Jayhawks Travel to Lone Star State to Meet Eastern Michigan
Feb. 27, 2013
LEADING OFF: Kansas baseball will play a four-game series against Eastern Michigan in Grand Prairie, Texas, beginning Friday, March 1 at 2 p.m. The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday, beginning at noon, while Sunday’s finale is slated for an 11 a.m. start. All four games will be played at QuikTrip Park, the home of the Grand Prairie Air Hogs.
ON THE AIR: All four games from the Eastern Michigan series can be heard live on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. A link to All-Access can be found on KUAthletics.com. Aaron Berlin and Pat Strathman will call the action from QuikTrip Park.
SERIES HISTORY: Kansas and Eastern Michigan will be meeting for the 10th time in Friday’s opener. The Jayhawks lead the all-time series 5-4, including 1-1 at neutral sites. The Eagles took 2-of-3 from the Jayhawks in Lawrence in 2011.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: For a second-straight weekend, winter weather has forced the Jayhawks to alter their schedule. The Jayhawks were scheduled to meet Eastern Michigan and Iowa in the Jayhawk Classic in Lawrence, but instead will face the Eagles in Grand Prairie, Texas. KU is 4-2 in neutral site games this season.
KU’s offense has shown a remarkable turnaround through the first two weeks of the year, batting .333 with 10 doubles and 14 stolen bases. The Jayhawks are averaging 6.7 runs per game. Freshman 1B/DH Jacob Boylan is second in the Big 12 Conference with a .520 batting average and has three doubles, a triple and a .720 slugging percentage. On the mound, junior RHP Frank Duncan leads the team with a 1.98 ERA in two starts and is 1-0 with 11 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings. Duncan ranks seventh in the Big 12 with a .204 opponents’ batting average and ninth in ERA.
SCOUTING THE EAGLES: Eastern Michigan enters the weekend in Grand Prairie with a record of 1-5 after being swept in a four-game series last weekend at Washington State. EMU split a pair of games against Campbell in their first weekend of the season. The Eagles were predicted to finish third in the Mid-American Conference’s Western Division in the conference’s preseason poll.
EMU’s offense ranks second in the MAC with a .266 batting average, while the Eagles are averaging 4.7 runs per game. Junior C Adam Sonabend leads the team with a .375 batting average (9-for-24) with a double and a team-best seven RBIs. Senior OF Jamie Simpson has the top slugging percentage on the team (.591) with two triples and one of two home runs on the team.
On the mound, EMU is holding opponents to a .266 batting average and rank ninth in the conference with a 6.02 team ERA. Senior RHP Kendall Lewis leads the Eagles’ staff with the lone victory and a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings. Lewis has held his opposition to a .156 batting average this season. Kansas will also face senior RHP Neil Butara on Friday afternoon. Butera is 0-2 this season, but has just one walk and six strikeouts in 12 innings pitched.
Eagles head coach Jay Alexander is in his fifth season at EMU and has a record of 115-125 at the school. Alexander went to Eastern Michigan from Wayne State University, where he led the Warriors to league championships in 2005 and 2008.
LAST TIME OUT: Senior Alex DeLeon went 3-for-3 and scored three times, while the Jayhawk bullpen pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings to record their third victory as Kansas downed Jackson State, 10-6 in a non-conference baseball game at Bear Stadium in Conway, Ark., on Feb. 23.
DUNCAN DOMINANCE: Junior RHP Frank Duncan was dominant in his second start of the year, holding SIU-Edwardsville scoreless over 7 2/3 innings on Feb. 22. The third-year starting pitcher held the Cougars to four base runners (two hits, two walks), while none of them reached as far as third base. After allowing a one-out walk in the third inning, he retired 14 of the last 16 men he faced in the game.
With the start, Duncan lowered his season ERA to 1.98, which ranks ninth in the Big 12 Conference. He also ranks seventh in the league, holding opponents to a .204 batting average.
BOYLAN POINT: Freshman DH/1B Jacob Boylan continues to swing a hot bat for the Jayhawks. The first-year player has hit safely in all seven games this season, including a team-best four multi-hit games. His seven-game hitting streak is the longest by a Kansas freshman since Ka’iana Eldredge hit safely in seven-straight games in 2011.
SMOOTH CRIMINALS: KU stole six bases in its Feb. 23 win over Jackson State, the most by a Jayhawk team since April 12, 2006, when the Jayhawks also had six steals against North Dakota State. Junior OF Tucker Tharp led the team with three in the game, while Joe Moroney, Alex DeLeon and Jordan Dreiling also each added a stolen base.
As a team, KU ranks third in the Big 12 in stolen bases and have utilized its running game a lot more this season. The Jayhawks enter the third week of play with 14 steals in 21 attempts. By contrast, Kansas had just seven steals in its first seven games last year.
BULLPEN EFFECTIVENESS: One of the biggest questions facing the Jayhawks heading into the season was how effective would its relief pitching be. Through the first seven games, the answer is very effective. KU enters its third weekend of play with a bullpen ERA of 2.42, while holding its opposition to a .207 batting average. Sophomore RHP Robert Kahana and junior RHP Jordan Piché have combined for three wins and a save this season.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas will play its third-straight weekend series away from Hoglund Ballpark and its second which was moved due to weather.
- This marks the second time that a Kansas-Eastern Michigan series has been moved from Lawrence due to weather. In 2010, the Jayhawks and Eagles opened the season at the Metrodome in Minneapolis after their scheduled three-game series in Lawrence was snowed out.
- The Jayhawks are 20-13 all-time against current members of the Mid-America Conference, including 8-3 under head coach Ritch Price.
- Kansas leads the Big 12 with a .333 batting average. It is KU’s highest team batting average through seven games since the 2006 season (.360).
- The Jayhawks have collected 10 hits or more in six of their first seven games.
- KU recorded a season-high 14 hits in its win over SIU-Edwardsville on Feb. 22. It was the team’s most base hits in a game since May 1, 2012.
- The Jayhawks have 14 stolen bases in their first seven games. Last season, KU didn’t swipe its 14th bag until March 10 (Game No. 15).
- Kansas also leads the conference in on-base percentage (.408) and sacrifice flies (nine). The Jayhawks have also struck out the fewest times (29) among Big 12 teams.
- KU is the only Big 12 school that has not allowed a home run this year.
- The Jayhawks have outscored their opposition 12-0 in the eighth inning this season.
- Kansas is second in the Big 12 with a .972 fielding percentage, committing just seven errors in seven games.
- Freshman DH/1B Jacob Boylan leads the Big 12 in batting average (.520) and ranks third in hits (13), tied for fourth in doubles (three), is fifth in total bases (18), third in on-base percentage (.536) and third in slugging percentage (.720).
- Senior 1B Alex DeLeon went 3-for-3 on Feb. 23 against Jackson State. DeLeon became the fifth different Jayhawk to record a three-hit game this season and his first since May 4 of last season.
- Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling collected his third double of the season on Feb. 22 against SIU-Edwardsville in his 15th at bat. Last year, Dreiling recorded five doubles in 113 at bats.
- Junior C Ka’iana Eldredge leads the team with seven RBIs in seven games. Eldredge had 16 RBIs in 47 games a year ago.
- Senior SS Kevin Kuntz snapped a streak of 78 consecutive starts on Feb. 23 against Jackson State. Kuntz had started every KU game since the first game of the Texas Tech series on April 29, 2011.
- Freshman 2B Tommy Mirabelli drew three walks in KU’s win over Jackson State on Feb. 23. In seven plate appearances this season, Mirabelli has drawn three walks and has a base hit.
- Sophomore OF Joe Moroney made his first career start on Feb. 23 against Jackson State. He is the 13th different Jayhawk position player to start a game this year.
- Sophomore IF Justin Protacio went 6-for-10 last weekend, including a career high three hits against SIU-Edwardsville on Feb. 22.
- Sophomore OF Dakota Smith has reached base four times in six plate appearances when he’s led off an inning (.667).
- Sophomore OF Michael Suiter is batting .400 (4-for-10) with men on base this season.
- Junior OF Tucker Tharp collected a career-high three stolen bases against Jackson State on Feb. 23. Tharp became the first Jayhawk to record three steals in a game since Casey Lytle accomplished the feat against Oklahoma State in 2009.
- Freshman 1B Marcus Wheeler recorded his first collegiate hit on Feb. 23 against Jackson State.
- Junior RHP Frank Duncan allowed just two hits in his Feb. 22 start against SIU-Edwardsville. It matched the fewest hits he has allowed in a start, tying his total from a start against Mississippi Valley State on Feb. 24, 2012.
- Sophomore RHP Robert Kahana has been dominant when pitching out of the windup this year, allowing just one hit in 11 at bats with the bases empty.
- Sophomore RHP Drew Morovick bounced back from a rough first outing, holding Central Arkansas hitless over two innings of relief on Feb. 23 in KU’s loss to the Bears.
- Junior RHP Jordan Piché has dominated right-handed hitters, holding righties hitless in eight at bats.
- Senior RHP Thomas Taylor tallied eight strikeouts in his start against Jackson State on Feb. 23, giving him 184 in his career. He moved into a tie for 10th place on KU’s all-time strikeouts list.
KU-EASTERN MICHIGAN CONNECTIONS:
- Kansas does not have any Michigan natives on its roster; however Eastern Michigan has two players from the state of Kansas.
- EMU senior IF Austin Williams is a native of Spring Hill, Kan., and attended Fort Scott Community College, while freshman IF Nick Rotola is from Wichita, Kan.
- Kansas LHP Jordan Luvisi and OF Joe Luvisi along with EMU IF John Rubino and C Adam Sonabend are all from Scottsdale, Ariz. The Luvisi brothers graduated from Notre Dame Prep, while Rubino attended Horizon High School and Sonabend is from Desert Mountain High School.
- Jayhawk IF Tommy Mirabelli is from Rocky River, Ohio, while several Eagle players are from nearby towns in Ohio. EMU sophomore C Adam Dennison is from Broadview Heights, RHP Neil Butara is from Euclid, RHP Steve Weber is from North Royalton and LHP Michael Marsinek is from Streetboro.
- Kansas head coach Ritch Price has hosted EMU head coach Jay Alexander at several of his summer camps during his time at KU as well as at Cal Poly.
UP NEXT: The Jayhawks will open play at Hoglund Ballpark with a four-game series against Niagara on Thursday, March 7 at 3 p.m. KU will also host the Purple Eagles on March 8 at 3 p.m., March 9 at 1 p.m., and March 10 at noon.