Kansas Baseball Resumes Conference Play at No. 11 Oklahoma
March 27, 2013
LEADING OFF: Kansas baseball will wrap up its three-week road trip with a three-game series at No. 11 Oklahoma on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, due to the Easter holiday. The Jayhawks and Sooners will meet Thursday and Friday at 6:30 p.m., before Saturday’s finale at 2 p.m.
ON THE AIR: All three games of the KU-OU series will be televised on Fox College Sports Central (Channel 145 on Knology Cable). Fans outside of Lawrence should check local listings for the channel in their area. All three games can also be heard online through AT&T Jayhawk All-Access with Tom Hedrick and Aaron Berlin on the call.
SERIES HISTORY: Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Kansas, 151-87 with one tie, in a baseball rivalry that dates back to 1906. The Sooners and Jayhawks have met at least once every year since 1976, when the Big Eight split into North and South divisions. OU has won the last 10 meetings dating back to 2009, when an extra-innings win by the Sooners ended a seven-game KU winning streak in the series. Kansas head coach Ritch Price is 12-19 all-time against Oklahoma, including 7-8 at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: The Jayhawks have gone 3-3 on their current road trip after dropping two-of-three games at BYU last weekend. KU is 10-5 overall in the month of March.
The Jayhawks’ offense has shown a remarkable turnaround from last season. KU enters the week third in the league in batting average at .303 and is averaging 6.3 runs per game. The Jayhawks also lead the league in stolen bases with 52 in 66 attempts. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter snapped a 13-game hitting streak against TCU on March 17, but still leads the team with a .423 batting average. He also has four doubles, 10 steals and a .477 on-base percentage. Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling has a team-high 11 stolen bases and has seven doubles to go along with his .356 batting average.
KU’s pitching staff has the fifth-best ERA in the Big 12 Conference (3.02) and has held opponents to a .256 batting average. Senior RHP Thomas Taylor leads the staff with a 2-0 record and a 1.35 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. Junior relief pitcher Jordan Piché anchors the bullpen with a 4-0 record, two saves and a sparkling 0.42 ERA in nine appearances. Piché has allowed just one extra base hit and recorded 20 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings.
LAST TIME OUT: BYU junior third baseman Adam Law went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, while junior right fielder Jaycob Brugman collected four RBIs as the Cougars earned a series win with a 6-2 triumph over Kansas Saturday afternoon at Larry Miller Park.
SCOUTING THE SOONERS: Oklahoma enters its second Big 12 Conference series as one of the hottest teams in the country with a 23-4 overall record. The Sooners have won 11 in a row and are ranked as high as No. 11 in the country in the latest Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll. OU has gone 18-1 at home this year, with the only blemish coming against Pepperdine on March 2.
The Sooners’ offense ranks fourth in the Big 12 with a .292 batting average and is scoring 5.9 runs per game. Junior IF Matt Oberste has been a one-man wrecking crew, leading the conference with a .476 batting average and has hit safely in all 27 of Oklahoma’s games this season. Oberste also leads the league in hits (50), runs scored (27), home runs (seven), RBIs (34), slugging percentage (.819) and on-base percentage (.544). Senior IF Garrett Carey has also supplied pop in the lineup, belting three homers and recording a .462 slugging percentage in 25 games.
Oklahoma boasts one of the best pitching rotations in the Big 12, ranking third in the league with a 2.70 ERA, while holding opponents to a .226 batting average. Junior RHP Jonathan Gray is the ace of the Sooners’ pitching staff with a 4-1 record and a 1.41 ERA in six starts this season. Gray has allowed just nine walks and has fanned 51 hitters in 44 2/3 innings on the hill. Freshman LHP Jacob Evans is OU’s top option out of the bullpen this season, posting a 4-0 record and a microscopic 0.71 ERA in 14 appearances. Evans is in a four-way tie for the conference lead with four saves this season.
Head coach Sunny Golloway is in his eighth season at Oklahoma and has a 325-164-1 record during his tenure. He has led the Sooners to five NCAA Tournament appearances, including the team’s 10th trip to the College World Series in 2010. Golloway is 660-320-1 in 16-plus seasons as a Division I head coach.
- Kansas IF Kevin Kuntz graduated from Union High School in Tulsa, Okla.
- Oklahoma OF Justin Burba is from Wichita, Kan.
- Jayhawk LHP Tyler Watson is from Georgetown, Texas, while Oklahoma IF Garrett Carey grew up in nearby Hutto, Texas.
- Kansas 1B/C Alex DeLeon is from Woodland Hills, Calif., while Sooners RHP Corey Copping is from Temple City, Calif., which is roughly 30 miles away.
PROTOTYPICAL: Sophomore IF Justin Protacio enjoyed his best offensive series as a Jayhawk, going 6-for-13 (.462) with a double and two RBIs in three games at BYU last week. This included Protacio’s first career four-hit game on March 21. The second-year infielder, who has played both shortstop and second base and hit out of three different spots in the batting order, has stayed consistent despite his flexibility.
Protacio has reached base in all 21 games that he has played in this season and leads the Big 12 with 19 walks. He also ranks third in the league with a .478 on-base percentage. After batting just .172 as a part-time player in his freshman campaign, Protacio has hit .333 through his first 21 games this season and has three more extra base hits and nine more RBIs than he had in roughly the same number of games in 2012.
THE JORDAN RULES: Junior RHP Jordan Piché has been one of the top relief pitchers in the Big 12 through the first six weeks of the season. The junior college transfer tossed another 2 2/3 scoreless innings in the March 23 game at BYU, retiring all eight men he faced. Over his last three appearances, Piché has allowed no runs and four hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in eight innings. He is tied for the Big 12 lead with four victories out of the bullpen and also has two saves.
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 30 at bats (.167) with men on base and has retired 23 of the 26 hitters he’s faced with two outs in the inning.
TAYLOR MADE: To say senior RHP Thomas Taylor is on a hot streak would be an understatement. Taylor has yet to allow an earned run in the month of March 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 March 14, 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.
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 22 games, the Jayhawks have swiped 52 bases in 66 attempts (.788), 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 IF Jordan Dreiling leads the team and is tied for third in the Big 12 with 11 stolen bases, while sophomore OF Michael Suiter is tied for fifth in the league with 10 thefts. At their current rate, the Jayhawks are on pace for 132 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.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas baseball returns to conference action after a three-game series at BYU over spring break. The Jayhawks’ next seven weekend series are against Big 12 opponents.
- The Jayhawks are 3-4 in true road games this season and 9-8 in games played away from Hoglund Ballpark.
- Kansas will face its first ranked opponent during the 2013 season, in No. 11 Oklahoma. The Jayhawks have won 25 games against Top 25 opponents since the start of the 2009 season.
- KU’s starting trio of Frank Duncan, Wes Benjamin and Thomas Taylor have a combined 62 starts over the last two seasons. With senior RHP Tanner Poppe returning to his role as a midweek starter, the four Jayhawk starting pitchers have a combined 88 career starts.
- 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 offense set season highs in runs (15), hits (17) and doubles (five) in the March 21 win at BYU. KU’s 15 runs were the most since the team scored 16 times in a 16-12 win at UALR on May 1, 2012.
- Senior IF Jordan Dreiling stole his 11th base of the season in the Jayhawks’ March 21 win at BYU, marking the team’s 52nd steal of the season. 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 fourth round of national stats on Monday evening and KU ranks in the Top 50 (out of 297) in several categories: The Jayhawks are third in sacrifice flies (19), 12th in stolen bases (52), 30th in fielding percentage (.976), 32nd in batting average (.302), 39th in on-base percentage (.394) and 44th in ERA (3.02).
- Several KU players rank in the top 50 in individual categories: OF Michael Suiter is 19th in batting average (.423), RHP Frank Duncan and LHP Wes Benjamin are tied for 19th in games started (six), IF Jordan Dreiling and IF Tommy Mirabelli are tied for 22nd in sacrifice flies (four), while Dreiling is 33rd in stolen bases (11). IF Justin Protacio ranks 40th in the country in walks (19), RHP Jordan Piché is tied for 44th in wins (four) and RHP Thomas Taylor is 49th among Division I pitchers in ERA (1.35).
- KU heads into the seventh week of the season leading the Big 12 in stolen bases (52), sacrifice flies (19) and has allowed the fewest home runs (two).
- Sophomore IF Justin Protacio is tied for the league lead in walks (19), 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 22 games, KU has 46 two-out RBIs, while batting .299 (75-for-251) with two outs in an inning.
- KU’s defense has been outstanding again this season. The Jayhawks have committed just 20 errors in 841 chances (.978), while throwing out 6-of-13 would-be base stealers and turning 18 double plays.
- The Jayhawk outfield collected two more assists in the BYU series, cutting down a runner at the plate and turning a double play in the series-opener. As a unit, KU has 10 outfield assists with sophomores Dakota Smith and Michael Suiter tied for the team lead with four apiece.
- KU’s starting pitchers have 10 quality starts in 22 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 .375 (9-for-24) with runners in scoring position compared to .286 (10-for-35) with the bases empty.
- Senior 1B/C Alex DeLeon will be returning to the lineup this weekend at OU after a hamstring injury has kept him out since March 17. DeLeon has hit .327 (16-for-49) with three doubles and a homer away from Hoglund Ballpark this season, compared to .308 (4-for-13) at home.
- Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling has reached base in all 22 games and scored 16 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 this season.
- Junior C Ka’iana Eldredge recorded his first three-hit game of the season on March 23 at BYU. It marked his first game with three hits or more since March 21, 2012, when he went 5-for-7 in an 11-inning game against Southern Utah.
- Senior SS Kevin Kuntz returned to the Jayhawk lineup on March 20 after missing 10 games with an ankle injury. Kuntz showed no ill-effects from the injury, going 4-for-10 in the BYU series with three runs scored and an RBI.
- Sophomore OF Connor McKay recorded his first multi-hit game of the season with a 2-for-4 effort against TCU on March 16. McKay missed 11 games with a hamstring injury, but is 4-for-14 (.286) in the last two road trips.
- Freshman 2B Tommy Mirabelli is batting .458 (11-for-24) with men on base, compared to .059 (1-for-17) when he bats with the bases empty. He has also advanced runners with a hit or a productive out in 29-of-39 situations (.744).
- Sophomore OF Joe Moroney made two starts in the BYU series in place of an injured Tucker Tharp and recorded his first career multi-hit game with a single and a double on March 21.
- Sophomore IF Justin Protacio recorded the first four-hit game of his career at BYU on March 21. Protacio becomes just the second Jayhawk to collect four hits or more in a game this season, joining IF Jordan Dreiling, who went 4-for-5 against Eastern Michigan on March 2.
- Sophomore OF Dakota Smith has reached base at a .406 clip (13-for-32) when he leads off an inning. Since moving into the No. 1 spot in the batting order on March 2, Smith has a .343 on-base percentage and has stolen four bases.
- Sophomore OF Michael Suiter is batting .456 (26-for-57) during the month of March and has hit safely in 14-of-15 games in the same timespan. Suiter snapped a 13-game hitting streak on March 17, but collected a hit in all three contests in the BYU series.
- Junior OF Tucker Tharp injured a hamstring in the opener of the BYU series, but is likely to return this weekend at Oklahoma. Despite a .221 batting average, Tharp has been productive for the Jayhawks in 2013, reaching base at a .329 clip and scoring a team-best 17 runs in 20 games.
- Sophomore LHP Wes Benjamin has had much better command of the strike zone in his last four starts. After allowing five free passes in his first two starts this season, Benjamin has issued just six walks in his last 25 innings pitched (2.2 BB/9 IP).
- Junior RHP Frank Duncan ranks third in the Big 12 in career innings pitched (195 2/3). Duncan has gone six innings or more in 17 of his 21 career starts and has 11 quality starts (3 ER or less in 6 IP or more).
- Freshman RHP Hayden Edwards recorded his first collegiate inning pitched against Jackson State on March 13. Edwards set the Tigers down in order in the eighth inning, collecting two ground outs and a fly out.
- 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 base (.034).
- Senior LHP Jordan Luvisi has been effective at getting ground ball outs with his new submarine delivery. Luvisi has recorded four ground outs in his 1 2/3 innings pitched this season.
- 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 1.74 and has held opponents to a .211 batting average in his five relief appearances this year, compared to a 4.00 ERA and a .278 batting average against in his two starts.
- Junior RHP Junior Mustain has retired 10 of the 13 hitters he’s faced with two outs in an inning (.76.9 percent).
- 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 19 innings that Piché has opened on the mound, he has retired the first hitter 16 times (84.2 percent).
- Senior RHP Tanner Poppe’s strikeout numbers are way up this season. In 2013, Poppe has recorded 16 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings (8.64 K/9 IP), compared to 110 K’s in 171 2/3 career innings prior to this year (5.77 K/9 IP).
- Sophomore OF/P Dakota Smith recorded his first inning on the mound this season on March 3 against Eastern Michigan. Smith, who pitched in high school as well as for the Rochester Honkers in the Northwoods League last summer, set down three of the four Eagles hitters he faced.
- Senior RHP Thomas Taylor is one strikeout shy of 200 for his career and just a handful away of moving up several spots on KU’s career list. Taylor is 10th all-time at KU in strikeouts (199), just behind Don Czyz (200), Pete Smart (202), Eric Stonecipher (206) and Jamie Splittorff (207).
- Sophomore RHP Colin Toalson has retired 13 of the 17 hitters he’s faced with four scoreless relief appearances.
UP NEXT: The Jayhawks will return to the friendly confines of Hoglund Ballpark on Tuesday, April 2 when they welcome non-conference foe Creighton to Lawrence for a 6:30 p.m. contest. It will be KU’s first home game since March 13.