Kansas Baseball Faces 19th-Ranked Cowboys at Hoglund Ballpark
April 4, 2013
LEADING OFF: The Kansas Jayhawks will host their first Big 12 series of the year when No. 19 Oklahoma State visits Hoglund Ballpark this weekend. The Jayhawks and Cowboys will renew their historic rivalry with games on Friday (6 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.). Saturday’s game will be KU’s annual “Jayhawks For A Cure” game with the first 500 fans receiving light blue bracelets, while fans wearing light blue will receive discounted admission.
ON THE AIR: Live audio and video from all three of KU’s games against Oklahoma State will be available on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. Fans can also listen to the Friday and Sunday games on Lawrence radio station KLWN (1320 AM) with Tom Hedrick and Aaron Berlin on the call.
SERIES HISTORY: Oklahoma State leads the all-time series with Kansas, 134-55, including 50-33 in games played in Lawrence. However, the Jayhawks have won five of the last six meetings at Hoglund Ballpark and are 9-6 against the Cowboys at home under head coach Ritch Price.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas hosts Oklahoma State in its first weekend series at home since March 7-9, when it swept Niagara in a four-game set. The Jayhawks are 6-1 at Hoglund Ballpark this season and 3-3 in Big 12 play.
KU’s offense ranks fifth in the Big 12 with a .288 team batting average, while scoring 5.7 runs per game. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter leads the team with a .367 batting average with five doubles, a triple and 11 stolen bases. Senior 1B/C Alex DeLeon is one of three Jayhawks with a .321 batting average. He has eight doubles and a team-best 22 RBIs so far in 2013.
KU’s pitching staff is fifth in league with a 3.32 ERA while holding its opposition to a .255 batting average. Senior RHP Thomas Taylor is third in the Big 12 with a 1.29 ERA and is 2-0 with 32 strikeouts in 42 innings. The Jayhawks’ bullpen is anchored by junior RHP Jordan Piché, who is 4-1 with a 0.69 ERA in 13 appearances. He is tied for third in the Big 12 with four saves.
LAST TIME OUT: Sophomore Drew Morovick and three Jayhawk relievers combined for a four-hit shutout, while senior Alex DeLeon drove in all three runs as Kansas knocked off Saint Mary, 3-0, in a non-conference game Wednesday night at chilly Hoglund Ballpark.
SCOUTING THE COWBOYS: Oklahoma State enters the series at Kansas with an overall record of 21-6 and is 3-2 in Big 12 play. The Cowboys split two games with Baylor, with the third game being rained out, and took two-of-three from Texas last weekend. OSU’s game on Friday night will mark its first away from Allie P. Reynolds Stadium since Feb. 17. The Cowboys are 2-1 on the road this season. Oklahoma State is ranked No. 19 in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association (NCBWA) poll.
The Cowboys’ offense ranks third in the Big 12 with a .295 team batting average while scoring 6.6 runs per game. Junior 1B/OF Tanner Krietemeier leads the team and is seventh in the conference with a .368 average to go with six doubles, three homers and 24 RBIs. Sophomore OF Zach Fish has provided punch in the middle of the lineup. Fish leads the team in homers (five), RBIs (27) and slugging percentage (.583) along with a .333 batting average and six stolen bases.
OSU’s pitching staff ranks third in the league with a 2.94 ERA, while holding opponents to a .247 batting average. Sophomore RHP Jason Hursh is one of the top pitchers in the Big 12, sporting a 3-1 record and a 2.21 ERA in seven starts. Hursh has walked just seven and struck out 40 in 51 innings. Junior RHP Brendan McCurry, who also plays on the infield, is the team’s closer. McCurry is 3-1 with an 0.46 ERA and four saves in 12 appearances this season.
Josh Holliday is in his first season at Oklahoma State after spending the last three years as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt. Holliday was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State from 1996-99, helping the Cowboys reach the NCAA Tournament four times and the College World Series twice.
KU-OKLAHOMA STATE CONNECTIONS:
- Kansas senior SS Kevin Kuntz (Tulsa) is the only Jayhawk from Oklahoma, while OSU IF Robbie Rea (Topeka) and RHP Jon Perrin (Olathe) are both Sunflower State natives.
- Kuntz attended Union High School in Tulsa and was teammates with Cowboy RHP Mark Robinette.
- Perrin graduated from Olathe East High School and was teammates with KU RHP Conner Murray.
- Oklahoma State IF Robbie Rea (Cowley County) and RHP Phillip Wilson (Cowley County) both attended junior college in the state of Kansas.
- KU associate head coach Ryan Graves pitched for Oklahoma State in 1996. He was teammates with current Oklahoma State head coach Josh Holliday on the Cowboys’ 1996 College World Series team.
- Jayhawk head coach Ritch Price coached for the U.S. National Collegiate Team in 2008, serving as an assistant on that team under current Oklahoma State assistant coach, Rob Walton.
- Kansas C Tom Hougland (Parker), OF Connor McKay (Parker) and Oklahoma State 1B/P Tanner Krietemeier (Castle Rock) all grew up in southern suburbs of Denver, Colo.
- KU 1B/DH Jacob Boylan (Raymore) and Oklahoma State LHP Kyle Gehrs (Independence) are both from eastern suburbs of Kansas City, Mo.
WELCOME BACK KEVIN: Kansas welcomed senior SS Kevin Kuntz back into the starting lineup on March 20 at BYU and since then the fourth-year infielder has taken off. In his eight games since returning from a high ankle sprain, Kuntz has gone 12-for-28 (.429) with eight runs scored, three walks and two stolen bases. Kuntz has recorded three three-hit games in KU’s last eight contests, giving him five multi-hit contests this season.
The biggest change has been Kuntz’s ability to hit even when behind in the count. The senior had just one two-strike hit in his first six games of the year, compared to five two-strike knocks in his last eight contests.
TAYLOR MADE: Senior RHP Thomas Taylor has been one of the hottest pitchers in the Big 12 in recent weeks. In his four starts during the month of March, Taylor allowed just one earned run in 30 2/3 innings, going 2-0 in those starts. The senior recorded four consecutive quality starts and held opponents to a .179 batting average during that time.
Taylor recorded his first complete game shutout against Eastern Michigan on March 2 and then tossed seven shutout innings at TCU 15 days later. In his last start at No. 11 Oklahoma (March 29), Taylor allowed just a solo home run in 8 2/3 innings, which moved him into the top five in the league in ERA (1.29). The senior also ranks ninth in innings pitched and leads the Jayhawks with five quality starts.
HEATING UP: Senior Alex DeLeon is also heating up after coming back from a recent injury. In his five games since returning from a pulled hamstring, the fourth-year 1B/C is 6-for-19 (.316) with three doubles and seven RBIs. His hits have come at important times for the Jayhawks as he drove in the game-tying run in KU’s come-from-behind win at No. 11 Oklahoma on March 30, and collected all three of the team’s RBIs in Wednesday’s win over Saint Mary.
DeLeon has been a clutch performer for the Jayhawks this season. The senior leads the team with nine two-out RBIs and is batting .387 (12-for-31) with runners in scoring position.
THE JORDAN RULES: Junior RHP Jordan Piché recorded his fourth save of the season, pitching a perfect ninth inning against Saint Mary on Wednesday night. In a team high 13 relief appearances, the junior college transfer is 4-1 with four saves and a microscopic 0.69 ERA. Since blowing a save opportunity on March 2, Piché has allowed just two runs and has not walked anyone in his last 19 2/3 innings, while fanning 18 in that timeframe.
One reason for his success has been the Piché’s ability to pitch out of pressure situations. The third-year righty has allowed just seven hits in 38 at bats (.184) with men on base, while he has allowed just four hits in 32 at bats (.125) with two outs in an inning.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas baseball will play its first conference series of the season at Hoglund Ballpark this weekend. Dating back to 2009, the Jayhawks are 28-23-1 in Big 12 games at home (.548).
- The Jayhawks have been very tough at home this season so far. KU is 6-1 in its seven contests at Hoglund Ballpark, batting .297 in those games, while the pitching staff has posted a 1.00 ERA.
- Kansas is 189-91-1 (.674) at Hoglund Ballpark under head coach Ritch Price.
- The NCAA released its second RPI rankings of the season on Tuesday and KU is ranked 80th out of 297 Division I baseball teams. The Jayhawks’ RPI is third-best in the Big 12, behind Oklahoma (27) and Texas (52); while it ranks ahead of Baylor (84), TCU (109), Texas Tech (110), Kansas State (111), Oklahoma State (123) and West Virginia (146).
- The NCAA released its fourth round of national statistics on April 1, and KU ranks in the top 50 (out of 297) in a handful of categories: KU is seventh in sacrfice flies (20), 17th in the country in stolen bases (60) and 20th in stolen bases per game (2.24).
- Individually, senior IF Jordan Dreiling is 45th in the country in steals (14), sophomore IF Justin Protacio is 40th in walks per game (0.83), while Dreiling and freshman IF Tommy Mirabelli are tied for 37th in sacrifice flies (four). Senior RHP Thomas Taylor ranks 32nd in earned run average (1.29) and junior RHP Frank Duncan and sophomore LHP Wes Benjamin are tied for 17th in starts (seven).
- The Jayhawks posted their sixth shutout of the season on Wednesday night against Saint Mary. The team’s six shutouts are the most in a season since 1993. The school record for shutouts in a season is nine, 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 team-best 14th base on Wednesday night against Saint Mary, which also marked the team’s 60th steal of the year. It’s the most stolen bases KU has had in a season since 2005 (65), while the school record of 121 steals set in 1994 seems within reach.
- The Jayhawks 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 logged 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.
- KU’s defense has been outstanding again this season. The Jayhawks have committed just 28 errors in 1,027 chances (.973), while throwing out 8-of-19 would-be base stealers and turning 20 double plays.
- The Jayhawk outfield collected another assist Tuesday against Creighton, cutting down a runner at third base. As a unit, KU has 11 outfield assists with sophomore Michael Suiter leading the team with five, while sophomore Dakota Smith has four.
- 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.
JAYHAWKS IN THE PROS: Several former Jayhawks were on professional rosters on Opening Day:
- At the Major League level: LHP Tom Gorzelanny is with the Milwaukee Brewers, pitching out of the bullpen.
- At the AAA level: LHP Sam Freeman is with the Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis), RHP Colton Murray starts the year with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Philadelphia), LHP Mike Zagurski opens with the Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh).
- At the AA level: RHP Brett Bochy is with the Richmond Flying Squirrels (San Francisco), LHP Shaeffer Hall is with the Trenton Thunder (New York Yankees), 3B Erik Morrison opens the year with the Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox), 3B Robby Price is with the Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay), RHP Cameron Selik starts with the Harrisburg Senators (Washington), RHP Paul Smyth is on the Midland RockHounds (Oakland).
- At the A level: 3B Brandon Macias starts the year with the Brevard County Manatees (Milwaukee), 1B Tony Thompson and RHP T.J. Walz are with the Stockton Ports (Oakland).
UP NEXT: Kansas will travel to Iowa City, Iowa for a brief two-game non-conference series against the Iowa Hawkeyes, beginning Tuesday, April 9. The Jayhawks and Hawkeyes will meet at 6 p.m., Tuesday and wrap up the series at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.