Kansas Baseball Heads to TCU for First Big 12 Series
March 14, 2013
LEADING OFF: Kansas baseball will open Big 12 play this weekend when it travels to Fort Worth, Texas to take on conference newcomer TCU. The Jayhawks and Horned Frogs will meet in a three-game series, with the first two games scheduled for Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m., and Sunday’s finale set for 1 p.m.
ON THE AIR: All three games in the Kansas-TCU series can be seen on Fox College Sports Atlantic (Channel 144 on Lawrence’s Knology Cable). Check with your cable provider for the channel in your area. Fans can also tune in to the series on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access with Tom Hedrick and Aaron Berlin on the call.
SERIES HISTORY: Kansas is 2-4 all-time against TCU, in a series that dates back to 1990. The Jayhawks most recently visited Lupton Stadium in 2011 and salvaged the final game of a three-game series with then-No. 1 TCU, 4-3, in 14 innings.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: The Jayhawks have won five in a row and seven of their last eight, heading into their first conference series of the year. KU’s five-game winning streak is its longest since April of 2010. The Jayhawks will play their first true road series, after 10 games at neutral sites during the first four weeks of the season. KU is 0-1 in road games this year.
KU’s offense has shown a remarkable turnaround from 2012. The Jayhawks lead the Big 12 with a .315 team batting average to go along with a .412 on-base percentage and 45 stolen bases in 16 games. KU is averaging 6.7 runs per game. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter leads Big 12 with a .462 batting average (24-for-52) through 16 games. Suiter has eight stolen bases and scored 13 runs this season. Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling leads the team with nine stolen bases and is second in the conference with seven doubles and has 15 RBIs. KU’s pitching was dominant during the recent five-game homestand. The Jayhawks dropped their season ERA to 2.90 and have held opponents to a .251 batting average this season. Senior RHP Thomas Taylor has gotten off to the best start of his career, going 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 27 strikeouts in his first four starts.
LAST TIME OUT: Senior Alex DeLeon and sophomore Michael Suiter each had three base hits, including RBI knocks as part of an eight-run fifth inning that Kansas used to trounce Jackson State, 11-0, Wednesday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
SCOUTING THE HORNED FROGS: After a winless start in the first two weeks of the season, TCU has gotten back on track in recent weeks. The Horned Frogs enter their first series in the Big 12 Conference having won seven of their last 10 games and holding opponents to just 2.4 runs per game during that stretch. Several publications picked the Frogs to win the Big 12 title in their first year in the conference, however, an 0-6 start has dropped TCU from the ranks of the Top 25.
TCU’s offense has struggled in the first four weeks of the season, but has shown signs of turning things around. As a team, the Horned Frogs are batting .240 and averaging 4.6 runs per game. Freshman C/OF Boomer White leads TCU with a .433 batting average with three doubles, a homer and a .633 slugging percentage. Senior IF Jantzen Witte has also gotten off to a strong start with a .351 batting average, four doubles, three homers and 14 RBIs.
The Horned Frogs’ pitching staff has been one of the best in college baseball to start the year. TCU has posted a 3.00 team ERA and held its opponents to a .216 batting average through 16 games. Sophomore RHP Preston Morrison is the ace of the staff, posting a 2-1 record with a stingy 0.90 ERA in four starts. Morrison has allowed just three earned runs in 30 innings on the mound and recorded 21 strikeouts. TCU’s bullpen is paced by junior RHP Andrew Mitchell, who has the team’s only save and has a 2.84 ERA in eight relief appearances with three walks and 12 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle is in his 10th season with the Horned Frogs and has a record of 395-184 at the school and 462-231 in 11-plus years as a Division I head coach. He has directed TCU to the NCAA Super Regionals in three of the last four seasons and coached it to the program’s first College World Series appearance in 2010.
- TCU does not have any Kansas natives on its roster.
- Kansas LHP Tyler Watson is the only Jayhawk from the Lone Star State.
- Watson is from Georgetown, Texas, a north suburb of Austin. TCU LHP Travis Evans (Round Rock), OF Cody Jones (Round Rock), LHP Trevor Seidenberger (Pflugerville) and OF Colton Turner (Round Rock), also grew up just outside of Texas’ capital city.
- Kansas IF Marcus Wheeler and TCU IF Kevin Cron are both from Phoenix, Ariz. However, Wheeler graduated from Thunderbird High School, while Cron attended Mountain Pointe High School.
- Three Jayhawks are from the San Francisco Bay Area: RHP Frank Duncan (San Francisco), OF Joe Moroney (Pleasanton), IF Colby Wright (Castro Valley), while the Horned Frogs’ C Paddy O’Brien (Orinda) is also from a suburb of San Francisco.
- Kansas IF/C Alex DeLeon (Woodland Hills) and TCU RHP Nick Poulos (Pacific Palisades) both grew up in northwest suburbs of Los Angeles.
- Kansas IF Kevin Kuntz graduated from Union High School in Tulsa, Okla., while TCU OF Axel Johnson is from Tulsa, but attended Bishop Kelley High School.
SUPER SUITER: Sophomore OF Michael Suiter showed no signs of slowing down after being named the Big 12’s Player of the Week on Monday. In Wednesday’s midweek win over Jackson State, the second-year outfielder recorded his fifth-straight multi-hit game and extended his hitting streak to a team-best 11 games, going 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. The sophomore leads the Big 12 with a .462 batting average, while his .517 on-base percentage ranks third in the leage.
During his 11-game streak, Suiter has batted a whopping .514 (18-for-35) and reached base at a .561 clip. His hitting streak is the longest by a Jayhawk since Jimmy Waters hit safely in 14-straight games during the 2011 season, while his .462 batting average is the highest by a Jayhawk through 16 games during the Ritch Price era.
SMOOTH CRIMINALS: Kansas stole a team-record 23 bases in the four-game sweep of Niagara, more than doubling their season total coming into the series. Through 16 games, the Jayhawks have swiped 45 bases in 56 attempts (.804), which leads the Big 12 and ranks seventh nationally. KU’s aggressiveness on the bases has led to more run production as the team is averaging 6.7 runs per game this season, despite just three homers and a .397 slugging percentage.
Senior Jordan Dreiling leads the team and is tied for second in the Big 12 with nine stolen bases, while sophomore Michael Suiter is tied for fifth in the league with eight steals. KU’s highest stolen base total during the Ritch Price era is 80, which happened during his first year in 2003.
WES SIDE STORY: Sophomore LHP Wes Benjamin brought dominating stuff to his fourth start of the season, earning his first victory. The second-year southpaw struck out a career-best 11 hitters and allowed just one earned run over seven innings to pick up the win.
After a rough start to the season, Benjamin appears to be back on track. The ability to control the strikezone has been paramount to the sophomore’s success. In his first two outings (both losses), Benjamin walked five in 8 1/3 innings of work; while in his last two starts, he has just three walks in 14 innings and has allowed just four earned runs.
THE JORDAN RULES: Junior RHP Jordan Piché has been one of the top relief pitchers in the Big 12 through the first four weeks of the season. The junior college transfer allowed his first run of the season in the ninth inning in the March 9 win over Niagara, but still earned his second save. Piché is tied for the conference lead among relief pitchers, with three victories this season. He also sports a sparkling 0.68 ERA and has held opponents to a .196 batting average.
One big reason for Piché’s effectiveness has been his ability to pitch out of troubled situations. The junior has allowed just four hits in 25 at bats (.160) with men on base and has retired 14 of the 16 hitters he’s faced with two outs in the inning.
TAYLOR MADE: Senior RHP Thomas Taylor is closing in on some pretty impressive names in the Kansas record book. The senior enters his fifth start of the season in 10th place on KU’s all-time strikeouts list with 198, but could move up several places with a strong outing against TCU. Taylor trails former All-American Don Czyz (200) by two strikeouts for ninth in team history and four-year starter Pete Smart by four K’s for eighth.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas opens conference play with Big 12 newcomer TCU this weekend. The Jayhawks and Horned Frogs have met six times prior to TCU joining the league, with all six meetings in Texas.
- KU is 6-10 all-time in Big 12 opening games, but has won its first conference series of the year in three of the last four seasons.
- The Jayhawks enter the weekend riding a five-game winning streak, which is the longest by the team since 2010.
- KU’s shutout of Jackson State on March 13 marked its fourth in the first 16 games of the season. The Jayhawks recorded just four shutouts in 58 games in 2012. KU had a school record nine shutouts in 1978.
- KU recorded its largest single-inning run total of the season on Wednesday against Jackson State, scoring eight times in the fifth inning. It was the biggest single-inning rally by the Jayhawks since scoring eight times in the second inning against Minnesota on March 9, 2012.
- The Jayhawks came one stolen base shy of tying the single-game record for steals (10) in two games of the Niagara series. On March 7, KU swiped nine bases against the Purple Eagles and collected nine more in the second game of the March 8 doubleheader. KU’s 24 steals in a four-game series is believed to be a school record.
- Kansas leads the Big 12 with a .315 batting average through 16 games. The Jayhawks have collected at least nine hits in 14 of their 16 contests this year.
- KU’s .315 average is its highest through 16 games since the 2003 season, when the team also batted .315 in its first 16 contests.
- The NCAA released its second round of national statistics on Tuesday and the Jayhawks ranked in the Top 50 (of 297 teams) in several categories: The Jayhawks were first in sacrifice flies (18), seventh in steals (44), 25th in on-base percentage (.408), 28th in batting average (.311), 32nd in fielding percentage (.977), 36th in sacrifice bunts (15), 44th in walks (68), 46th in times hit by pitch (22), 49th in ERA (3.10).
- The Jayhawks lead the nation in sacrifice flies with 18, which is four more than the team had in all of 2012. Senior Jordan Dreiling and Tommy Mirabelli are tied for the team lead with four, which tie them for seventh nationally.
- Heading into the first conference weekend of the season, KU also leads the Big 12 in a handful of statistical categories: The Jayhawks are first in the conference in batting average (.315), on-base percentage (.412), stolen bases (45) and lead the league in sacrifice flies (18). KU is also tied for fewest home runs allowed (two) and rank second in fielding percentage (.978).
- Individually, sophomore Michael Suiter leads the Big 12 in batting average (.362), while fellow sophomore Justin Protacio leads the conference in walks (17). Senior RHP Thomas Taylor is one of two Big 12 pitchers with a complete game shutout this season.
- The Jayhawks have been impressive in clutch situations. As a team, KU is batting .341 (95-for-279) with men on base, including a .339 average (61-for-180) with runners in scoring position.
- Through 16 games, KU has 37 two-out RBIs, while batting .328 (59-for-180) with two outs in an inning.
- KU’s defense has been outstanding again this season. The Jayhawks have committed just 13 errors in 598 chances (.978), while throwing out 5-of-10 would-be base stealers and turning 12 double plays.
- The Jayhawk outfield collected two assists in the Niagara series, giving them seven for the season. Sophomore Dakota Smith leads the group with three assists, while Michael Suiter and Tucker Tharp have each thrown out two base runners.
- Kansas has collected 18 sacrifice flies in 16 games this season. In 2012, KU recorded just 14 in 58 games.
- KU’s starting pitchers have nine quality starts in 16 games. Last season, the Jayhawks didn’t record their ninth quality start until game No. 25 on March 30.
- Freshman 1B/DH Jacob Boylan has dominated right-handed pitching this season, batting .412 (14-for-34) with a .588 slugging percentage against right-handed throwers.
- Senior 1B/C Alex DeLeon recorded his second four-RBI game of the season on Wednesday against Jackson State. The senior leads the team in RBIs (15), two-out RBIs (seven) and multi-RBI games (four).
- Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling has reached base in all 16 games this season and scored 13 runs. He is one of four players in the Big 12 to reach base in every one of his team’s games.
- Junior C Ka’iana Eldredge has shown much better plate discipline in the early part of the season. In his first 14 games, the junior has walked eight times and struck out just 10; compared to five walks and 18 strikeouts in his first 14 contests of 2012.
- Sophomore OF Connor McKay saw his first action since the season opener in the Niagara series. McKay hit safely in the final two games of the series and recorded two RBIs, two runs scored and two stolen bases.
- Freshman 2B Tommy Mirabelli enjoyed a breakout weekend against Niagara. The first-year infielder, who has started at second base in each of the last eight games, recorded his first multi-RBI game on March 7 and went 5-for-11 (.455) with three doubles and five RBIs in the four-game series.
- Sophomore IF Justin Protacio drew his league-best 17th walk of the season in Wednesday’s win over Jackson State. Protacio has reached base at a .500 clip this season and is 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts.
- Sophomore OF Dakota Smith recorded his first multi-RBI game of the season, driving in three runs in the series finale against Niagara on March 9.
- Sophomore OF Michael Suiter became the first Jayhawk to win Big 12 Player of the Week honors on Monday, since Jason Brunansky earned the award on April 9, 2011.
- Junior OF Tucker Tharp recorded his first three-hit game of the season in the March 13 win over Jackson State with three infield singles. In his career, Tharp is a .203 hitter (26-for-128) before April 1 and a .308 hitter (45-for-146) after April 1.
- Sophomore LHP Wes Benjamin tallied a career-high 11 strikeouts in his March 8 victory over Niagara. Benjamin became the first Jayhawk to record double-digit strikeouts in a game since Frank Duncan fanned 11 in a victory over Texas on April 20, 2012.
- Junior RHP Frank Duncan recorded his fourth quality start of the season after collecting seven all of last year. The junior has pitched into the sixth inning in 18 of his 19 career starts.
- Sophomore RHP Robert Kahana has been very effective pitching out of the windup this season. The second-year pitcher has allowed just one hit in 21 at bats when he is not holding runners on (.048).
- Sophomore RHP Drew Morovick earned his second hold of the year, pitching two perfect innings of relief against Jackson State. In his last two outings, the second-year righty has pitched seven consecutive scoreless innings.
- Junior RHP Junior Mustain collected his first hold in KU’s March 7 victory over Niagara. The junior college transfer entered the game in the sixth inning with KU ahead 2-0 and pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
- Junior RHP Jordan Piché earned his third victory out of the bullpen in six appearances this year. Former Jayhawk Curtis Shaw holds the school record with nine wins as a relief pitcher in 1990.
- Freshman LHP Tyler Watson has retired all five left-handed hitters that he’s faced this season.
ELDREDGE NAMED TO WATCH LIST: The Greater Wichita Sports Commission announced on Monday that junior C Ka’iana Eldredge was one of 48 catchers to be named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List. Eldredge is batting .270 this season with a double, a triple and 10 RBIs in 14 games. He has also thrown out 2-of-5 would-be base stealers and picked a pair of runners off first base. The committee will narrow the list down to 10 semifinalists on May 16 with three finalists named on June 4.
UP NEXT: Kansas will continue its 11-game stretch away from Hoglund Ballpark with a four-game series at BYU, beginning on Wednesday, March 20. The Jayhawks will meet the Cougars Wednesday (7 p.m. CT), Thursday (7 p.m. CT), Friday (7 p.m. CT) and Saturday (2 p.m. CT) at Larry H. Miller Field. All four games from the series will be televised by BYU Television.