Jayhawks Travel to Iowa For Two-Game Series
April 8, 2013
LEADING OFF: Fresh off a series win against No. 19 Oklahoma State, Kansas baseball will hit the road for a brief two-game series at Iowa this week. The Jayhawks and Hawkeyes will play two games at Duane Banks Field, on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and Wednesday at 4 p.m.
ON THE AIR: Live audio will be available for both of KU’s games at Iowa on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. A link for All-Access can be found on KUAthletics.com. Fans in the Lawrence area can also tune in to both games on KLWN Radio (1320 AM) with Aaron Berlin on the call.
SERIES HISTORY: Kansas leads the all-time series with Iowa, 13-7, including a 3-0 record in games played in Iowa City. The Jayhawks’ last visit to Duane Banks Field came in 2011, when KU scored a 12-5 triumph over the Hawkeyes. KU has won four-straight meetings in the series and eight of the last nine.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas travels to Iowa for a brief two-game road trip on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Jayhawks went 3-2 in their five-game homestand last week, taking two of three from then-No. 19 Oklahoma State. KU is 4-6 on the road this season and 0-1 in non-conference road games.
KU’s offense ranks fifth in the Big 12 with a .286 team batting average, while scoring 5.6 runs per game. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter leads the team with a .391 batting average with six doubles, a triple and 11 stolen bases. Sophomore IF Justin Protacio is second on the team with a .319 batting average and ranks sixth in the league with a .462 on-base percentage. Protacio has drawn a team-high 24 walks and has 16 runs scored on the year.
KU’s pitching staff is fifth in the Big 12 Conference with a 3.56 ERA while holding its opposition to a .265 batting average. Senior RHP Thomas Taylor is fifth in the league with a 1.84 ERA and is 3-0 with 38 strikeouts in 49 innings. The Jayhawks’ bullpen is anchored by junior RHP Jordan Piché, who is 4-1 with a 0.59 ERA in 15 appearances. He is tied for second in the Big 12 with six saves.
LAST TIME OUT: Kansas played small ball to score three early runs and rode the pitching of sophomore Wes Benjamin and junior Jordan Piché to a 3-2 win over No. 19 Oklahoma State in the rubber game of the three-game Big 12 series Sunday at Hoglund Ballpark.
SCOUTING THE HAWKEYES: Iowa enters the midweek series with Kansas at 11-15, having taken the final game of a three-game series against Nebraska on Sunday. The Hawkeyes have struggled in recent weeks, going 4-9 in their last 13 games. Iowa opened the year at 7-6, which included a win over Big 12 opponent West Virginia at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla., in early March.
Iowa’s offense ranks seventh in the Big Ten Conference with a .269 team batting average, while scoring 4.9 runs per game. Junior 1B/C Trevor Kenyon leads the team with a .364 batting average, with four doubles and 11 RBIs, while sophomore IF Jake Yacinich is tops on the team with 17 RBIs and is hitting .319. Sophomore OF Eric Toole is batting .310 with 16 runs scored and has a team-best 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts.
The Hawkeyes’ pitching staff is eighth in the Big Ten with a 4.18 ERA, while opponents are batting .294 against them. Iowa has announced that freshman RHP Calvin Matthews (Tuesday) and sophomore LHP Sasha Kuebel (Wednesday) will start against the Jayhawks. Matthews is 1-3 on the year with a 5.06 ERA in five starts and has 15 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings. Kuebel is 1-6 with a 6.28 ERA in six starts this year, but has fanned 26 in 38 2/3 innings. Sophomore RHP Nick Hibbing is Iowa’s closer, posting two saves in eight relief appearances with a 4.58 ERA.
Head coach Jack Dahm is in his 10th season at Iowa and has an overall record of 224-290 with the Hawkeyes. He is 507-566-2 in 18 years as a head coach at the Division I level.
- The Jayhawks do not have any Iowa natives on their roster, while Iowa does not have players from the Sunflower State.
- Kansas sophomore LHP Wes Benjamin is from St. Charles, Ill., while the Hawkeyes have six players that also grew up outside of Chicago: C Keith Brand (Northbrook), LHP Jared Mandel (Mundelein), C Jimmy Frankos (Park Ridge), C/1B Blake Hickman (Chicago), C Dan Sheppard (Downers Grove) and LHP Jack Richmond (Evanston).
- Iowa head coach Jack Dahm came from Creighton, where he spent four years (1986-89) as a player and 10 as a head coach (1993-2002). He faced Kansas six times as a player and has coached 18 games against the Jayhawks.
- Hawkeye assistant coach Kevin Dillon is also familiar with the Jayhawks, having spent four years at Baylor as a player (2003-06) and served as the Bears’ volunteer assistant coach last season.
THE JORDAN RULES: Junior relief pitcher Jordan Piché was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after saving three KU wins and did not allowing a run in four appearances overall last week. Piché worked 6 2/3 innings and allowed no runs on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. The junior college transfer is tied for second in the Big 12 in saves with six and has the fifth-best ERA among qualifying NCAA Division I pitchers at 0.59.
Piché issued a one-out walk in the ninth inning on Friday night against Oklahoma State, which snapped a streak of 19 2/3 innings without allowing a base on balls that spanned 10 relief appearances. He also made a three-inning save in the series-clincher against the 19th-ranked Cowboys, protecting a 3-2 lead.
SUPER SUITER: Sophomore OF Michael Suiter continued his hot hitting in the three-game series against Oklahoma State, going 7-for-12, which included his first career four-hit game on April 5. Suiter beat out two infield hits in his first two at bats, then doubled in two runs in the fourth inning and collected a clean single in the fifth. He is the third different Jayhawk to record a four-hit game this season.
The second-year outfielder has been one of the most consistent hitters in the Jayhawk lineup, hitting safely in 25-of-30 games this season. He had a 13-game hitting streak, which was snapped in mid-March, but has continued to produce. Suiter’s .391 batting average ranks third in the Big 12 and is 189 points higher than his average was at this time last year.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS: Kansas turned eight double plays in the three-game series against Oklahoma State, which was a big key in holding the 19th-ranked Cowboys’ offense in check in the two Jayhawk wins. KU’s middle infield defense has been outstanding this season. Senior SS Kevin Kuntz and sophomore 2B Justin Protacio have combined to make just six errors in 215 chances for a combined .972 fielding percentage, while turning 20 of KU’s 28 double plays.
MOVING ON UP: Senior RHP Thomas Taylor continues to ascend in the Kansas record books. With six strikeouts in his Friday start against Oklahoma State, the fourth-year pitcher moved into sixth all-time on KU’s career strikeout list with 209. With a strong finish to the season, the senior could move into the top three in team history.
Taylor’s strikeout numbers have been consistent this year as he is averaging 6.98 strikeouts per nine innings, but has not collected more than eight in any start this season. His 38 strikeouts in 2013 tie him for ninth in the Big 12.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas baseball travels to Iowa City this week for the first time since 2011. The Jayhawks are 3-0 all-time at Duane Banks Field.
- The Jayhawks are 13-8 in non-conference games this season, including 7-7 in games away from Hoglund Ballpark.
- Kansas is 129-166-1 all-time against current members of the Big Ten Conference, which includes a 101-142-1 mark against former conference rival Nebraska.
- The NCAA released its second RPI rankings of the season on April 2 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 also released its weekly national statistics summary and Kansas ranks in the top 50 (out of 297) in a handful of categories: KU is 15th in sacrifice flies (22), 20th in stolen bases (62), 34th in sacrifice bunts (33) and 47th in double plays per game (0.93).
- Individually, RHP Jordan Piché ranks fifth in the country in ERA (0.59), 23rd in WHIP (0.85), 40th in strikeouts-to-walks ratio (6.25) and 42nd in saves (six), SS Kevin Kuntz is sixth in sacrifice bunts (11), RHP Frank Duncan and LHP Wes Benjamin are tied for 17th in games started (seven), 3B Jordan Dreiling is 42nd in stolen bases (14), IF Justin Protacio is 42nd in walks (24), OF Michael Suiter is 47th in batting average (.391),
- The Jayhawks posted their sixth shutout of the season on April 3 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.
- Sophomore OF Connor McKay stole his third base of the season in Sunday’s win over Oklahoma State, which also marked the team’s 62nd steal of the year. It is 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.
- Kansas matched a season high with three sacrifice bunts in Sunday’s win over Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks have 33 sacrifices in 2013, which are tied for third-most in the Big 12. Senior SS Kevin Kuntz leads the team with 11 sacrifice bunts, which are fifth-most by a Jayhawk in school history.
- 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 28 double plays.
- The Jayhawk outfield collected two more assists in the Oklahoma State series as Michael Suiter cut down a runner at the plate on Sunday and Dakota Smith doubled up a runner at second base Saturday. As a unit, KU has 13 outfield assists with Suiter leading the team with six, while Smith has five.
- KU’s starting pitchers have 12 quality starts in 30 games. Senior Thomas Taylor leads the staff, allowing three runs or less in five of his seven starts.
UP NEXT: The Jayhawks return to Hoglund Ballpark for a three-game series against Texas, beginning Friday, April 12 at 6 p.m. KU and the Longhorns will also meet on Saturday, April 13 at 2 p.m., and wrap up the series Sunday, April 14 at 1 p.m.