Kansas Battles Creighton at TD Ameritrade Park Tuesday Night
April 2, 2012
LEADING OFF: After taking a three-game series from Texas Tech, Kansas hits the road next week for four-straight games, beginning with a midweek contest against Creighton at TD Ameritrade Park. The Jayhawks and Bluejays will face off at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening in the only scheduled meeting of the year between the schools.
ON THE AIR: Tuesday’s game will be carried online on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access at kuathletics.com. Fans can also follow the action on GameTracker at kuathletics.com.
SERIES HISTORY: Creighton and Kansas have met 30 times on the baseball diamond, dating back to 1903. The Bluejays lead the all-time series 19-11, including 8-3 in games played in Omaha. CU swept the season series from KU in 2011, winning 4-3 in 10 innings in Lawrence and 5-3 in Omaha.
ABOUT KANSAS: The Jayhawks won their first Big 12 series of the year over the weekend, taking two-of-three from Texas Tech at Hoglund Ballpark. KU’s wins Saturday and Sunday marked the third time in the last three weeks that the team has won back-to-back games but has not won three-straight since the first weekend of the season. The Jayhawks are 3-7 in true road games this year and 8-13 away from Hoglund Ballpark.
KU’s offense is averaging 4.7 runs per game and batting .260, which ranks ninth in the Big 12. Senior 1B Chris Manship leads the team with a .355 batting average along with a .565 slugging percentage and has 10 RBIs. On the mound, KU has posted a 4.27 team ERA, which ranks seventh in the Big 12 and held opponents to a .269 batting average. Freshman Robert Kahana has been stellar out of the Jayhawk bullpen, posting a 2.40 ERA in 13 appearances with 21 strikeouts in 30 innings.
SCOUTING THE BLUEJAYS: Creighton enters the midweek tilt with Kansas desperate for a win. The Jays are 12-13 on the year, but just 1-6 since sweeping a doubleheader from North Dakota on March 17. Creighton is 5-4 in its home games this season.
The Bluejay offense averages 4.6 runs per game and is batting .238 as a team, which ranks eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference. Senior 1B Nick Judkins leads the Jays’ offense with a .327 batting average with a .427 on-base percentage and a team-best 20 RBIs this season. Sophomore OF Brad McKewon is batting .300 on the season with two doubles, a homer and nine RBIs in 22 games.
Creighton’s pitching staff ranks fifth in the Missouri Valley with a 3.69 ERA and is holding opponents to a .260 batting average. Lawrence native Andrew Urban will get the start for the Jays Tuesday night. Urban is 1-1 on the year in six starts with a 2.95 ERA in 21 1/3 innings pitched. Senior RHP Reese McGraw is the team’s closer, posting three saves and a 3.92 ERA in 15 relief appearances this season with 21 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings.
Head coach Ed Servais is in his ninth season at Creighton and has an overall record of 311-178 in nine seasons at the school and a 493-260-1 record in 17-plus seasons as a head coach at Creighton and St. Mary’s (Minn.). He has been named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year four times and led the Jays to two MVC regular season titles and three NCAA Regional appearances.
LAST TIME OUT: Senior Chris Manship went 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs, while redshirt junior Thomas Taylor allowed two runs over 6 2/3 innings as Kansas bested Texas Tech, 9-3, in the rubber game of the three-game series at Hoglund Ballpark Sunday afternoon.
K-A-H-A-N-A SPELLS RELIEF: Freshman RHP Robert Kahana has been a welcome addition to the Kansas bullpen. The first-year righty has allowed just one earned run in his last seven relief appearances, which spans 15 1/3 innings (0.65 ERA). Overall, Kahana has a 1.66 ERA as a relief pitcher this season and has held opponents to a .239 batting average (11-for-46) with men on base.
Kahana’s 2.40 overall ERA ranks sixth in the Big 12 Conference and is the top mark among qualifying freshmen in the conference.
Big 12 ERA Leaders (Min. 1 IP/1 team G)
1. Andrew Heaney, Oklahoma State 1.69
2. Duke von Schamann, Texas Tech 1.72
3. Rafael Pineda, Texas A&M.. 1.84
4. Trent Blank, Baylor……….. 1.88
5. Blake Holovach, Missouri…. 2.35
6. Robert Kahana, Kansas.. 2.40
MANNY IMPROVEMENTS: Senior 1B/DH Chris Manship has become an impact hitter in the middle of the Jayhawk lineup in recent weeks. The senior helped the Jayhawks to a pair of wins over the weekend against Texas Tech by collecting four hits and four RBIs in two starts, which included a pair of doubles. Over his last 10 games, Manship is batting .371 (13-for-35) with three doubles, a homer and five RBIs. It’s a big improvement over last year, when Manship’s season average never got above .257.
Manship is batting 118 points better this year than he was at this time last season and has raised his slugging percentage by 277 points. Below is a look at Manship and a few of his teammates who have significantly improved on their 2011 numbers.
Rising Batting Averages
Player 2011 2012
1. Jordan Dreiling……….. .111……. .271
2. Chris Manship………. .239…… .355
3. Alex DeLeon………….. .217……. .310
TUCKER TAKES OFF: Sophomore OF Tucker Tharp has also turned his season around in the last couple of weekends, capped by a 3-for-4 game against Texas Tech on Sunday. Tharp has raised his batting average by 74 points since March 15, going 10-for-29 (.345) during that span. After two weekends of Big 12 play, Tharp is the team’s leading hitter in conference games at .375 with a pair of multi-hit games.
A big reason for Tharp’s turnaround has been his ability hit the ball up the middle and to the opposite field. Of his 17 base hits this season, seven have been to center field (41.1 percent) and three more have been to right field (17.6 percent). Early in the season, a majority of the balls the sophomore put into play were to the left side.
QUALITY STARTERS: KU’s series win over Texas Tech was spearheaded by the pitching performances of RHP Frank Duncan, LHP Wes Benjamin and RHP Thomas Taylor. The trio of hurlers combined to allow six runs in 21 2/3 innings on the mound, while all recording quality starts.
A quality start is when a starting pitcher goes six innings or more and allows three runs or fewer. KU’s group of weekend starters has 10 quality starts in 21 chances this year, after the team had just 16 all of 2011. The Jayhawks are 8-2 this season when their starting pitcher has a quality start.
– Kansas travels to Creighton Tuesday to face its third different opponent from the Missouri Valley Conference this season. KU is 0-2 against MVC opponents in 2012 and 63-85 all-time against the Valley.
– By taking two-of-three from Texas Tech, Kansas won its first conference series since taking two-of-three at Missouri April 15-17 of last season.
– KU also snapped a 13-game losing streak in Big 12 contests with Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Red Raiders. The Jayhawks’ last conference win before Saturday came on April 23, 2011 against Texas.
– Kansas has committed just 22 errors in 27 games played. The Jayhawks’ .979 fielding percentage is 14th-best nationally and ranks second in the Big 12.
– The Jayhawks have also allowed just 19 stolen bases in 27 games, which ties for the third-fewest in the Big 12.
– Kansas has done a great job of starting innings. KU has had the leadoff man reach base in 36.8 percent (89-for-242) of its offensive innings in 2012.
– The Jayhawks have out-hit 14 of their 27 opponents this season. KU has a 11-3 record when it collects more base hits than its opponent.
– The Jayhawks have scored 29 of their 126 runs this season in the first inning, or 23 percent.
– KU’s outfielders have recorded nine assists this season after collecting just 13 all of last season. Freshman Connor McKay and sophomore Tucker Tharp are tied for the team lead with three each, while senior Jason Brunansky, freshman Dakota Smith and freshman Michael Suiter have also thrown a baserunner out from the outfield.
– Kansas collected eight two-out RBIs in the Texas Tech series and 12 in the team’s four games last week.
– The Jayhawks’ 11-10 victory on March 21 over Southern Utah marked KU’s first walk-off win since April 2, 2011 when a bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning gave KU a 4-3 win over then-No. 19 Baylor.
– KU collected 19 hits in the 11-inning win over Southern Utah, which represented the most by the team since recording 20 hits at Oklahoma State on April 30, 2010.
– Kansas skipper Ritch Price coached his 1,000th game at the Division I level on March 6 against North Dakota. Price has a .520 winning percentage (526 wins, three ties) in 17-plus seasons at Cal Poly and Kansas.
– 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.
– Senior C James Stanfield collected two walks and a hit-by-pitch in Sunday’s win over Texas Tech. Prior to Sunday’s game, Stanfield had been issued just three bases on balls and been hit by pitch once.
– Redshirt-junior 1B Jake Marasco finished the month of March batting .364, matching a career-high with 24 hits. In his career, Marasco has hit .335 (66-for-197) in March games.
– Junior SS Kevin Kuntz had two hits in Saturday’s game, including his first career triple. Kuntz has three extra base hits this season after collecting just one in 2011.
– After a slow start, junior IF Jordan Dreiling has come alive lately. After a 1-for-17 stretch in early March, Dreiling has gone 9-for-30 (.300) over his last nine games.
– Senior 3B Zac Elgie took over the team lead with eight two-out RBIs with a two-run double Sunday against Texas Tech. Elgie has three two-out RBI hits in KU’s last five games.
– Freshman OF Connor McKay took over the team lead with his eighth multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-4 in Saturday’s contest.
– Freshman OF Michael Suiter has done a tremendous job setting the table. Suiter has led off an inning 16 times this season and has reached base in nine of those opportunities (.563).
– Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin worked from ahead for most of the afternoon in Saturday’s win over Texas Tech. Benjamin fired first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 31 hitters he faced in the game.
– Junior RHP Frank Duncan continues to pitch well despite a lack of run support. In his last three starts Duncan is 0-3, but has allowed just seven runs in 21 innings and held opposing hitters to a .194 batting average.
– Senior RHP Jordan Jakubov has been great at cleaning up other pitchers’ innings. The senior has allowed just three of his 13 inherited base runners to score this season (23.1 percent).
– Freshman RHP Robert Kahana has pitched much better with men on base recently. Over his last four outings, Kahana has allowed just one hit in 13 at bats with base runners (.077).
– Freshman RHP Drew Morovick has done a great job against leadoff men this season. In the 20 innings Morovick has started, just two men have reached base to open the inning (.100).
– Junior RHP Tanner Poppe earned his fourth save of the season Saturday against Texas Tech and the sixth of his career.
– Junior RHP Thomas Taylor has induced a team-high six double plays, including one against Baylor on March 25.
– Kansas has one player on its roster from the state of Nebraska: LHP Jaydee Jurgensen, who hails from Lincoln.
– Creighton RHP Andrew Urban is a native of Lawrence, Kan., and graduated from Lawrence High School in 2009. KU IF Jordan Dreiling and RHP Colin Toalson are also Lawrence natives, but are graduates of Free State High School.
– Creighton LHP Ty Blach (Centennial) and Kansas OF Connor McKay (Parker) are both graduates of Regis Jesuit High School and are both from suburban Denver, Colo.
– Creighton OF Mike Gerber (Naperville) and KU LHP Wes Benjamin (St. Charles) are both from southwest suburbs of Chicago, Ill.
– Creighton head coach Ed Servais is no stranger to the Big 12. Servais was an assistant coach at Iowa State from 1996-97.
– Servais’ youngest son, Joe, played one season at KU (2007) before transferring to Creighton for his final collegiate season.
JAYHAWK PRO UPDATE: While the current Kansas baseball team was taking care of business on the field this weekend, several former Jayhawks were making their marks in spring training games. A team-record six former KU baseball players appeared in major league spring training contests over the weekend, including four players – RHP Brett Bochy, IF Erik Morrison, RHP Colton Murray and IF Robby Price – hoping to play in their first major league regular season games this year.
UP NEXT: Kansas completes a four-game road swing with a three-game series at Oklahoma State over the weekend. The Jayhawks will face the Cowboys on Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. Saturday’s contest will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net.