Jayhawks Face Mississippi State, Mississippi Valley State in Starkville
Feb. 22, 2012
LEADING OFF: Kansas baseball hits the road for the second-consecutive weekend when it travels to Starkville, Miss., to play four games at Dudy Noble Field/Polk-Dement Stadium. The Jayhawks will face host Mississippi State on Friday at 6:30 p.m., and Saturday at 4 p.m. as well as Mississippi Valley State Friday at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.
ON THE AIR: Audio from all four games is available on Jayhawk All-Access. A link to the audio can be found at kuathletics.com. Mississippi State offers a live video feed for their home games, but a paid subscription is required to watch.
SERIES HISTORIES: The Jayhawks are 0-3 all-time against Mississippi State, including 0-2 in Starkville. KU was swept in a two-game series against the Bulldogs in 2005. This weekend’s games will mark the first meetings between the Jayhawks and Mississippi Valley State.
ABOUT KANSAS: At 3-0, Kansas is off to its best start since it won the first five games of the 2007 season. The Jayhawks are coming off three impressive victories away from Hoglund Ballpark at the Music City Classic in Nashville, Tenn.
KU’s offense did just enough to win the three games in Tennessee. Through three games, the Jayhawks are batting .255 as a team and have averaged 4.0 runs per game. Junior infielder Kevin Kuntz leads the team with a .500 batting average (5-for-10) with a double and two RBIs. The Jayhawk pitching staff was dominant over the weekend, holding its three opponents to just four runs on 15 hits. Reigning Big 12 Pitcher of the Week Thomas Taylor enjoyed the best start, going 8 1/3 scoreless innings with three hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
SCOUTING THE DELTA DEVILS: Mississippi Valley State enters the weekend in Starkville looking for its first victory of the season after dropping games to Florida A&M (5-2) and Eastern Illinois (11-2) at the Jackson State Tournament. MVSU returns seven letterwinners, including six pitchers from last year’s team, which finished 18-36 overall. The Delta Devils were picked to finish fourth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s East Division by Baseball America.
Mississippi Valley State’s offense produced two runs in each of its first two games, while batting .172 as a team. The Delta Devils were led by DH Clay Perry, who went 3-for-6 in the contests against Eastern Illinois and Florida A&M. Junior 3B Seth Milliorn also had a pair of singles and drove in one of the four Delta Devil runs in the tournament.
Senior LHP Trey Lacy started MVSU’s season opener and worked four innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits with a walk and three strikeouts. Freshman relief pitcher Chris Broadway was the team’s most effective hurler, tossing 4 2/3 shutout innings in relief of Lacy against Alabama A&M, allowing three hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
MVSU head coach Doug Shanks is in his 13th season with the Delta Devils and has a record of 257-368 at the school.
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS: Mississippi State enters its second weekend of action with a 2-1 record, after taking two of three from Washington State in Starkville. The Bulldogs are receiving votes in the current National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association poll. MSU was picked to finish fourth in the Southerneastern Conference’s Western Division.
The Bulldogs’ offense averaged 5.3 runs per game in its first series of the season and batted .327 as a team with two homers and nine doubles. Junior 1B Trey Porter led the way, going 6-for-10 with four RBIs and both of the team’s home runs. Sophomore 3B Daryl Norris also had a big first weekend, going 5-for-13 with a double and two RBIs against the Cougars.
MSU’s pitching staff posted a 2.61 ERA in the three-game series, allowing 23 hits and six walks, while recording 34 strikeouts. Junior RHP Kendall Graveman had the best outing of the Mississippi State pitchers, going 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits with a walk and four strikeouts, but did not factor into the decision in the finale. MSU relief pitchers Chris Stratton and Taylor Stark earned the team’s two victories in the series, while closer Caleb Reed recorded nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
Mississippi State head coach John Cohen is in his fourth year at the school with a record of 88-88 with the Bulldogs and 409-284 overall after spending time at Northwestern State and Kentucky as a head coach. Cohen led the Bulldogs to a 38-25 overall record last season and to an NCAA Super Regional berth.
LAST TIME OUT: Redshirt junior Thomas Taylor pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings to pick up his first victory of the season, while freshman Justin Protacio drove in both Kansas runs as the Jayhawks shut out Belmont, 2-0, in their second game of the day at E.S. Rose Field Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. The win clinched KU’s best start to a season since 2007 when the team opened the year with five-straight victories.
TAYLOR MADE: Redshirt-junior Thomas Taylor earned the year’s first Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honor after tossing 8 1/3 scoreless innings against Belmont on Feb. 18. Taylor scattered three hits to go along with two walks and five strikeouts.
However, Taylor’s efficiency with his pitch count may have been the most impressive number. The junior righty needed just 89 pitches to get through 8 1/3 innings, tallying four innings where he threw fewer than 10 pitches.
300 GAME: Head coach Ritch Price reached a milestone in the Jayhawks’ season-opener. The veteran skipper earned his 300th victory at Kansas, becoming the second KU head coach to reach the 300-win plateau. Former Kansas coach Floyd Temple is the only other head man to reach 300 victories at the school, amassing 438 wins from 1954-81.
Price also became the fourth active head coach to record 300 wins at a Big 12 institution, joining Baylor’s Steve Smith (622 in 17 seasons), Missouri’s Tim Jamieson (573 in 17 seasons) and Texas’ Augie Garrido (668 in 15 seasons).
LOCKDOWN: Kansas picked up three wins at the Music City Classic last week on the strength of its bullpen. Jayhawk senior RHP Jordan Jakubov and junior RHP Tanner Poppe each picked up a save and recorded a pair of scorless appearances. Combined with LHP Jordan Luvisi and RHP Robert Kahana, the KU bullpen allowed no runs on three hits over six innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
The relief pitchers’ dominance is in stark contrast to the end of the 2011 season. Last year, KU’s bullpen struggled down the stretch, posting a 6.14 ERA and an 0-4 record in the team’s final 15 games. The Jayhawks also had four blown saves in the final four weeks of the year.
– Kansas returns to Starkville, Miss. for the first time since 2005, when the Jayhawks also played in a split four-game series with Mississippi State. KU’s other meeting with MSU came in 1968.
– KU is 35-53 all-time against current members of the SEC, including 9-12 under head coach Ritch Price.
– The Jayhawks are 6-0 all-time against current members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
– KU is 3-0 for the fourth time under head coach Ritch Price and 30th time in the 109-year history of the program. The Jayhawks’ best start came in 2002, when KU won its first 10 games of the season.
– KU erased deficits in two of its three wins, trailing 3-1 after two innings against Middle Tennessee and 1-0 after four innings against Bowling Green.
– Kansas outhit all three of its opponents at the Music City Classic. Last season, KU was 18-7 when it outhit its opposition.
– While still early, KU’s fielding has been nearly flawless. The Jayhawks rank first in the Big 12 with a .992 fielding percentage, committing just one error in three games.
– Junior C Alex DeLeon drove in four runs in KU’s season-opening win over Middle Tennessee. It was the most RBIs by a Jayhawk in the season-opener since Ryan Baty collected four RBIs against Ottawa in the first game of the 2002 season.
– Senior C James Stanfield threw out a pair of would-be base stealers in the win over Belmont. It marked the fourth time in his career that Stanfield has thrown out multiple runners in the same game.
– Junior IF Kevin Kuntz collected three hits at the Music City Classic with two strikes in the count. Last season, Kuntz had seven two-strike hits all season.
– Senior DH Chris Manship recorded his first career triple against Belmont. Manship had 242 collegiate at bats before his first three-base hit.
– Junior IF Jordan Dreiling doubled and tripled in his first two at-bats of the season to collect a career-best five total bases against Middle Tennessee.
– Freshman OF Michael Suiter went 3-for-3 and was hit by a pitch against Belmont. Suiter became just the fourth true freshman in the last five years to record a three-hit game, joining former Jayhawks Robby Price (2007) and Tony Thompson (2008) as well as current teammates Zac Elgie (2009) and Ka’iana Eldredge (2011).
– Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin earned a victory in his collegiate debut against Bowling Green on Feb. 18. Benjamin became the first Jayhawk pitcher to win in his first start as a freshman since Lee Ridenhour defeated Arkansas on Feb. 24, 2009.
– Several Jayhawk pitchers picked up firsts over the weekend: sophomore RHP Frank Duncan and freshman Wes Benjamin each earned their first victories, while senior RHP Jordan Jakubov picked up his first career save.
– Kansas does not have any players on its roster from the state of Mississippi.
– Mississippi State junior C Mitch Slauter is a native of Kansas City, Kan., and attended Olathe North High School as well as Barton County Community College.
– KU RHP Frank Duncan and Mississippi Valley State IF/OF Nick Fangonilo are both from San Francisco, Calif., while Delta Devils’ OF Billy Linney and RHP Chris Broadway are from nearby Pacifica, Calif.
– Jayhawk LHP Jordan Luvisi, IF Joey Luvisi and OF Brian Poupore are all from Scottsdale, Ariz., which is a suburb of Mississippi Valley State INF Candler Thomas’ hometown – Phoenix, Ariz.
– Kansas LHP Wes Benjamin is from Chicago area suburb, St. Charles, Ill., while MVSU freshman IF Daniel Anderson is from the Windy City.
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.
UP NEXT: Kansas will make its first of four trips to the state of Texas when it participates in the UTSA Classic at Wolff Stadium in San Antonio. The Jayhawks will take on host UTSA (Friday, 6 p.m.), Louisiana (Saturday, 2 p.m.) and Gonzaga (Sunday, 11 a.m.) in the tournament. Audio from all three games will be available on Jayhawk All-Access.