Kansas Resumes Big 12 Play at Home Against Texas
April 12, 2013
LEADING OFF: Winners of three-straight, the Kansas Jayhawks will resume play in the Big 12 Conference when they welcome Texas to Hoglund Ballpark for a three-game series. The Jayhawks and Longhorns will meet on Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., and complete the set Sunday at 1 p.m.
ON THE AIR: Live audio and video for all three games from the Texas series will be available free of charge on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. Fans can also listen to the opening game and the finale on KLWN Radio (1320 AM) with Sean Levine and Aaron Berlin on the call.
SERIES HISTORY: Texas leads the all-time series with Kansas, 41-17, including 15-9 in games played in Lawrence. The Longhorns have won three-straight series against the Jayhawks, dating back to the 2010 season. KU’s last series win over Texas came in March of 2009, when the Jayhawks swept the Longhorns, who were ranked No. 1 at the time. Kansas is 11-22 against Texas under head coach Ritch Price.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas has won three-straight games and two of its first three Big 12 series this year to sit at 20-12 overall and 5-4 in conference play, fourth in early league standings. The Jayhawks have been dominant at home, posting a 9-2 record at Hoglund Ballpark, while outscoring the opposition, 67-38.
KU’s offense ranks fourth in the Big 12 with a .288 team batting average, while scoring 5.8 runs per game. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter leads the team with a .388 batting average with six doubles, a triple and 13 stolen bases. Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling is second on the team with a .328 batting average and ranks third in the league with 14 stolen bases. Dreiling also has eight doubles this season, which matches his career total coming into the year.
KU’s pitching staff is fifth in the Big 12 Conference with a 3.39 ERA while holding its opposition to a .264 batting average. Senior RHP Thomas Taylor is fourth 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: Senior Alex DeLeon and sophomore Connor McKay both homered and combined for five RBIs as Kansas earned its third-straight win with a 10-1 triumph over Missouri Valley College at chilly Hoglund Ballpark Thursday evening.
SCOUTING THE LONGHORNS: Texas enters the weekend series with a record of 18-13 and is tied for eighth in the Big 12 Conference at 3-6. The Longhorns scored a season-high 12 runs in a 12-5 win over Texas State on April 9. UT is 6-4 in its last 10 games and 3-7 away from Disch-Falk Field.
UT’s offense is seventh in the Big 12 with a .266 team batting average. The Longhorns average 3.9 runs per game and have stolen 38 bases in 47 attempts. Junior OF Mark Payton ranks third in the Big 12 with a .411 batting average and has a team-high nine doubles and four triples on the year. Payton’s .563 slugging percentage gives him the second-best average in the league, while he also ranks third in on-base percentage at .492. Freshman IF C.J. Hinojosa has provided pop in the middle of the lineup, slugging two of the team’s eight homers and driving in a team-high 19 runs to go with a .313 batting average.
The Longhorns’ pitching staff is once again one of the best in college baseball. With a 2.70 team ERA, UT ranks second in the Big 12 and 17th in the nation. Reigning Big 12 Pitcher of the Week, LHP Dillon Peters, anchors the staff with a 2-2 record and a 2.25 ERA in eight starts. Peters tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings against No. 8 Oklahoma last weekend, allowing just two hits with no walks and five strikeouts. Sophomore RHP Parker French (3-2, 2.32 ERA) and junior RHP Nathan Thornhill (2-3, 2.49 ERA) round out UT’s rotation. Junior RHP Corey Knebel is Texas’ closer. The third-year reliever leads the conference with seven saves and has a 2.00 ERA, allowing just six runs in 18 appearances with nine walks and 39 strikeouts in 27 innings.
Texas head coach Augie Garrido is in his 17th season with the Longhorns and has a record of 714-860-2 at the school. Garrido has won 1,865 games in his 45-year coaching career and led Texas to two national titles (2002 and 2005), seven College World Series appearances and seven Big 12 Championships.
LHP Tyler Watson (Georgetown) is the only Jayhawk from the Lone Star State; Texas does not have any Kansas natives on its roster.
Watson grew up just 27 miles from UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, and was teammates with UT closer Corey Knebel at Georgetown High School.
Kansas LHP Wes Benjamin grew up in a northwest suburb of Chicago, where Texas OF Mark Payton is from.
Texas head coach Augie Garrido and Kansas head coach Ritch Price both coached at Cal Poly in their careers. Garrido was the Mustangs’ coach from 1970-72, while Price coached in San Luis-Obispo from 1995-2002.
THE JORDAN RULES: Junior relief pitcher Jordan Piché was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Monday after saving three KU wins and made four scoreless relief appearances 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 an 0.59 ERA in 30 2/3 innings pitched this season.
Piché issued a one-out walk in the ninth inning on April 5 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. He became the first Jayhawk to be named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week since Ka’iana Eldredge earned the honor in 2011.
BACK ON TRACK: Senior 1B/C Alex DeLeon seems to be in prime form after missing three games in March due to a hamstring injury. The fourth-year captain came back slow, but has hit safely in seven of his last eight games and collected multiple hits five times since March 30. DeLeon’s offense helped carry the Jayhawks during their two midweek wins. He went 4-for-8 with two doubles, a homer and three RBIs in the games against Iowa and Missouri Valley.
DeLeon is tied for sixth in the Big 12 with 10 doubles and has raised his slugging percentage from .386 last season to .510 this year. His batting average is up nearly 60 points from this time a year ago.
SHORT GAME: KU has taken advantage of its short game recently, collecting six bunt singles in its last five games and has advanced base runners with a sacrifice eight times in the last week. Senior SS Kevin Kuntz leads the team with 11 sacrifice bunts on the season – which ranks fifth on KU’s single-season list. The senior captain also leads the team with three bunt singles, including two in the last four games.
MOVING ON UP: Senior RHP Thomas Taylor continues to ascend in the Kansas record books. With six strikeouts in his start on April 5 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.
Kansas Most Career Strikeouts
1. T.J. Walz (2008-11) 307
2. Rusty Philbrick (1997-2000) 242
3. Chris Corn (1991-94) 238
4. Jimmy Walker (1990-93) 226
5. Steve Renko III (1988-90) 220
6. Thomas Taylor (2010-present) 209
7. Jamie Splittorff (1993-95) 207
AROUND THE HORN:
– Kansas baseball hosts Texas in a three-game Big 12 series April 12-14. This marks the first time the Jayhawks have faced an unranked Longhorn team during the regular season since 1998.
– At 20-12, the Jayhawks are off to their best start through 32 games since the 2009 season, when KU was 21-11. The Jayhawks did not win their 20th game last season until May 12 at Kansas State.
– Kansas has been tough at home this year, posting a 9-2 record at Hoglund Ballpark. In their 11 home games, the Jayhawks have outscored their opponents 67-38, and outhit them 102-85.
– The Jayhawks have turned 11 double plays in their last five games, including eight during the Oklahoma State series. As a team, KU has turned 31 twin killings, which is second-most in the Big 12.
– Kansas hit two home runs in its win Thursday against Missouri Valley. It marked the team’s first multi-homer game since May 1, 2012, when three different Jayhawks went deep at UALR.
– Sophomore RHP Drew Morovick became the third different Jayhawk reliever to record a save this season in Tuesday’s win over Iowa. So far this year, KU’s bullpen has eight saves in 10 chances.
– The NCAA released its third RPI rankings of the season on April 9 and KU is ranked 68th out of 297 Division I baseball teams. The Jayhawks’ RPI is third-best in the Big 12, behind Oklahoma (18) and Texas (55) while it ranks ahead of Kansas State (78), Baylor (84), Texas Tech (107), Oklahoma State (116), TCU (133) and West Virginia (135).
– The NCAA also released its weekly national statistics summary on April 11 and Kansas ranks in the top 50 (out of 297) in a handful of categories: KU is 15th in sacrifice flies (21), 18th in stolen bases (66), 34th in sacrifice bunts (34) and 43rd in double plays turned (31).
– Individually, SS Kevin Kuntz is seventh in sacrifice bunts (11), pitchers Frank Duncan and Wes Benjamin are tied for 24th in starts (eight), OF Michael Suiter ranks 47th in batting average (.395), IF Jordan Dreiling is 49th in steals (14), RHP Jordan Piché is 48th in saves (six) and IF Justin Protacio is 49th in walks (25).
– 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 Arkansas-Little Rock on May 1, 2012.
– Sophomore IF Justin Protacio stole two bases in KU’s win over Missouri Valley Thursday, giving the team 68 steals in 85 attempts (.800). It is the most stolen bases KU has had in a season since 2004 (72), while the school record of 121 steals set in 1994 seems within reach.
– The Jayhawks recorded their Big 12-leading 21st sacrifice fly on April 9 at Iowa. KU’s 21 sacrifice flies are more than the team had in all of 2012 (14).
– 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 35 errors in 1,244 chances (.972), while throwing out 9-of-21 would-be base stealers and turning 31 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 April 7 and Dakota Smith doubled up a runner at second base the day before. 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 32 games. Senior Thomas Taylor leads the staff, allowing three runs or less in five of his seven starts.
UP NEXT: Kansas will play the first of four away games next week on Tuesday, April 16 when it travels to Creighton for a 6:30 p.m., game at T.D. Ameritrade Stadium. The Bluejays won the first meeting of the year between the schools, 6-4, on April 2 in Lawrence.