Jayhawks Head to BYU for Four-Game Series
March 19, 2013
LEADING OFF: After taking its first Big 12 series of the year, Kansas baseball will hit the road to face BYU in a four-game series at Miller Park in Provo, Utah. The Jayhawks will meet the Cougars at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evening, before finishing the series Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.
ON THE AIR: The final three games of the Kansas-BYU series can be seen on BYU Television. Check with your cable/satellite provider for the channel in your area. Fans can also listen to the games on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access with Tom Hedrick and Aaron Berlin on the call.
SERIES HISTORY: Wednesday’s game will mark the first meeting between the schools on the baseball diamond since the 1994 NCAA Regionals. The Jayhawks and Cougars have split their two previous meetings, with KU winning the initial game, 4-3, on March 22, 1968. BYU eliminated Kansas from the NCAA Tournament with an 8-3 win at the Atlantic II Regional in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 28, 1994.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: The Jayhawks won their first conference series of the year, taking two out of three from Big 12 newcomer TCU last weekend. KU has won nine of its last 11 games and is off to its best start since 2006.
The Jayhawks’ offense has shown a remarkable turnaround from last season. KU enters the week fourth in the league in batting average at .302 and is averaging 6.2 runs per game. The Jayhawks also lead the league in stolen bases with 50 in 63 attempts. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter snapped a 13-game hitting streak on Sunday, but still leads the team with a .439 batting average and has three doubles, nine steals and a .493 on-base percentage. Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling is tied for second in the Big 12 with 10 stolen bases and has seven doubles to go along with his .373 batting average.
KU’s pitching staff has the fourth-best ERA in the Big 12 Conference (2.94) and has held opponents to a .254 batting average. Senior RHP Thomas Taylor leads the starting staff with a 2-0 record and a 1.35 ERA in five starts. Taylor is also fourth in the Big 12 in ERA and sixth with 28 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. Junior RHP Jordan Piché has a 4-0 record with two saves and a sparkling 0.48 ERA in eight appearances out of the bullpen. Piché has allowed just one extra base hit and recorded 18 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
LAST TIME OUT: Senior Jordan Dreiling’s RBI single through the left side of the infield broke a scoreless tie in the top of the 12th, while junior Jordan Piché pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, as Kansas earned a series win with a 2-0 extra-innings victory over TCU Sunday afternoon at Lupton Stadium.
SCOUTING THE COUGARS: BYU returns to Miller Park after a tough road trip, where the Cougars dropped four games to No. 25 San Diego and lost another contest Monday to UNLV. The Cougars are 9-11 on the season, but 4-2 at home, which includes series victories over Creighton and then-No. 21 UC Irvine.
BYU’s offense ranks fourth in the West Coast Conference (WCC) with a .263 team batting average, while averaging 5.4 runs per game. Junior IF Adam Law leads the team with a .346 batting average with four doubles, a homer and 17 runs scored. Fellow junior, OF Jaycob Brugman, has been the Cougars’ top run producer, ranking third in the WCC with 20 RBIs to go along with five doubles, three homers and a .548 slugging percentage.
The Cougars’ pitching staff struggled Monday at UNLV, but ranks sixth in the WCC with a 3.99 ERA. BYU has held its opponents to a .266 batting average and has recorded 100 strikeouts in 170 innings. Junior RHP Desmond Poulson will start the series opener against the Jayhawks. The junior is 2-0 with a team-best 2.29 ERA in five starts this season. Poulson has racked up 28 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings and held opponents to a .234 batting average. Sophomore RHP James Lengal is BYU’s closer, he enters the series with an 0-2 mark and a 4.50 ERA with four saves and 13 strikeouts in 16 innings.
Head coach Mike Littlewood is in his first season at BYU. Littlewood came to BYU from Dixie State College in St. George, Utah, where he had been the head baseball coach since 1996. In 16 seasons, Littlewood compiled the most wins in Dixie State history (563-238; .702), while making four appearances in the National Junior College World Series, winning the national championship in 2004 and finishing runner-up in 2001.
- Kansas C Ka’iana Eldredge attended high school for two years in Cedar, Utah, while his father, David, coached at Southern Utah.
- BYU does not have any Kansas natives on its team.
- Jayhawk senior IF Alex DeLeon is from Woodland Hills, Calif., while BYU RHP Jeff Barker is from nearby Moorpark, Calif.
- KU RHP Drew Morovick is from Hemet, Calif., while BYU’s Mark Anderson grew up 20 miles away in Moreno Valley, Calif.
- Kansas IF Marcus Wheeler and BYU OF Jaycob Brugman and IF/P Brendon Erickson are all from Phoenix, Ariz. However, all three graduated from different high schools.
- Other players on both teams from the Phoenix, Ariz., area include: KU LHP Jordan Luvisi and OF Joey Luvisi are from Scottsdale, Ariz., while BYU’s Collin Brathwaite (Gilbert) and RHP Keaton Cenatiempo (Mesa) also grew up in suburbs of Arizona’s capital.
SMOOTH CRIMINALS: Kansas stole a team-record 23 bases in the four-game sweep of Niagara March 7-9, more than doubling its season total heading into the series. Through 19 games, the Jayhawks have swiped 50 bases in 63 attempts (.794), which leads the Big 12 and ranks ninth nationally. KU’s aggressiveness on the bases has led to more run production as the team is averaging 6.2 runs per game this season, despite just three homers and a .377 slugging percentage.
Senior Jordan Dreiling leads the team and is tied for second in the Big 12 with 10 stolen bases, while sophomore Michael Suiter is tied for fifth in the league with nine steals. At their current rate, the Jayhawks are on pace for 145 steals this season, which would set the school record. KU’s highest stolen base total during the Ritch Price era is 80, which happened during his first year in 2003.
CAPTAIN CLUTCH: Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling drove in the game-winning run in the top of the 12th as Kansas earned a series win at TCU on March 17. It marked the fifth time this season that the senior captain has either driven in or scored the winning run, including a pair of walk-off RBIs.
When the chips have been down for the Jayhawks, Dreiling has put his best foot forward this season. The senior is batting .455 (10-for-22) with runners in scoring postion and .364 (8-for-22) with seven RBIs from the seventh inning on.
TAYLOR MADE: To say senior RHP Thomas Taylor is on a hot streak would be an understatement. In his last three starts, Taylor has allowed just one earned run while holding his opponents to 13 hits in 22 innings on the mound. The streak started with a complete game shutout against Eastern Michigan on March 2 and continued with a gutsy six-inning performance that was delayed twice by rain in the finale of the Niagara series on March 9.
On Sunday, Taylor pitched seven scoreless innings at TCU, allowing no runs on four hits with two walks and a strikeout. It marked the senior’s fourth quality start of the season, which ties him for the team lead, while his lone strikeout was the 199th of his career. He is currently fourth in the Big 12 in ERA (1.35), tied for sixth in strikeouts (28), eighth in innings pitched (33 1/3) and is one of five pitchers in the league to record a shutout.
THE JORDAN RULES: Junior RHP Jordan Piché has been one of the top relief pitchers in the Big 12 through the first five weeks of the season. He tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings last weekend in KU’s two victories at TCU, recording six strikeouts in the process. The junior college transfer has allowed just one earned run, recorded two saves and tallied four victories, which is tied for most in the Big 12 among relief pitchers.
One big reason for Piché’s effectiveness has been his ability to pitch out of troubled situations. The junior has allowed just five hits in 28 at bats (.179) with men on base and has retired 20 of the 23 hitters he’s faced with two outs in the inning.
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST END: Sophomore OF Michael Suiter snapped his 13-game hitting streak on March 17, going 0-for-6 in an extra-inning win at TCU. It was the second-year outfielder’s first hitless game since Feb. 22, while he also had a string of seven-straight multi-hit games during the hitting streak.
While the finale of the TCU series dropped Suiter’s batting average to .439, he is still light years ahead of where he was at this time last year. Through 19 games, the sophomore has raised his batting average by 156 points (.283 to .439) and his on-base percentage by 96 points (.397 to .493) and dropped his strikeout total by nine (13 to four).
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas baseball travels to Utah for the first time in program history and meets BYU for the first time since the 1994 NCAA Tournament.
- KU is 3-3 all-time against current members of the West Coast Conference.
- The Jayhawks are 2-2 in away games this season and 8-6 in games played away from Hoglund Ballpark.
- At 13-6, Kansas is off to its best start since the 2006 season, when the team went 14-5 in its first 19 contests. The 2006 season was KU’s last Big 12 Championship.
- KU’s starting trio of Frank Duncan, Wes Benjamin and Thomas Taylor have a combined 60 starts over the last two seasons. With senior RHP Tanner Poppe making the start Wednesday, the Jayhawks’ starting staff has a combined 85 starts in their careers.
- KU’s 12-inning shutout of TCU on March 17 marked its fifth shutout in the first 19 games of the season. The Jayhawks recorded just four shutouts in 58 games in 2012, while the school record is nine shutouts, set in 1978.
- The Jayhawk pitching staff has not allowed a run for 17-straight innings, going back to the fourth inning of the March 16 game at TCU.
- With junior OF Tucker Tharp’s stolen base at TCU on March 17, the Jayhawks recorded their 50th steal of the season in just their 19th game. KU stole just 37 bases in 2012, while the school record of 121 steals in 1994 seems within reach.
- The Jayhawks also recorded their Big 12-leading 19th sacrifice fly in the March 16 game at TCU. KU tallied just 14 sac flies in 2012.
- The NCAA released its third round of national stats on Tuesday and KU ranks in the Top 50 (out of 297) in several categories. KU ranks first in sacrifiece flies (19), ninth in stolen bases (50), 29th in fielding percentage (.978), 38th in on-base percentage (.397), 39th in batting average (.302), 39th in ERA (2.94) and 47th in sacrifice bunts (18).
- Several KU players rank in the top 50 in individual categories: IF Jordan Dreiling and IF Tommy Mirabelli are tied for 13th in sacrifice flies (four), while C Ka’iana Eldredge is tied for 33rd with three, RHP Jordan Piché is 16th in wins (four), OF Michael Suiter is 19th in batting average (.439), IF Justin Protacio ranks 23rd in the country in walks (18), Dreiling is 28th in stolen bases (10) and Suiter is 44th in steals (nine).
- KU heads into the sixth week of the season leading the Big 12 in stolen bases (50), sacrifice flies (19) and has allowed the fewest home runs (two).
- Sophomore IF Justin Protacio leads the league in walks (18), while Thomas Taylor is one of five pitchers in the Big 12 to record a complete game shutout this season.
- KU recorded its largest single-inning run total of the season on March 13 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.
- Through 19 games, KU has 39 two-out RBIs, while batting .296 (63-for-213) with two outs in an inning.
- KU’s defense has been outstanding again this season. The Jayhawks have committed just 16 errors in 725 chances (.978), while throwing out 6-of-11 would-be base stealers and turning 16 double plays.
- The Jayhawk outfield collected another assist in the TCU series, cutting down a potential winning run at the plate, giving the team eight this season. Sophomores Michael Suiter and Dakota Smith are tied for the lead with three assists each, while junior Tucker Tharp has two.
- KU’s starting pitchers have 10 quality starts in 19 games. Last season, the Jayhawks didn’t record their 10th quality start until game No. 26 on March 31.
- Freshman 1B/DH Jacob Boylan has been a better hitter in clutch situations this season. Boylan is batting .393 (11-for-28) compared to .258 (8-for-31) with the bases empty.
- Senior 1B/C Alex DeLeon leads the Jayhawks with seven two-out RBIs and is batting .550 (22-for-40) with two outs in an inning.
- Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling has reached base in all 19 games this season and scored 14 runs. He is one of two players in the Big 12 (Matt Oberste, Oklahoma) to reach base in every one of his team’s games.
- Junior C Ka’iana Eldredge has collected 12 RBIs this season after recording just 16 in 47 games last year.
- Sophomore OF Connor McKay recorded his first multi-hit game of the season with a 2-for-4 effort against TCU on March 16.
- Freshman 2B Tommy Mirabelli has been a clutch performer this season. The first-year infielder is tied for the team lead with two game-winning RBIs and is batting .357 (5-for-14) with runners in scoring position.
- Sophomore IF Justin Protacio leads the Big 12 in walks (18) and ranks fifth in on-base percentage (.474). The second-year infielder has reached base in 18-straight games, dating back to the season opener on Feb. 15.
- Sophomore OF Dakota Smith hit safely in all three games at TCU last weekend and is batting .298 (17-for-57) in games away from Hoglund Ballpark.
- Sophomore OF Michael Suiter snapped a 13-game hitting streak on March 17, going hitless at TCU. During his 13-game streak, the sophomore batted .535 (23-for-43) with three doubles and nine multi-hit games.
- Junior OF Tucker Tharp has shown signs of breaking out of his early season slump. The third-year outfielder went 6-for-17 (.353) in four games last week with a stolen base and three runs scored.
- Sophomore LHP Wes Benjamin has had much better command of the strike zone in his last three starts. After allowing five free passes in his first two starts this season, Benjamin has issued just four walks in his last 20 innings pitched (1.8 BB/9 IP).
- Junior RHP Frank Duncan will be looking to bounce back from the shortest start of his career. On March 15, Duncan pitched just 3 1/3 innings at TCU, marking the first time he has been knocked out before the sixth inning since May 11 of last season.
- 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 29 at bats when he is not holding runners on (.034).
- Sophomore RHP Drew Morovick has been an effective relief pitcher out of the Jayhawk bullpen this season. The second-year righty has an ERA of 2.35 and has held opponents to a .179 batting average in his four relief appearances this year, compared to a 4.00 ERA and a .278 batting average against in his two starts.
- One reason for junior RHP Jordan Piché’s success this year has been his ability to retire the leadoff batter in each inning. In the 17 innings that Piché has opened on the mound, he has retired the first hitter 14 times (82.3 percent).
- Senior RHP Tanner Poppe earned his first victory in over a year on March 13 against Jackson State. The fourth-year righty pitched four shutout innings against the Tigers to pick up his first win since May 13, 2011.
- Freshman LHP Tyler Watson has retired all six left-handed hitters that he’s faced this season.
UP NEXT: Kansas will continue its 11-game stretch away from Hoglund Ballpark with a non-conference game at Missouri State on Tuesday, March 26 at 6:30 p.m.