Jayhawks Take On Texas Tech In Lubbock
April 18, 2013
LEADING OFF: Off to its best start since 2009, Kansas baseball hits the road for a three-game series at Texas Tech this weekend. The Jayhawks will face the Red Raiders at 6:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday evening, before completing the set Sunday at 1 p.m.
ON THE AIR: Friday’s KU-Texas Tech game will be televised nationally on Fox College Sports Pacific. Check local listings for the channel in your area. Fans can listen to all three games of the series on KLWN Radio (1320 AM) or online on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. Veteran play-by-play man Tom Hedrick and Aaron Berlin will have the call.
SERIES HISTORY: Texas Tech leads the all-time series with Kansas, which dates back to 1981, by a 32-18 count. The Red Raiders also lead 17-6 in games played in Lubbock. However, the Jayhawks took two-of-three from Tech last season in Lawrence. KU’s last series win in Lubbock came in 2003, while head coach Ritch Price is 13-16 against TTU in his career.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas dropped a Tuesday night game against Creighton in Omaha, which moved the Jayhawks to 22-14 overall. With 22 wins in its first 36 games, KU is off to its best start since opening the 2009 season with a 24-12 record – en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance. The Jayhawks are 5-7 in true road games this season and 11-11 overall away from Hoglund Ballpark.
KU’s offense ranks fifth in the Big 12 with a .280 team batting average. The Jayhawks have stolen 70 bases in 90 attempts and are averaging 5.6 runs per game. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter leads KU and ranks fifth in the Big 12 Conference with a .379 batting average. The second-year outfielder has six doubles, a triple and 19 RBIs this year. Senior 1B/C Alex DeLeon has provided pop in the middle of the order with 11 doubles, four homers and a team-best 28 RBIs.
The Jayhawks’ pitching staff is fifth in the league with a 3.55 ERA, while holding opponents to a .267 batting average. Senior RHP Thomas Taylor paces the starting rotation 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 nation-leading 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: Creighton center fielder Mike Gerber went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, while third baseman Federico Castagnini collected four runs batted in as the Bluejays unloaded on Kansas, 12-4, Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park.
SCOUTING THE RED RAIDERS: Texas Tech is looking to get back on track after dropping its last seven games, including an 11-2 loss at No. 22 Rice on Tuesday night. The Red Raiders opened the year with a 15-8 record before falling on hard times. Tech is 12-5 at home this season and 4-8 in the Big 12 Conference.
Tech’s offense ranks eighth in the Big 12 with a .246 team batting average with 48 doubles, 43 stolen bases and 11 home runs. The Red Raiders are averaging 5.1 runs per game as a team, including 2.8 runs per game in conference play. Junior IF Jake Barrios leads the team with a .300 batting average and has six doubles, three homers and 30 RBIs. Barrios is tied for the conference lead with four triples on the season. Sophomore OF Brett Bell is batting .242, but leads the conference with 23 stolen bases in 27 attempts.
The Red Raiders’ pitching staff is ninth in the Big 12 with a 4.75 ERA, allowing opponents a .285 batting average and 22 homers. Junior RHP Trey Masek is second in the conference in ERA with an 0.84 ERA and a 3-0 record in six starts. Masek is coming back from an injury that sidelined him for three weeks. Senior RHP Jerad McCrummen is Tech’s closer, posting three saves and a 1-5 record along with a 2.76 ERA in 17 relief appearances. McCrummen has walked nine and fanned 25 in 29 1/3 innings.
Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock is in his first season with the Red Raiders after spending a year as an assistant coach there in 2012 and six seasons as an assistant at Oklahoma. Tadlock helped recruit and lead the Sooners to the College World Series in 2010.
KU-TEXAS TECH CONNECTIONS:
- Kansas has one Texas native on its roster – injured LHP Tyler Watson – while Tech does not have any players from Sunflower State on its roster.
- Watson graduated from Georgetown High School and was teammates with Texas Tech OF Todd Ritchie there.
- The teams’ coaching staffs are familiar with each other as Tech head coach Tim Tadlock spent six years at Oklahoma as an assistant coach, while Red Raider assistant coach Russell Raley played for the Sooners from 2003-06.
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 earned 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 and are tied for best in the Big 12. Piché has pitched in six of KU’s seven conference victories this season, earning two wins and four saves in those games.
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 eight-straight games, collecting multiple hits in five of those contests. Since coming back from injury on March 28, DeLeon is batting .352 (19-for-54) with six doubles, two homers and 13 RBIs, which included a 2-for-4 effort Tuesday at Creighton.
DeLeon’s emergance has helped solidify the middle of the Kansas batting order. KU is 20-12 with the senior in the lineup, averaging 5.7 runs per game in those games and 4.6 runs per game in the games he has not started.
SUPER SUITER: While the Big 12 Conference does not give out a Comeback Player of the Year award, sophomore OF Michael Suiter would be a prime candidate for this honor. The second-year outfielder has been the most consistent hitter in the Kansas lineup this season after struggling through much of his freshman campaign.
In his first 36 games last season, Suiter was batting .179 with just two doubles and seven RBIs. This included going hitless in 11 of his first 12 conference games. However, this year, he ranks fifth in the Big 12 with a .379 overall batting average with six doubles and a triple and his average in conference games is .360 (18-for-50).
MOVING ON UP: Senior RHP Thomas Taylor continues to climb 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
7. Jamie Splittorff (1993-95) 207
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas baseball travels to Texas Tech, making its first weekend road trip since traveling to Oklahoma March 28-30.
- The Jayhawks are 2-1 in the Lone Star State this season, winning their opening Big 12 series at TCU March 15-17.
- KU has not won a series in Lubbock since April 11-13, 2003, which was head coach Ritch Price’s first Big 12 series victory with the Jayhawks.
- At 22-14, the Jayhawks are off to their best start through 36 games since the 2009 season, when KU was 24-12. The Jayhawks did not win their 22nd game last season until May 18 against Missouri.
- Senior SS Kevin Kuntz collected his conference leading 16th sacrifice in Tuesday night’s loss at Creighton. Kuntz’s 16 sacrifice hits are the most by a Jayhawk since Robby Price’s school-record 24 sacrifices in 2008.
- Sophomore OF Michael Suiter recorded his 14th steal of the season Tuesday, marking the team’s 70th 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.
- Kansas scored two runs in the first inning Tuesday at Creighton, marking the 13th time this season the Jayhawks have scored in their first at bat. KU is 9-4 when scoring in the first inning and 17-5 when it scores first.
- 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.
- The Jayhawks have turned 14 double plays in their last nine games, including eight during the Oklahoma State series (April 5-7). As a team, KU has turned 34 twin killings, which is second-most in the Big 12.
- The NCAA released its third-round of official RPI rankings on April 16 with Kansas checking in at No. 50. With their ranking, KU is third in the Big 12, behind Oklahoma (22) and Texas (46), and ahead of Kansas State (52), Baylor (62), Texas Tech (103), West Virginia (115), Oklahoma State (118) and TCU (126).
- 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).
- 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 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.
- 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 38 errors in 1,405 chances (.973), while throwing out 10-of-26 would-be base stealers and turning 34 double plays.
- The Jayhawk outfield collected another outfield assist Tuesday at Creighton as sophomore Connor McKay collected his first of the year. As a unit, KU has 16 outfield assists with Dakota Smith (seven) and Michael Suiter (six), leading the team.
- KU’s starting pitchers have 13 quality starts in 36 games. Senior Thomas Taylor leads the staff, allowing three runs or less in five of his eight starts.
UP NEXT: The Jayhawks will return to Hoglund Ballpark for a brief two-game homestand, beginning with a non-conference game against Oral Roberts on Tuesday, April 23 at 6 p.m.