Jayhawks Return to San Antonio for Irish Baseball Classic
March 14, 2012
LEADING OFF: Coming off a successful weekend in Minneapolis, the Kansas baseball team will travel to San Antonio, Texas for the second time in three weeks to participate in the Irish Baseball Classic at Wolff Stadium. KU will face Indiana State (Thursday, noon), Notre Dame (Friday, noon) and Houston Baptist (Saturday, 4 p.m.) as part of the tournament. The Jayhawks will also play an 11 a.m. game on Sunday against an opponent to be determined.
ON THE AIR: Audio from the weekend’s games is available free of charge on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. A link to the audio can be found at kuathletics.com. Fans can also follow the action via GameTracker at kuathletics.com.
SERIES HISTORIES: Kansas has just one previous meeting with its three opponents this weekend, defeating Indiana State, 6-2, in a game played March 11, 1983 in Tulsa, Okla. The Jayhawks will be facing Notre Dame and Houston Baptist for the first time on the baseball diamond this weekend.
ABOUT KANSAS: Kansas travels to San Antonio, Texas for its final weekend tune-up before Big 12 Conference play opens on March 23. The Jayhawks are 8-7 overall after taking wins from Minnesota and Stony Brook last weekend at the Metrodome. KU is 4-3 in neutral site games this season.
KU’s offense is averaging 5.1 runs per game and batting .258 as a team, which ranks seventh in the Big 12. Junior SS Kevin Kuntz leads the team with a .321 batting average, a .455 on-base percentage and has 11 runs scored with five stolen bases. KU’s pitching staff ranks fifth in the conference with a 3.69 ERA. Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan leads the team with three wins and 25 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings on the mound. Duncan has a 3.90 ERA.
SCOUTING THE SYCAMORES: Indiana State enters the weekend in San Antonio on a roll. The Sycamores have won seven in a row, including a 10-2 triumph over SIU-Edwardsville Tuesday. ISU is 2-0 in neutral site games this season and 6-4 overall away from Terre Haute, Ind.
Indiana State’s offense averages 8.7 runs per game and ranks first in the Missouri Valley Conference with a .337 team batting average. Junior OF Robby Ort leads the team with a .448 batting average with six doubles and a .707 slugging percentage. Junior C Jeremy Lucas and senior IF Jon Hedges are tied for the team lead with four homers a piece, while the tandem has combined for 36 RBIs this season.
ISU will start junior RHP Dakota Bacus Thursday against Kansas. Bacus is 2-1 with a 2.32 ERA in four starts. He has allowed 24 hits in 26 innings on the mound and has eight walks and 26 strikeouts. Three different Sycamores have recorded saves this season, including freshman RHP Kyle Rupe. Rupe has posted an 0.49 ERA in 18 1/3 innings this year.
Head coach Rick Heller is in his third season at Indiana State and has led the Sycamores to a 76-51 record and back-to-back appearances in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. Heller is 637-523-4 in his career after spending time at Northern Iowa and Division II Upper Iowa before coming to Terre Haute.
SCOUTING THE FIGHTING IRISH: Notre Dame heads to San Antonio with a 7-5 overall record after upsetting No. 11 LSU on March 10 as part of a tournament in Baton Rouge. The Fighting Irish will play UTSA and Hoston Baptist Wednesday and Thursday before taking on KU on Friday. The Irish are 6-2 in neutral site games this season.
Notre Dame’s offense averages 5.1 runs per game and is batting .279, which ranks sixth in the Big East. Junior C Joe Hudson leads the Irish with a .429 batting average with three doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs. Sophomore 1B Trey Mancini provides power in the middle of the lineup with three homers, 16 RBIs and a .689 slugging percentage.
The Jayhawks will face senior RHP Will Hudgins on Friday afternoon. Hudgins is 2-1 and sports a 1.69 ERA in four starts this season. He has nine walks and 27 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. Sophomore RHP Dan Slania is the Irish’s closer. Slania is 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA and four saves in seven appearances.
Irish head coach Mik Aoki is in his second season at Notre Dame and has a 30-35-1 record at the school. Aoki is 240-298-2 in his career with previous stops at Boston College and Columbia. He led the Eagles to the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009.
SCOUTING THE HUSKIES: Houston Baptist enters the weekend tournament with a 4-11 record after dropping a 6-5 decision to Lamar on Tuesday night. The Huskies have lost five straight since downing UT-Arlington on March 4. HBU is 2-0 in neutral site games this season.
The Huskies average 4.6 runs per game and rank fifth in the Great West Conference with a .255 batting average. Senior IF Collin Hetzler leads HBU with a .390 batting average with a .471 on-base percentage and two stolen bases. Sophomore C Bradley Brown leads the team with 14 RBIs and has a team-best .421 slugging percentage.
Kansas will face sophomore RHP Ross Kennell on Saturday. Kennell is 0-2 with an 8.36 ERA in three starts this season. The sophomore has allowed 20 hits in 14 innings on the mound. Senior RHP Michael Schulle is HBU’s top relief pitcher, posting a 1.56 ERA and a 1-2 record in six appearances out of the bullpen this year.
HBU head coach Jared Moon is in his sixth season with the Huskies and has a record of 150-141-1 at the school. Moon has been the head coach as Houston Baptist transitions to a full Division I member from NAIA. In 2007, he led the Huskies to a Region VI title and an appearance at the NAIA World Series.
LAST TIME OUT: Freshman outfielder Connor McKay and senior Chris Manship both homered as part of an eight-run second inning as Kansas knocked off Minnesota, 9-4, at the Golden Gopher Baseball Classic played March 10 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
FRESHMAN FIREPOWER: After struggling the previous two weekends at the plate, freshman OF Connor McKay found his stroke last week. The first-year outfielder slugged three home runs, including a game-winning two-run shot in an extra-innings win against Stony Brook (March 9) and a grand slam that gave KU the lead at Minnesota (March 10). McKay’s grand slam was the first by a Kansas freshman since Zac Elgie’s slam against Dartmouth at the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
McKay is tied for second in the Big 12 with four home runs, with all four of them coming at opportune times. Three of his home runs have given the Jayhawks the lead in games they eventually won, while his other round-tripper was the first run when KU erased a five-run deficit against North Dakota on March 7.
WES SIDE STORY: Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin enjoyed the best start of his young career on Friday, pitching nine complete innings against Stony Brook, allowing one run on three hits with a walk and five strikeouts. Benjamin took a no-decision in the game, which KU won in 14 innings. It was the longest start by a Jayhawk freshman since Tom Gorzelanny tossed a complete game against Centenary on May 5, 2002.
The freshman lefty has made four starts in his Kansas career and has allowed one run or less in three of them. He is currently ranked ninth in the Big 12 with a 2.36 season ERA.
THE FLYIN’ HAWAIIAN: Freshman RHP Robert Kahana tossed nine scoreless innings over two appearances last week to earn his first two collegiate victories. The first-year pitcher recorded four perfect innings to pick up a win over North Dakota on March 6 and then tossed five scoreless innings of relief against Stony Brook to earn an extra-inning victory.
Kahana allowed just two base hits in his nine innings of work last week and has been tough to hit out of the wind-up. The freshman has allowed just three hits in 31 at bats against him with the bases empty (.097). He also ranks ninth in the Big 12 with a 1.76 ERA.
– Kansas makes its second trip to San Antonio, Texas of the season for the Irish Baseball Classic. The Jayhawks already played three games at Wolff Stadium (March 2-4) at the UTSA Classic.
– KU will be facing Indiana State for the first time since 1983. The Jayhawks are 63-83 against current members of the Missouri Valley Conference.
– The Jayhawks will face Notre Dame for the first time in program history. KU is 1-4 against current Big East members.
– KU will also be facing Houston Baptist for the first time in school history. The Jayhawks are 23-8 against current members of the Great West Conference, including 1-1 this season against North Dakota.
– The Jayhawks rank in the top 50 in the country in a handful of categories after games on Sunday. KU ranks ninth in NCAA Division I baseball in fielding percentage (.983), 37th in home runs (11), 44th in home runs per game (0.73) and 47th in hits allowed per game (7.79).
– KU’s win over Minnesota on March 10 marked the team’s fifth victory at the Metrodome since 2007, but the first against the Golden Gophers. The Jayhawks defeated South Dakota State (twice) in 2007, Eastern Michigan in 2010 as well as Stony Brook and Minnesota in 2012.
– Kansas improved to 9-3 under Price in current/former major league parks. Since Price took over the program in 2003, the Jayhawks are 4-0 at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium and 5-3 at Minnesota’s Metrodome.
– Kansas skipper Ritch Price coached his 1,000th game at the Division I level on March 6 against North Dakota. Price has a .523 winning percentage (524 wins, three ties) in 17-plus seasons at Cal Poly and Kansas.
– KU’s starting pitchers have been dominant this season. The Jayhawks have a 3.39 ERA in their starts and have held opponents to a .232 batting average.
– Kansas pitchers have seven quality starts in 15 games this season. Last year as a staff, KU had just 16 quality starts. A quality start is when a starting pitcher goes six innings or more and allows three runs or less.
– The Jayhawks have outhit 11 of their 15 opponents this season. KU has a 9-2 record when it collects more base hits than its opponent.
– KU scored a season-high 10 runs in the first inning of a game against Mississippi Valley State on Feb. 26. It was the most runs scored in a single frame by a Jayhawk team since an 11-run inning against Tabor in 2007.
– Of the Jayhawks’ 11 home runs this season, eight have been hit by freshmen. KU’s freshman class has outhomered six teams in the Big 12.
– KU’s fielding has been rock solid for the early part of the season. The Jayhawks have committed just 10 errors in 582 chances this season for a .983 fielding percentage, which leads the Big 12.
– As a team, the Jayhawks are batting .440 (11-for-25) with the bases loaded this season, which includes a pair of grand slams.
– Junior C Alex DeLeon collected doubles in back-to-back starts, which tie him for the team lead with four this year. Prior to this season, DeLeon had just five doubles in his career – spanning 139 at bats.
– Junior IF Jordan Dreiling broke out of a 1-for-17 slump on March 9, collecting two hits against Stony Brook. Dreiling’s 2-for-5 effort against the Seawolves was his first multi-hit game since collecting a triple and a double against Middle Tennessee on opening day.
– Sophomore 2B Ka’iana Eldredge picked up his second multi-hit game against Minnesota on March 10. Eldredge got off to a slow start last season as well, but batted .356 over the final month of the year.
– Senior 3B Zac Elgie stole a pair of bases against Minnesota on March 10, which led to an insurance run in the sixth. It marked the first multi-steal game of Elgie’s career.
– Junior SS Kevin Kuntz ranks 54th in the country with 13 walks this season and eighth in the Big 12 with a .455 on-base percentage.
– Senior IF Chris Manship ranks sixth in the country with three triples. Of Manship’s 12 hits this season, five of them have gone for extra bases.
– Freshman OF Connor McKay ranks 34th in the country with four home runs and is tied for second in the Big 12. The school record for home runs by a freshman is nine by Preston Land in 2006.
– Freshman OF Dakota Smith collected four hits – including his first collegiate homer – in the March 3 game against Louisiana. Smith became the first Jayhawk freshman to go 4-for-4 in a game since Jake Marasco turned the trick on March 7, 2010.
– Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin has pitched well in pressure situations. The first-year lefty has allowed just five hits in 29 at bats (.172) with men on base.
– Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan has allowed eight runs in the first inning of his four starts and five runs in all other innings.
– Senior RHP Jordan Jakubov has not allowed a base hit to a left-handed hitter yet this year in 13 at bats.
– Junior RHP Tanner Poppe has struck out 11 of the 46 men he’s faced. He leads the team with 10.2 K/9 IP.
– Junior RHP Thomas Taylor has induced a team-high four double plays.
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.
TWO MORE KANSAS GAMES TO BE TELEVISED: Two additional Kansas baseball games against in-state rivals will be televised by Cox 22 and also broadcast in the Kansas City area on MetroSports in HD. The Jayhawks’ non-conference game against Wichita State on Tuesday, April 10 as well as the team’s Friday night contest at Kansas State on May 11 will both be shown on Cox 22/MetroSports. This marks the third-straight season that multiple KU games have been picked up statewide by Cox.
300 GAME: Head coach Ritch Price reached a milestone in the Jayhawks’ season-opening win over Middle Tennessee. 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.
Most Wins in Kansas History
1. Floyd Temple (1954-81)…… 438
2. Ritch Price (2003-present) 305
3. Dave Bingham (1988-95)…. 249
4. Bobby Randall (1996-2002). 166
5. Marty Patton (1982-87)…… 122
UP NEXT: Kansas returns to Hoglund Ballpark for its second home series of the season. The Jayhawks will host Southern Utah in a two-game series beginning Tuesday, March 20 at 3 p.m. and concluding Wednesday, March 21 at 3 p.m.