Jayhawks Take Streak on the Road to Wichita

May 6, 2013

Game 49
Kevin Kuntz tied for the team lead with six hits last week, including a ninth-inning game winner against Baylor Saturday.
Kansas vs. Wichita State
Location Wichita, Kan.
Stadium Eck Stadium
Time 6:30 p.m.
Audio Jayhawk All-Access
Live Stats Wichita State Live Stats

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Winners of five straight, including a its first ever series sweep of Big 12 Conference foe Baylor, Kansas travels to Wichita State for its final mid-week match-up of the season at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. It’s a rivalry week of sorts as the Jayhawks play one game against the Shockers at Eck Stadium before welcoming Kansas State for a weekend series at Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas (30-18, 12-9 Big 12) used a 1-0, extra-inning win against Wichita State (30-21, 14-4 MVC) a week ago to bounce back from a series sweep at West Virginia and hasn’t stopped playing, or winning, close games since. Seven of the last eight contests for KU have been decided by one run, and three, including Tuesday’s 11-inning game at Hoglund Ballpark, have gone to extra innings. Kansas used a bases-loaded single from Dakota Smith to top the Shockers.

Kansas is expected to start senior right-hander Tanner Poppe (3-3, 4.38 ERA) against Wichita State lefty Kris Gardner (2-5, 4.66 ERA). Poppe has fanned 33 batters in 37.0 innings over eight starts, and gave up just one hit in seven shutout innings against Baker on Wednesday. Gardner also blanked his last opponent, scattering four hits and a walk over five innings against Kansas Wesleyan, also last Wednesday.

The Jayhawks took another step forward in the series with Wichita State in the last meeting, inching closer but still down 44-27 all-time. Under head coach Ritch Price, however, the Jayhawks have won five of the last eight contests and are an even .500 against the Shockers.

Kansas, which reached the 30-wins plateau for the eighth time in 11 seasons under Price, is still led offensively by Alex DeLeon, who bats .321 with seven home runs and 39 RBI. Michael Suiter (.320) and Kevin Kuntz (.310) also bat over .300, but the Jayhawks rely on small ball to manufacture runs – nearly doubling their opponents in sacrifice bunts (59-to-29).

The Jayhawks limited Wichita State to just five hits in the first meeting this season, but the Shockers have seven regulars who bat over .300, including team-leader Garrett Bayliff at .348. Tyler Baker, whose squirrel scoop video went viral with more than 700,000 views in addition to getting played on ESPN’s Sportscenter and MLB Network’s Intentional Talk, can also hit the ball and has driven in 36 base runners on the year. Wichita State swept Missouri Valley Conference co-leader Missouri State over the weekend to position itself as king of the Valley standings.

Kansas would prefer not to use National Stopper of the Year candidate Jordan Piché, after throwing the relief ace in four of five games last week, but could use the keeper of the second-best ERA in the nation (0.72) if it meant stepping closer to an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. Piché became the first player in the three year history of the Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Week Award to be selected three times when the league tabbed him Monday. The junior from Greeley, Colo., leads the Big 12 in ERA and saves (9), and is second among his conference mates in opponent batting average (.200).

Tuesday’s game will be broadcast on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access via KUAthletics.com, with Tom Hedrick (play-by-play) and Aaron Berlin (analyst) on the call.

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