Jayhawks Head To Austin for Showdown with No. 23 Texas
April 19, 2012
LEADING OFF: Winners of three-straight, Kansas baseball hits the road to face No. 23 Texas in a three-game series in Austin. The Jayhawks and Longhorns will meet Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., before wrapping up the three-game Big 12 series Sunday at 1 p.m. at Disch-Falk Field.
ON THE AIR: All three games from the Kansas-Texas series will be televised on the Longhorn Network. Check local listings for availability in your area. Fans can also tune in to the game on KLWN radio (1320 AM) as well as online on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. Tom Hedrick and Kyle West will have the call.
SERIES HISTORY: Kansas and Texas will be meeting for the 52nd time on Friday night in a series that dates back to 1906. Texas holds a 39-15 lead in the series, including 21-6 in games played in Austin. Last season, Texas won the first two games of the series in Lawrence, before KU took the finale on April 23 by a 4-2 score.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas heads to Austin after winning the final three games of a five-game homestand. The Jayhawks upended No. 2 Texas A&M on April 15, before taking non-conference wins from Baker and Saint Mary.
KU’s offense averages 4.4 runs per game and ranks ninth in the Big 12 with a .250 team batting average. Senior C James Stanfield leads the team with a .304 batting average with three doubles and nine RBIs. The Jayhawk pitching staff has been solid, posting a 4.35 team ERA and holding opponents to a .271 batting average. Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan is the ace of the pitching staff, posting a 3.46 ERA in nine starts with 58 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings. Junior RHP Thomas Taylor is the team’s winningest pitcher with four victories and a 3.79 ERA in 59 1/3 innings this year.
SCOUTING THE LONGHORNS: Texas enters the weekend series ranked 23rd in the latest Baseball America poll. The Longhorns are tied for second in the Big 12 with Texas A&M at 9-3 in conference play. UT is 12-4 in its home games with a series victory over Oklahoma State last week.
UT’s offense averages 5.2 runs per game and is batting .272, which ranks eighth in the Big 12. Sophomore 3B Erich Weiss leads the Texas offense with a .341 batting average, nine doubles, four homers and 23 RBIs. Sophomore OF Mark Payton has also had a solid year, batting .315 with eight doubles, three triples and a team-best 21 walks.
The Longhorns’ pitching staff is young, but talented, posting a 3.35 team ERA, which ranks fourth in the Big 12. Sophomore RHP Nathan Thornhill and freshman RHP Parker French lead the Texas pitching staff, combining for an 8-3 record and a 3.43 ERA. Thornhill has recorded 48 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings, while holding opponents to a .230 batting average. Sophomore RHP Corey Knebel is one of the premier relief pitchers in the country, sporting a 1.43 ERA in 18 appearances with seven saves and a 2-2 record.
Texas head coach Augie Garrido is in his 16th season and has an overall record of 1,838-838-9 at the school. Garrido has led the Longhorns to two national championships, seven College World Series appearances and seven Big 12 titles since 1996.
LAST TIME OUT: Freshman right-handed pitcher Drew Morovick and four other pitchers combined to toss a five-hit shutout Wednesday evening as the Jayhawks blanked Saint Mary, 6-0, in a non-conference baseball game at Hoglund Ballpark.
ZAC ATTACK: Senior 3B Zac Elgie is starting to heat up at the right time of the year. The fourth-year infielder is batting .316 (12-for-38) during the month of April with four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. Hitting better during the second half of the year is something Elgie has done throughout his Kansas career. His month-by-month numbers nearly mirror each other the last two seasons, which for Elgie, hopefully means a strong finish. Below is a look at the senior’s month-by-month breakdown from 2011 and 2012.
Zac Elgie Month-by-Month (Batting Avg./On-Base Pct./Slugging Pct.)
THARP TURNS IT AROUND: Sophomore OF Tucker Tharp continues to bounce back from a rough start to the season. After the first four weekends, Tharp was batting .156 and had just one extra base hit in 45 at bats. However, since the beginning of April, Tharp is 16-for-44 (.364) with a .477 slugging percentage.
A big key for Tharp’s resurgence has been his ability to make contact. The sophomore fanned 11 times in his first 45 at bats, or once every 4.1 at bats, however since April 1, he has struck out just six times (once every 7.3 at bats).
FRANKLY, HE DESERVES BETTER: Perhaps no pitcher in the country has had worse luck over the last month than sophomore RHP Frank Duncan. The second-year righty is winless in his last seven appearances, despite being dominant on the mound. Since his March 16 start, Duncan has allowed just 14 earned runs in 40 innings and held opponents to a .204 batting average.
Despite his lack of victories, Duncan has quietly been one of the better starting pitchers in the Big 12 in his first season in that role. The sophomore ranks sixth in batting average against (.221) and fifth in strikeouts (58).
– Kansas travels to No. 23 Texas this weekend. This marks the second-straight weekend that the Jayhawks have faced a team ranked in the Top 25.
– Kansas has gone 25-39-1 against Top 25 foes since the start of the 2009 season, including 4-5 against Texas during the same time period.
– The Jayhawks earned a 5-3 win over then-No. 2 Texas A&M on April 15. It marked the highest ranked team KU has knocked off since Feb. 19, 2011 when the Jayhawks defeated then-No. 1 TCU.
– KU’s 16-inning loss to Wichita State on April 11 marked the second-longest game in school history and the longest since an 18-inning game against Oklahoma State on April 15, 1967.
– By taking two-of-three from Texas Tech March 30-April 1, Kansas won its first conference series since taking two-of-three at Missouri April 15-17 of last season.
– KU also snapped a 13-game losing streak in Big 12 contests with the March 31 win over the Red Raiders. The Jayhawks’ last conference win before that came on April 23, 2011 against Texas.
– KU has allowed just 31 stolen bases this season, which is fifth fewest in the Big 12. The Jayhawks have also caught 21-of-52 attempted base stealers (40.4 percent).
– KU’s outfielders have recorded 13 assists this season after collecting 13 all of last season. Freshman Connor McKay and sophomore Tucker Tharp are tied for the team lead with four each, while fellow freshman Michael Suiter is on their heels with three assists from the outfield.
– The Jayhawks’ 11-10 victory on March 21 over Southern Utah marked KU’s first walk-off win since April 2, 2011 when a bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning gave KU a 4-3 win over then-No. 19 Baylor.
– KU collected 19 hits in the 11-inning win over Southern Utah, which represented the most by the team since recording 20 hits at Oklahoma State on April 30, 2010.
– Kansas skipper Ritch Price coached his 1,000th game at the Division I level on March 6 against North Dakota. Price has a .519 winning percentage (531 wins, three ties) in 17-plus seasons at Cal Poly and Kansas.
– KU scored a season-high 10 runs in the first inning of a game against Mississippi Valley State on Feb. 26. It was the most runs scored in a single frame by a Jayhawk team since an 11-run inning against Tabor in 2007.
– Senior C James Stanfield has been tough to run on this season, throwing out 13-of-33 would-be base stealers (39.4 percent).
– Junior C Alex DeLeon continues to swing a hot bat with men on base. In 38 at bats this year, DeLeon has 17 hits with men on base (.447) and leads the team with 10 two-out RBIs.
– Redshirt junior 1B Jake Marasco hit safely in all three games of the Texas A&M series, showing signs of breaking out of his mini-slum. Marasco hit .364 during the month of March, but struggled at the beginning of April, going 2-for-26 in the seven games before the Texas A&M series last week.
– Sophomore 2B Ka’iana Eldredge is 3-for-6 with the bases loaded this season. As a team, KU is 21-for-52 (.404).
– Junior IF Jordan Dreiling has reached base eight times in his last 10 plate appearances, drawing five walks and collecting four base hits. Dreiling leads the team with 18 walks and a .452 on-base percentage.
– Junior SS Kevin Kuntz has hit .310 (22-for-71) out of the No. 2 spot in the batting order and .234 from the leadoff spot (18-for-77).
– Senior 3B Zac Elgie homered and collected an RBI double in the first inning of KU’s midweek games this week. Elgie is 9-for-17 in first inning at bats this year with two doubles and three homers.
– Sophomore OF Tucker Tharp collected a career-best four hits in the April 10 game against Wichita State. Tharp became the third different Jayhawk to record a four-hit game this season, joining Jake Marasco (twice) and Dakota Smith.
– Freshman OF Dakota Smith went 2-for-3 with an RBI against Baker on Tuesday, marking his first multi-hit game since going 4-for-4 against Louisiana on March 3.
– Walks have been the undoing of freshman LHP Wes Benjamin this season. Benjamin has made nine starts this year. In his four quality starts, the freshman has allowed 1.54 BB/9 IP, while he has 4.5 BB/9 IP in his other five starts.
– Junior RHP Frank Duncan has dominated right-handed hitters this year, allowing just 28 hits in 148 at bats against righties (.189).
– Freshman LHP Jaydee Jurgensen has retired the last eight men he’s faced. Jurgensen threw two perfect innings at Wichita State on April 11 and retired both men he faced Wednesday.
– Freshman RHP Robert Kahana ranks 12th in the Big 12 in earned run average with a 3.04 ERA in 18 games. He also leads the conference in ERA among freshmen.
– Freshman RHP Drew Morovick has been extremely effective against leadoff men. In the 28 innings that the first-year righty has started, he has allowed just four hits to the first hitter he’s faced.
– Junior RHP Thomas Taylor has been very effective in his three April starts. In the third month of the year, Taylor is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched.
– Freshman RHP Colin Toalson has turned a corner. After taking the loss at Creighton on April 3, Toalson has made four scoreless appearances and allowed just one run in his last six innings on the mound.
– Kansas head coach Ritch Price and Texas head coach Augie Garrido are both former coaches at Cal Poly. Garrido served as the skipper at the San Luis Obispo school from 1970-72, while Price was the head coach there from 1995-2002. Kansas volunteer assistant Phil Thompson also played at Cal Poly from 2000-01.
– KU has just one Texas native on its roster, Taylor Hart (Jasper). The Longhorns do not have any players from the Sunflower State.
– Kansas LHP Wes Benjamin grew up in St. Charles, Ill., which is a suburb of Texas OF Mark Payton’s hometown of Chicago, Ill.
JAYHAWK PRO UPDATE: Kansas had 14 former student-athletes in major league organizations to open the 2012 season. Below is a rundown of where the former Jayhawks have landed:
– RHP Brett Bochy opened the year with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
– LHP Sam Freeman is in his second year with the Springfield Cardinals, the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
– LHP Tom Gorzelanny is on the Washington Nationals’ 40-man roster, but is fulfilling a rehab assignment with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs.
– LHP Shaeffer Hall is in his second season with the Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees.
– IF Brandon Macias opened the 2012 season in Single-A with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
– IF Erik Morrison joined the Chicago White Sox organization this offseason and began the year in Double-A with the Birmingham Barrons.
– RHP Colton Murray opened his second professional season with the Lakewood BlueClaws, a Single-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
– IF David Narodowski began his second season with the South Bend Silver Hawks, a Single-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
– IF Robby Price is in his second year of pro ball and began the 2012 season with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, an Advanced Single-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
– RHP Cameron Selik opened his second year of professional baseball with the Potomac Nationals, a Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
– RHP Paul Smyth began his second year with the Midland Rockhounds, the Double-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s.
– IF Tony Thompson and RHP T.J. Walz are teammates again for the Stockton Ports, the Advanced Single-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
– LHP Mike Zagurski opened his seventh year of pro ball in Triple-A with the Reno Aces, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, JAYHAWKS: Kansas baseball will make a total of eight television appearances this season, which began April 7 with the KU-Oklahoma State game appearing on Fox Sports Net. The eight TV games in a season ties for the most in team history, matching the 2010 season total. Upcoming television broadcasts include the three-game series at Texas April 20-22 (Longhorn Network), an April 25 non-conference affair with K-State (MetroSports) as well as two games in the conference series with the Wildcats, May 11 (Cox 22/MetroSports) and May 13 (Fox Sports-Kansas City).
STANFIELD ADDED TO WATCH LIST: Kansas senior catcher James Stanfield was one of five catchers added to the 2012 Johnny Bench Award Watch List Monday by The Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission. The Johnny Bench Award, which is presented by BaseballSavings.com, annually honors the top catcher in college baseball. Stanfield, a 5-foot-10 senior from Owasso, Okla., leads the Jayhawks with a .304 batting average and is hitting .306 in Big 12 games this year (11-for-36). The senior has three doubles and nine RBIs in 21 starts behind the plate and has thrown out 13-of-33 would-be base stealers.
UP NEXT: Kansas returns to the friendly confines of Hoglund Ballpark for a non-conference game against Sunflower Showdown rival Kansas State on April 25. The Jayhawks and Wildcats will face off at 6 p.m., in a game that will be televised on Metro Sports.