Jayhawks Open Homestand with Creighton, Saint Mary
April 1, 2013
LEADING OFF: Kansas baseball returns to Hoglund Ballpark for a five-game homestand, beginning with non-conference games against Creighton and Saint Mary. The Jayhawks will meet the Bluejays at 6 p.m., Tuesday evening and the Spires at 6 p.m., Wednesday.
ON THE AIR: Live audio and video from both of KU’s midweek games will be available on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. Fans can also listen to both games on All-Access at KUAthletics.com.
SERIES HISTORY: Creighton leads the all-time series with KU, 20-11, including 11-6 in games played in Lawrence. The Jays have won three-straight in the series after KU took five in a row from 2004-10. KU is 5-3 against Creighton under head coach Ritch Price. The Jayhawks are 7-5 all-time against Saint Mary, including 6-0 since 2005.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas comes back to Lawrence after playing its last nine games on the road. The Jayhawks went 4-5 on their road trip and finished the month of March 11-7. KU is 5-0 at home this season, sweeping a four-game series against Niagara and winning a March 13 meeting with Jackson State.
KU’s offense ranks fifth in the Big 12 with a .289 team batting average, while scoring 5.9 runs per game. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter leads the team with a .393 batting average with 11 steals and a .450 on-base percentage. Senior 1B/C Alex DeLeon is tops on the team with 18 RBIs and has two of KU’s three home runs this season.
KU’s pitching staff has the fifth-best ERA in the Big 12 Conference (3.47) and has held opponents to a .263 batting average. Senior RHP Tanner Poppe will make his fourth start of the season Tuesday against Creighton. Poppe is 1-1 with a 4.86 ERA in 16 2/3 innings this season. He has walked eight to go with 16 strikeouts.
LAST TIME OUT: Senior Alex DeLeon went 2-for-5 with three RBIs, while Robert Kahana and Jordan Piché combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen as Kansas ended two long streaks with a 10-8 come-from-behind win over No. 11 Oklahoma Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park. KU snapped the Sooners’ 13-game winning streak and ended a string of 12-straight losses to Oklahoma.
SCOUTING THE BLUEJAYS: Creighton enters the week at 14-6, having taken two-of-three from crosstown rival, Nebraska-Omaha, over the Easter weekend. The Bluejays’ game at Hoglund Ballpark on Tuesday will be the team’s first midweek contest since a March 14 win against North Dakota. Creighton is 7-2 on the road this season.
Creighton leads the Missouri Valley Conference with a .304 team batting average, while scoring 6.5 runs per game. Like KU, the Jays have done it with patience and speed. CU is 26-for-32 in stolen bases and is reaching base at a .411 clip with 94 walks in 20 games. Sophomore IF/P Jake Peter leads the team with a .424 batting average with five doubles and 19 RBIs. Junior OF Mike Gerber has a team-best three triples to go along with two homers and a .385 on base percentage.
On the mound, the Bluejays have posted a 3.84 team ERA, which ranks fourth in the MVC, while teams are batting .245 against the Creighton staff. CU hasn’t announced a starting pitcher, but junior RHP Brett Swain is a likely candidate. Swain is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts this season with five walks and three strikeouts in nine innings on the mound. Jake Peter is the team’s closer and has yet to allow a run in six appearances. The sophomore has three saves and nine strikeouts in six innings.
Head coach Ed Servais is in his 10th season at CU and has a record of 327-195 at the school. Servais has led the Bluejays to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament and was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 2011.
- Kansas does not have any native Nebraskans on its roster; however, Creighton has two players from the Sunflower State: IF Landon Lucansky (Leawood) and RHP Scott Byerley (Overland Park).
- Four Jayhawks: RHP Hayden Edwards, IF Kevin Kuntz, RHP Conner Murray and RHP Thomas Taylor, along with Byerley are all from Overland Park, Kan. Byerley and Murray were teammates at Olathe East High School.
- Kansas LHP Wes Benjamin (St. Charles) and Creighton IF Alex Staehely (Sugar Grove) and OF Mike Gerber (Naperville) all grew up in southwest suburbs of Chicago, Ill.
- Kansas C Tom Hougland and OF Connor McKay grew up in Parker, Colo., while Creighton RHP Tommy Strunc is from Highlands Ranch, Colo., another southern suburb of Denver.
- Kansas OF Tucker Tharp (Boulder) and Bluejay OF Ben Lahn (Westminster) are both from northern suburbs of Denver, Colo.
- Jayhawk IF Alex DeLeon is from Woodland Hills, Calif., while Creighton RHP Michael Kratochvil is from nearby Northridge, Calif.
- Creighton head coach Ed Servais’ son, Joe, played one year for head coach Ritch Price at Kansas (2007).
SCOUTING THE SPIRES: Saint Mary will play a doubleheader with Tabor College on Monday afternoon before facing the Jayhawks on Wednesday. The Spires enter the week with a 9-16 record after dropping three-of-four to McPherson College last weekend. USM is 6-10 on the road this season.
As a team, the Spires are batting .279 and averaging 3.7 runs per game. Freshman IF Grant Arnold leads USM with a .370 batting average and has 11 stolen bases in 13 attempts. Senior IF Joe Haak has provided punch in the middle of the lineup with seven doubles, 15 RBIs and a .345 batting average.
USM’s pitching staff sports a 4.59 team ERA, while opponents are batting .345 against the Spires. Sophomore RHP Cade Brummer is the team’s top pitcher with a 2-2 record and a 3.18 ERA in seven starts. Brummer has also recorded two complete games, including USM’s only shutout, and 27 strikeouts in 34 innings pitched.
Head coach Rob Miller is in his 11th season at Saint Mary after spending time as an assistant coach at Missouri Western and as the head coach at Leavenworth High School from 1993-98.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Senior Kevin Kuntz has terrific timing in the series finale against Oklahoma on March 30, recording his third three-hit game of the season. Kuntz started a seventh inning rally with a single, and scored the tying run on Alex DeLeon’s RBI hit. He then gave the Jayhawks an insurance run in the eighth with a two-out, RBI double down the left field line for his first extra base hit of the season.
Since coming back from an ankle injury that kept him out of the lineup for 10 games, the senior captain has hit .381 (8-for-21) with a double and four runs scored. He has also played terrific defense at shortstop, committing just one error in 53 chances this season.
The Jordan rules: Junior RHP Jordan Piché suffered his first loss in a Jayhawk uniform on March 29, but bounced back to record a save at Oklahoma the following afternoon. The bullpen ace has allowed just two runs in 11 relief appearances and collected four victories and three saves. His numbers are more impressive in Big 12 contests, where he has allowed just one run in eight innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.
One reason for Piché’s success has been his ability to pitch out of pressure situations. The junior has allowed just seven hits in 37 at bats (.189) with men on base, while he has set the tone early, retiring the first man he’s faced in 9 of his 11 appearances (.818).
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas baseball will play its first games at Hoglund Ballpark since March 13 when it hosts Creighton and Saint Mary this week.
- The Jayhawks are 5-0 at home this season, outscoring their opposition, 37-10, in those five games.
- Kansas is 188-90-1 (.676) at Hoglund Ballpark under head coach Ritch Price, including 124-23 (.844) against non-conference competition at home.
- KU is 63-89 all-time against current members of the Missouri Valley Conference, but 25-24 versus MVC foes under head coach Ritch Price.
- KU’s 12-inning shutout of TCU on March 17 marked its fifth shutout 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 12th base of the season in the Jayhawks’ March 30 win at No. 11 Oklahoma, marking the team’s 56th 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 20th sacrifice fly for the go-ahead run in the March 30 win at No. 11 Oklahoma. KU tallied just 14 sac flies in 2012.
- KU heads into the eighth week of the season leading the Big 12 in stolen bases (56), sacrifice flies (20) and has allowed the fewest home runs (five).
- 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 25 games, KU has 52 two-out RBIs, while batting .281 (80-for-285) with two outs in an inning.
- KU’s defense has been outstanding again this season. The Jayhawks have committed just 25 errors in 948 chances (.974), while throwing out 8-of-18 would-be base stealers and turning 20 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. 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 11 quality starts in 25 games. Senior Thomas Taylor leads the staff, allowing three runs or less in five of his six starts.
- Freshman 1B/DH Jacob Boylan has been a better hitter in clutch situations this season. Boylan is batting .360 (9-for-25) with runners in scoring position compared to .250 (10-for-40) with the bases empty.
- Senior 1B/C Alex DeLeon collected his fifth multi-RBI game on March 30 at No. 11 Oklahoma, producing three runs in the series finale. DeLeon leads all active Jayhawks with 16 multi-RBI games in his career.
- Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling snapped his streak in the series opener of the Oklahoma series. Dreiling had been on base in KU’s first 22 games via either a hit or a walk. The senior did bounce back with two hits in the series finale.
- Junior C Ka’iana Eldredge collected his third double of the season on March 30, which matched his total from last season.
- Senior SS Kevin Kuntz has hit out of the No. 2 spot in the batting order since returning from injury. In his career, Kuntz has hit .290 (51-for-176) out of the No. 2 hole and .264 (47-for-178) out of all other spots in the batting order.
- 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 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 has reached base in 23-of-24 games he’s played in this season. The second-year infielder is second in the Big 12 with 20 walks and ranks sixth with a .461 on-base percentage.
- Sophomore OF Dakota Smith has reached base at a .447 clip (17-for-38) when he leads off an inning. Since moving into the No. 1 spot in the batting order on March 2, Smith has a .345 on-base percentage and has stolen four bases.
- Sophomore OF Michael Suiter hit .412 (28-for-68) during the month of March, hitting safely in 13-straight games from Feb. 23-March 17.
- Junior OF Tucker Tharp must be thrilled to turn the calendar from March to April. In his career, Tharp is a .304 hitter (45-for-146) after April 1; compared to a .197 hitter (.31-for-157) before April 1.
- Sophomore Wes Benjamin is looking forward to pitching at Hoglund Ballpark this weekend. Benjamin is 3-3 with a 3.50 ERA in his career at Hoglund Ballpark, compared to a 2-5 record and a 4.97 ERA in his road starts.
- Junior RHP Frank Duncan recorded a season-best eight strikeouts in his last start at Oklahoma on March 28. The junior’s eight K’s were his highest total since he fanned eight against Texas A&M at the Big 12 Championship last season.
- 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 three hits in 34 at bats when he is not holding runners on base (.088).
- 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 12 of the 18 hitters he’s faced with two outs in an inning (66.7 percent).
- Junior RHP Jordan Piché has not allowed a walk since his March 2 outing against Eastern Michigan. With just three walks in 11 appearances, the junior leads the team with a 1.12 BB/9 IP among pitchers with 20-plus innings.
- 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 against Eastern Michigan on March 3. 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 fanned four Oklahoma hitters on March 29 to move into eighth on KU’s all-time strikeout list. Taylor’s 203 career strikeouts move him past Don Czyz (200) and Pete Smart (202).
- Sophomore RHP Colin Toalson has retired 13 of the 17 hitters he’s faced with four scoreless relief appearances.
UP NEXT: Kansas hosts its first Big 12 series of the season at Hoglund Ballpark when No. 21 Oklahoma State comes to town for a three-game series, beginning Friday, April 5. The Jayhawks and Cowboys will play the opener at 6 p.m., Friday and square off again Saturday at 2 p.m., with the finale scheduled for 1 p.m., Sunday.