Jayhawks Face Creighton, Ottawa in Midweek Contests
April 15, 2013
LEADING OFF: After winning its first series against Texas in four years, Kansas baseball will look to keep the momentum going in a pair of midweek games. The Jayhawks will travel to Omaha, Neb., to play Creighton at T.D. Ameritrade Park on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., before returning home for a makeup game against Ottawa at 6:30 p.m., on Wednesday.
ON THE AIR: Fans can tune in to Tuesday night’s game on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access with Tom Hedrick on the call. Wednesday’s game will feature a free live video stream and audio play-by-play, also on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access.
SERIES HISTORY: Creighton leads the all-time series with Kansas, 21-11, which includes a 6-4 triumph at Hoglund Ballpark earlier this season. The Bluejays have won four-straight in the series, dating back to Feb. 22, 2011. KU’s last win came at Rosenblatt Stadium in 2010. Kansas head coach Ritch Price is 5-4 all-time against the Jays. KU will be facing Ottawa for the first time since 2002. The Jayhawks are 12-0 all-time against the Braves.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas won its third Big 12 series of the year by taking two-of-three from Texas over the weekend. At 22-13 and 7-5 in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks have matched their regular season win total from a year ago as well as their win total in the conference. The Jayhawks are 5-6 in true road games and 11-10 away from Hoglund Ballpark overall.
KU’s offense ranks fifth in the Big 12 with a .283 team batting average. The Jayhawks have stolen 69 bases in 89 attempts and are averaging 5.7 runs per game. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter leads KU and ranks sixth in the conference with a .380 batting average. The second-year outfielder has six doubles, a triple and 18 RBIs this year. Senior 1B/C Alex DeLeon has provided pop in the middle of the order with 10 doubles, four homers and a team-best 27 RBIs.
The Jayhawks’ pitching staff is fifth in the league with a 3.36 ERA, while holding opponents to a .265 batting average. Senior RHP Thomas Taylor has paced the starting staff with a 3-0 record and a 2.45 ERA in eight starts. Junior RHP Jordan Piché has been dominant out of the KU bullpen. The Jayhawk closer is 5-1 with a league-best 0.49 ERA in 17 appearances. He is tied for the conference lead with seven saves and has fanned 28 in 36 2/3 innings.
LAST TIME OUT: Senior Kevin Kuntz’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the sixth brought home Tucker Tharp with the go-ahead run and three Jayhawk relievers held Texas scoreless over the final four innings as Kansas earned a 4-3 victory over the Longhorns Sunday in the rubber game of the three-game set at Hoglund Ballpark.
SCOUTING THE BLUEJAYS: Creighton returns to T.D. Ameritrade Park after being swept at Indiana State last weekend. The Jays have gone 3-3 since their win in Lawrence on April 2, which includes sweeping Bradley at home April 5-7. CU is 7-2 at home and 13-5 against non-conference opponents
Creighton ranks second in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) with a .297 team batting average. The Jays have swiped 32 bases in 41 attempts and are scoring 6.0 runs per game. Sophomore IF Jake Peter leads the Jays with a .374 batting average, including six doubles and 23 RBIs. Junior OF Mike Gerber is the Jays’ cleanup hitter, batting .306 with five doubles, four triples and four homers with a team-best .537 slugging percentage.
The Bluejay pitching staff is sixth in the MVC with a 4.04 ERA, while allowing opponents a .250 batting average. Freshman RHP Matt Warren will start against the Jayhawks on Tuesday night. Warren is 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA in eight games and three starts this season. Warren has walked three and struck out nine in 18 2/3 innings. Peter, who also plays shortstop for the Jays, is the team’s closer. He has recorded five saves in eight appearances with two walks and 11 strikeouts in eight innings.
Head coach Ed Servais is in his 10th season at CU and has a record of 330-198 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 BRAVES: Ottawa comes to Hoglund Ballpark having dropped six games in a row. The Braves were swept in a four-game series by Saint Mary last weekend.
The Braves have a .271 team batting average with 45 doubles, five homers and 25 stolen bases in 35 attempts. OU is averaging 4.1 runs per game. Senior OF Dustin Balmer leads the Braves, hitting .315 with six doubles and 10 RBIs. Junior IF Cody Parks and senior C Kyle Pener are tied for the team lead with 17 RBIs.
Ottawa’s pitching staff sports a 5.34 ERA and is allowing a .330 batting average against. Sophomore RHP Jake Kolenda is OU’s top pitcher with a 2-2 record and a 1.98 ERA in five starts this season. Kolenda has walked six and struck out 17 in 27 1/3 innings. Senior RHP Cole Meeks is tops on the team with four victories and has a 4.34 ERA in 45 2/3 innings.
Ottawa head coach Cory Blaine is in his second season with the Braves’ program and has a 32-53 record. Blaine was a four-year letterwinner and key member of the Ottawa University baseball team from 1995-98.
PICHE HONORED AGAIN: For the second-straight week, junior RHP Jordan Piché was tabbed the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week. The junior college transfer proved once again that he is one of the top relief pitchers in the country, earning a save and a win in two scoreless appearances against Texas last weekend. Piché tossed 4 1/3 innings of relief on April 12 to earn the victory in KU’s 12-inning triumph over the Longhorns, while he recorded the final five outs in the series-clinching game on Sunday.
The junior righty leads the nation in ERA (0.49) among qualifying pitchers, while his seven saves rank 38th in the country. Piché also leads the Big 12 with just 1.23 walks/9 IP and is 16th in the country in WHIP (0.85).
HOT HITTER: 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-straight games, collecting multiple hits in four of those games. Since coming back from injury on March 28, DeLeon is batting .340 (17-for-50) with five doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.
In the Texas series, the senior hit safely in all three games including two-hit efforts in the first two contests of the series.
MOVING ON UP: Senior RHP Thomas Taylor continues to ascend in the Kansas record books. With six strikeouts in his start on April 12 against Texas, the fourth-year pitcher moved closer to fifth all-time on KU’s career strikeout list with 215. 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 44 strikeouts in 2013 rank him sixth 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) 215
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas baseball travels to Creighton before hosting Ottawa this week. It marks KU’s third-straight week with five games and second consecutive week with a midweek game on the road.
- KU is 63-90 all-time against current members of the Missouri Valley Conference, but 25-25 versus MVC foes under head coach Ritch Price.
- At 22-13, the Jayhawks are off to their best start through 35 games since the 2009 season, when KU was 23-12. The Jayhawks did not win their 22nd game last season until May 18 against Missouri.
- Junior OF Tucker Tharp’s RBI single in the 12th inning on April 12 against Texas marked KU’s third walk-off win of the season as well as the team’s third victory in extra innings.
- Kansas has been tough at home this year, posting an 11-3 record at Hoglund Ballpark. In their 14 home games, the Jayhawks have outscored their opponents 79-48.
- The Jayhawks have turned 14 double plays in their last eight games, including eight during the Oklahoma State series. As a team, KU has turned 34 twin killings, which is second-most in the Big 12.
- Kansas hit two home runs in its win on April 11 against Missouri Valley. It marked the team’s first multi-homer game since May 1, 2012, when three different Jayhawks went deep at Arkansas-Little Rock.
- Sophomore RHP Drew Morovick became the third different Jayhawk reliever to record a save this season in the win over Iowa on April 9. So far this year, KU’s bullpen has nine saves in 12 chances.
- The NCAA released its weekly national statistics summary on April 15 and Kansas ranks in the top 50 (out of 297) in a handful of categories: KU is 22nd in stolen bases (69), 24th in sacrifice flies (21), 27th in sacrifice bunts (40) and 35th in double plays turned (34) and 48th in fielding percentage (.974).
- Individually, RHP Jordan Piché leads the country in ERA (0.49) and is also 16th in WHIP (0.85), 38th in saves (seven) and 43rd in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.6), SS Kevin Kuntz is second in sacrifice bunts (15), LHP Wes Benjamin is tied for 20th in starts (nine) and IF Justin Protacio is 27th in walks (29).
- 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.
- Senior SS Kevin Kuntz stole his fifth base of the season on April 12 against Texas, marking the team’s 69 steal of the year. 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 36 errors in 1,370 chances (.974), while throwing out 9-of-24 would-be base stealers and turning 34 double plays.
- The Jayhawk outfield collected another assist in the Texas series as Dakota Smith cut down a runner at the plate on April 14. As a unit, KU has 14 outfield assists with Smith and sophomore Michael Suiter each recording six this year.
- KU’s starting pitchers have 13 quality starts in 35 games. Senior Thomas Taylor leads the staff, allowing three runs or less in five of his eight starts.
UP NEXT: Kansas will hit the road for a three-game Big 12 series against Texas Tech in Lubbock, beginning on Friday, April 19. The Jayhawks and Red Raiders will meet at 6:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday night, before playing the series finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.