doubleheader Saturday.
ON THE AIR: All three games from the weekend trip to Arkansas can be heard on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. Fans can find the All-Access link at KUAthletics.com. Aaron Berlin will call all the action for KU’s three games this weekend.
SERIES HISTORY: KU will be facing all three opponents for the first time on the baseball diamond. The Jayhawks are scheduled to meet Jackson State again in a midweek non-conference game on Wednesday, March 13 in Lawrence.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas hits the road again after splitting four games in Mesa, Ariz., against Nevada in its opening weekend. The Jayhawks will play their first true road game on Saturday when they face Central Arkansas, while KU’s other two games will be at neutral sites.
KU’s offense showed drastic improvement from the beginning of the 2012 season, batting .336 in the first four games of the season and scoring 26 runs in the Nevada series. Freshman Jacob Boylan leads the Big 12 with a .615 batting average, going 8-for-13 with two doubles and a triple. The Jayhawks’ pitching staff posted a 3.89 ERA in four games, allowing a .312 batting average. Senior Thomas Taylor pitched 6 2/3 innings in his start and fanned five with no walks, while allowing two runs on nine hits.
SCOUTING THE COUGARS: SIU-Edwardsville will open its weekend in Little Rock, Ark., by facing KU at Gary Hogan Field. The Cougars enter the weekend at 1-2 having salvaged the final game of a three-game series at Lipscomb. SIUE was picked to finish seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference in the preseason coaches’ poll after going 27-28 last season.
The Cougars offense struggled in its opening series at Lipscomb, batting just .223 in their first three games. SIUE scored 11 runs in the three-game series and reached base at a .344 clip. Junior OF Devin Caldwell and senior IF Matt Highland led the offensive effort, both going 5-for-10 in the first series. Caldwell hit one of SIUE’s two home runs and collected three RBIs. In addition to hitting .500, Highland also drew four walks for a .643 on-base percentage in the series.
SIUE’s pitching staff posted a 5.04 ERA in the Lipscomb series and held the Bisons to a .253 batting average. The Jayhawks will likely see junior right-handed pitcher Travis Felax on Friday afternoon. Felax pitched four innings and allowed four runs on six hits in his first start of the season. Last year, Felax recorded a 6-5 mark with a 3.67 ERA in 14 starts. He tallied 69 strikeouts in 95 2/3 innings.
Cougar head coach Tony Stoecklin is in his first season at the helm of SIU-Edwardsville after serving as an assistant coach with the program for the last 14 seasons. Previously, Stoecklin served as the team’s pitching coach and helped the staff rank in the top five in the Ohio Valley Conference in ERA the last two years.
SCOUTING THE BEARS: Central Arkansas dominated a weekend series against Murray State, outscoring the Racers 29-7 in the three-game set. However, the Bears fell at No. 4 Vanderbilt on Wednesday afternoon. UCA was predicted to finish fifth in the Southland Conference by the league’s coaches after finishing 25-30 overall last season.
UCA’s offense heads into the weekend sporting a .264 batting average and has scored 31 runs in four games. Senior OF Forrestt Allday leads the Bears with a .471 batting average, going 8-for-17 in four games, with a double and five runs scored. Junior OF Jonathan Davis is batting .333 and has a team-best four stolen bases in five attempts.
The Bears’ pitching staff has posted a 3.55 ERA and has held the opposition to a .260 batting average. The Jayhawks will likely see LHP Jeffrey Enloe on Saturday afternoon. Enloe allowed one run on three hits over six innings in his first start against Murray State, posting one walk and seven strikeouts. Last season, the senior went 5-8 with a 5.44 ERA in 16 starts.
UCA head coach Allen Gum is in his third season at the school and has a record of 52-60 during his tenure. Gum spent the previous five seasons at Southern Arkansas, where he compiled a 226-68 record at the Division II institution.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS: Jackson State will play Friday night at Central Arkansas, before facing KU on Saturday evening as part of a day-night doubleheader for the Jayhawks. The Tigers enter the weekend at 2-2 after splitting four games at their tournament over the weekend. JSU was tabbed as the East Division favorite in the Southwestern Athletic Conference by the coaches in the league’s preseason poll.
JSU’s offense produced a .237 batting average in its first four games, scoring 20 runs on 32 hits. Junior OF Desmond Russell leads the team with a .471 batting average, going 8-for-17 in four starts, with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs. Senior 1B Malcolm Tate also got off to a fast start, collecting four doubles in 10 at bats at the Jackson State Tournament.
The Tiger pitching staff was solid in its first weekend action, posting a 4.26 ERA in four games, while holding opponents to a .245 batting average. JSU has not announced a starting pitcher for its game with Kansas, but both junior LHP Brandon Gregory and Russell tossed complete games during the first weekend. Gregory tossed a four-hit shutout against Texas Southern in the season-opener with no walks and six strikeouts.
Head coach Omar Johnson is in his seventh season at Jackson State and has a record of 205-128 at the school. Johnson previously coached at North Alabama, where he helped the Lions reach the College World Series in 1999.
LAST TIME OUT: Nevada pinch hitter Brad Gerig’s two-strike double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning plated the winning runs as the Wolf Pack rallied from three separate deficits in a wild 9-8 win over Kansas Monday at Hohokam Park.
BOYLAN POINT: Nobody in the Big 12 Conference got off to a better start than KU freshman Jacob Boylan. The freshman entered Friday’s opener in the fourth inning as a pinch hitter and after making outs in his first two at bats, he went 8-for-11 the rest of the weekend. His .615 batting average through four games leads the Big 12, while he’s also tops in the conference in on-base percentage (.667) and slugging percentage (.923).
Boylan’s strong start included two doubles, a triple, three runs scored and two RBIs. He is one of four Jayhawks to hit safely in all four games and he leads the team with three multi-hit games this season.
START ME UP: Senior Tanner Poppe returned to his former role as starting pitcher on Monday and recorded a career high seven strikeouts in his outing against Nevada. The senior pitcher looked strong through five innings of work, but ran into trouble in the sixth inning.
The senior served as the team’s closer for much of last season and went 0-5 with five saves and a 6.52 ERA in that role. In his career, Poppe has a 4.42 ERA as a starting pitcher and a 6.31 average as a reliever.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas heads to Arkansas for three non-conference games this weekend. The Jayhawks will be playing their first games in the “Natural State” since a May 1, 2012 meeting with UALR.
- The Jayhawks are 10-1 all-time against current members of the Ohio Valley Conference; 25-25-1 against current members of the Southland Conference and 8-0 against current SWAC members.
- KU erased deficits in both of its victories over Nevada last weekend. The Jayhawks trailed 4-3 in the sixth inning of Friday’s triumph and were down by one run in the seventh inning in Sunday’s win.
- While it struggled in Monday’s loss, the Jayhawk bullpen was a point of strength in the first three games of the Nevada series. KU’s relievers did not allow a run over their first 8 2/3 innings of work and posted a 3.18 ERA in the four-game series.
- The Jayhawks led off 16 of the 34 innings in the Nevada series with a base runner (.471) with the leadoff man coming around to score seven times.
- Kansas collected six sacrifice flies in the series with the Wolf Pack. As a team, KU produced just 14 sac flies in 2012.
- KU OF Dakota Smith and Tucker Tharp both threw runners out at the plate in the Nevada series. Last season, KU’s outfielders recorded 18 assists with Connor McKay leading the group with six.
- Junior C Ka’iana Eldredge made his first starts behind the plate since the 2011 season last weekend. Eldredge threw out 1-of-2 would-be base stealers.
- Senior 1B Alex DeLeon hit a solo home run in Monday’s finale. DeLeon leads all active Jayhawks with 12 career round-trippers.
- Sophomore 2B Justin Protacio drove in three runs in his first three games of the season. Last year, Protacio collected just two RBIs in 24 games.
- Freshman 2B Tommy Mirabelli made his collegiate debut in Sunday’s win over Nevada. He recorded an RBI in his first plate appearance, driving in a run with a sacrifice fly.
- Senior SS Kevin Kuntz collected two stolen bases in two attempts in the four-game series. Last season, Kuntz recorded a team-best 10 steals.
- Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling recorded a multi-hit game on opening day for the second-straight season. Last year, Dreiling went 2-for-4 with a double and a triple against Middle Tennessee; in 2013, Dreiling was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs.
- Sophomore OF Michael Suiter was one of the more productive players in the Jayhawk lineup in the Nevada series. The second-year player went 5-for-13 in the four-game series, including 3-for-6 with men on base.
- Junior OF Tucker Tharp got off to a slow start, but had success reaching base when leading off an inning. Tharp led off four times in the four game series, and reached base and scored twice in the Feb. 15 win.
- Sophomore OF Dakota Smith collected his first career triple in the Feb. 17 win over Nevada.
- Freshman DH/1B Jacob Boylan recorded three multi-hit games in the first four contests of his collegiate career. Last season, Kevin Kuntz led the team with 15 multi-hit games.
- Junior RHP Frank Duncan pitched six strong innings in his first start of the season against Nevada. Duncan has made 16 starts in his college career and has gone at least six innings every outing except one.
- Sophomore LHP Wes Benjamin allowed nine hits in his start, but tightened up in crunch time. The second-year lefty allowed just four hits in 14 at bats (.286) with men on base.
- Senior RHP Thomas Taylor recorded five strikeouts in his start, giving him 176 in his career. Taylor ranks 14th on KU’s all-time strikeout list, just three behind Tom Holler (179) for 13th and four behind Bill Maddux (180) for 12th.
- Senior RHP Tanner Poppe collected a career-high seven strikeouts in his start on Feb. 18. In Poppe’s last season as a starting pitcher, he averaged 3.6 strikeouts per start in 13 starts.
- Junior RHP Jordan Piché picked up his first victory in a Jayhawk uniform in the Feb. 17 win over Nevada. Piché recorded 11 wins in his career at Indian Hills Community College.
- Freshman LHP Tyler Watson was impressive in his first outing, needing just 17 pitches to retire four hitters in the season opener.
UP NEXT: Kansas will play its home opener on Tuesday, Feb. 26 when Missouri State visits Hoglund Ballpark at 3 p.m. The Jayhawks and Bears will meet in Lawrence in February, before squaring off again in Springfield on March 26.