Jayhawks Close Out Regular Season with Missouri
May 16, 2012
LEADING OFF: Kansas baseball wraps up the 2012 regular season with a three-game set against Border Showdown rival Missouri at Hoglund Ballpark. In what will be the final baseball series as Big 12 rivals, the Jayhawks and Tigers will meet Thursday and Friday at 6 p.m., before wrapping up the series Saturday at 1 p.m.
ON THE AIR: Fans can watch all three games from the Missouri series live, free of charge on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. A link to video and audio coverage is available at kuathletics.com. Fans in the Lawrence area can also listen to the games on KLWN (1320 AM).
SERIES HISTORY: Thursday night’s game will mark the 329th all-time meeting between Kansas and Missouri. In a series that dates back to 1894, the Tigers hold a 196-130 edge with two ties. MU leads the series 74-51 in games played in Lawrence, however recently KU has had the upperhand. The Jayhawks have won nine of the last 12 meetings dating back to 2009.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas heads into the final weekend of the regular season with an overall record of 20-31 and 5-15 in Big 12 play. The Jayhawks dropped two of three at Kansas State over the weekend, moving them 1/2 game ahead of K-State for eighth place in the conference standings. KU is 3-4 the month of May and 9-9 in home games this season.
The Jayhawks are batting .248 as a team and averaging 4.3 runs per game. Senior 3B Zac Elgie leads the regular starters with a .284 batting average, 11 doubles, five homers and 26 RBIs. On the mound, KU ranks eighth in the Big 12 with a 4.30 ERA and is holding opponents to a .271 batting average this season. Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan is the staff ace with a 3.07 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings. Duncan has also held opponents to a .215 batting average this season, which is the second-lowest in team history.
PLAYOFF PUSH: Kansas enters the final weekend of the season looking to clinch a trip to Oklahoma City for the Big 12 Baseball Championship. The Jayhawks lead Kansas State by 1/2 game for the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament and trail Texas Tech by 1/2 game for seventh. Two Jayhawk victories in the Missouri series guarantees KU a trip to Bricktown, while the team can still make the tournament with one win and help from either K-State or Tech.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS: Missouri heads into the final weekend of the regular season locked into the No. 6 spot in the Big 12 standings. The Tigers are 9-12 in conference play and 27-24 overall. MU dropped a non-conference series to Memphis over the weekend and is 5-13 in true road games this season.
The Tigers’ offense ranks sixth in the Big 12 with a .269 batting average and scores 5.7 runs per game. Junior C/1B Scott Sommerfeld leads the team with a .300 batting average with eight doubles, 22 RBIs and a .370 on-base percentage. Junior OF Dane Opel leads the conference with 11 homers and is batting .292 with 38 RBIs and a .554 slugging percentage.
On the mound, Missouri has a team ERA of 4.23, which ranks just ahead of the Jayhawks for seventh in the league. Opponents are batting .272 against the Tigers’ pitching staff. Sophomore LHP Rob Zystryzny is Missouri’s staff ace with a 4-4 record and a 4.26 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings on the mound. The freshmen tandem of RHP John Miles and RHP Brett Graves will take the hill the final two games of the series. Miles is 4-1 on the year, but has struggled against Big 12 opponents this season. Sophomore LHP Jake Walsh, MU’s closer, is among the league leaders with eight saves and a 3.48 ERA in 30 appearances.
Head coach Tim Jamieson is in his 18th seasons a Missouri and is the school’s second-winningest coach with a 598-438-2 record at the school. Jamieson has taken the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament eight times in his tenure at Mizzou.
LAST TIME OUT: Freshman Dakota Smith went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI, but after a three-run second inning, K-State’s bullpen blanked the Kansas over the final 7 1/3 innings as the Wildcats claimed the series with a 9-3 win in the rubber game Sunday evening at Tointon Family Stadium.
SIX JAYHAWKS EARN ACADEMIC ALL-BIG 12 HONORS: Redshirt junior Jake Marasco was named First Team Academic All-Big 12 for the third time in his career to highlight KU’s six selections, which were announced Tuesday by the conference office.
Marasco was joined on the first team by senior RHPs Jordan Jakubov and Matt Kohorst, junior IF Jordan Dreiling and junior RHP Tanner Poppe. Senior OF Taylor Hart was tabbed second team academic all-conference.
WES SIDE STORY: Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin tossed a six-hit complete game shutout of Sunflower Showdown rival Kansas State Saturday night in Manhattan. It marked KU’s first shutout in three seasons. Benjamin walked just one and matched a career-high with eight strikeouts. The 6-foot-1 freshman seemed to get better as the night went on, retiring 14 of the final 15 hitters he faced, including 10 in a row to close out the game.
Benjamin became the first Jayhawk freshman to throw a complete game shutout since Scott Taylor blanked St. Mary’s (Texas) in 1986. His shutout was also the first by a Jayhawk in a Big 12 game since Pete Smart shut out Missouri on March 24, 2000.
DAKOTA STEPS UP: After going through the typical highs and lows of a freshman campaign, OF Dakota Smith has found his stroke the last couple of weeks. The first-year outfielder went 6-for-9 with two walks, two doubles and two RBIs against the Wildcats. He is 9-for-23 (.391) with four doubles and four runs scored in seven games during the month of May.
A big key for Smith’s hot hitting the last two weeks has been his ability to lay off pitches outside the strike zone. Over the first three months of the year, Smith drew just four walks and fanned 17 times in 90 plate appearances (once every 5.3 plate appearance). However, in May, he has already drawn five walks and struck out just four times in 29 plate appearances (once every 7.3 plate appearances).
DUNCAN DELIVERS: Heading into the 2012 season, one of the biggest questions facing Kansas was who would lead a rebuilt starting rotation. It didn’t take long for head coach Ritch Price to find his answer. Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan has been the team’s ace throughout the year, posting a team-best 3.07 ERA, which ranks 15th in the Big 12. He also ranks third in innings pitched (96 2/3), fifth in opponent batting average (.215) and fifth in strikeouts (85).
Duncan’s 87 strikeouts are tied for 17th most in team history. With possibly two starts remaining in 2012, the sophomore is looking to become just the fifth Jayhawk to record 100 strikeouts in a season. The last KU pitcher to accomplish this was Mike Zagurski, who fanned a program-best 112 hitters in 2005.
– Kansas hosts Border Showdown rival Missouri in the final series of the regular season. The Jayhawks are 16-15 against the Tigers under head coach Ritch Price, including 8-4 in Lawrence.
– Since the beginning of the 2008 season, KU is 33-28-1 in Big 12 home games and 86-39-1 overall at Hoglund Ballpark.
– The Jayhawks rank second in the Big 12 and heading into the week are 18th among NCAA Division I schools with a .977 fielding percentage. KU has committed one error or less in 41 of its 51 games this season.
– KU ranks 76th in the country in walks (197) and 93rd in sacrifice bunts (44).
– Individually, junior Kevin Kuntz ranks 43rd in sacrifices (12) and 74th in sacrifices per game (0.24). Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan is 38th in the country in strikeouts (87) and 79th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.07).
– KU’s outfielders have recorded 17 assists this season after collecting 13 all of last season. Freshman Connor McKay leads the team with six assists, while sophomore Tucker Tharp and freshman Michael Suiter have thrown out four each.
– In the Big 12, RHP Frank Duncan ranks third in innings pitched (96 2/3), fifth in strikeouts (87) and sixth in opponent batting average (.215). Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin is eighth in innings pitched (80 2/3) and junior RHP Tanner Poppe ranks fourth in the league with five saves.
– Kansas collected a rare shutout of K-State on Saturday. The Jayhawks’ 6-0 win over the Wildcats marked the team’s first shutout in Manhattan since April 24, 1983.
– In KU’s win over K-State last weekend, the Jayhawks scored all six of its runs with two outs in the inning with junior Kevin Kuntz and sophomore Tucker Tharp both collecting multiple two-out RBIs.
– The Jayhawks scored a season-high 16 runs and hit a season-best three home runs in the May 1 win at UALR. Every KU starter scored at least one run in the game.
– Kansas senior 3B Zac Elgie hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to knock off Sunflower Showdown rival Kansas State on April 25. It was the first walk-off homer by a Jayhawk since March 31, 2009, when Nick Faunce hit a game-winning round-tripper against Northern Colorado.
– Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan’s complete game victory at Texas on April 20 was the first by a Jayhawk on the road since Mike Zagurski’s nine-inning victory at Missouri on May 14, 2005. Last Saturday, Wes Benjamin threw KU’s second complete game on the road this season.
– 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.
– 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 .516 winning percentage (536 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.
– Junior C Alex DeLeon has been a hot hitter in recent weeks. The junior is batting .321 (9-for-28) with two doubles and two homers in his seven May starts.
– Senior C James Stanfield has thrown out 15-of-43 attempted base stealers (34.9 percent). Stanfield ranks second in the Big 12 in caught stealing percentage.
– Redshirt junior 1B Jake Marasco is batting .298 (17-for-57) in home games this season, while five of his nine multi-hit games have come at Hoglund Ballpark.
– Senior 1B/DH Chris Manship has gotten away from being a straight pull hitter this season. Manship has 33 hits this season with 13 to right field (39.3 percent) and seven up the middle (21.2 percent).
– Sophomore 2B Ka’iana Eldredge went 7-for-14 with a pair of doubles in four games last season against Missouri.
– Junior IF Jordan Dreiling is the team leader with a .450 on-base percentage, drawing 27 walks in 135 plate appearances this season.
– Senior 3B Zac Elgie has been cleared to resume baseball activities. Elgie broke a pinky in the April 27 game against Oklahoma and has missed the last two weeks of games. Elgie is batting .284 with five homers and 26 RBIs.
– Junior SS Kevin Kuntz collected a pair of two-out RBIs in Saturday’s win over Kansas State and ranks second on the team with 13 this season.
– Freshman IF Justin Protactio collected two hits and recorded two stolen bases in the May 1 win at UALR. It marked Protacio’s first multi-hit game and just the second multi-steal game by a Jayhawk this season.
– Freshman OF Connor McKay collected his team-leading sixth outfield assist in Saturday’s win over Kansas State. McKay’s six assists are the most by a KU outfielder since Brian Heere collected seven in 2010.
– Sophomore OF Tucker Tharp has also been a good leadoff man this season, reaching base at a .397 clip (23-for-58) when he leads off an inning.
– Freshman OF Dakota Smith is batting .326 (15-for-46) with a team-best five doubles in Big 12 play this season. While he doesn’t have enough at bats to qualify, Smith’s batting average in conference games would put him in the top 15.
– Controlling the strike zone has been paramount to freshman LHP Wes Benjamin this season. In his starts where Benjamin has walked two or fewer men, he is 2-2 with a 2.94 ERA, while he is 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in all other games.
– Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan allowed six singles to K-State on Friday night and has allowed just three extra base hits over his last five outings, which span 30 2/3 innings.
– Redshirt senior RHP Jordan Jakubov has regained his early-season form. Jakubov has allowed just one earned run in his last four appearances (9 2/3 innings), including three scoreless innings against K-State Saturday.
– Senior RHP Matt Kohorst has made five scoreless appearances this year in six games on the mount. Kohorst has also struck out seven in 7 2/3 innings pitched.
– Redshirt junior RHP Thomas Taylor has been strong at home this season. In his three starts at Hoglund Ballpark, Taylor is 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA, allowing just six runs on 18 hits in 19 2/3 innings.
– Kansas has one Missouri native on its roster (Jordan Brown), while Missouri has two players from the state of Kansas on its roster (Blake Holovak and Landon Lucansky).
– Jayhawk OF Jordan Brown and Missouri LHP Kyle Barbeck are both graduates of Blue Springs High School in Blue Springs, Mo.
– Kansas RHP Conner Murray and RHP Thomas Taylor as well as Missouri LHP Blake Holovach are all natives of Overland Park, Kan. Taylor and Holovach were teammates at Blue Valley West High School.
– Kansas OF Connor McKay and C Tom Hougland (Parker) as well as OF Tucker Tharp (Boulder) all grew up in suburban Denver, Colo., along with Missouri C Justin Byrd, who is a native of Littleton.
– Kansas LHP Wes Benjamin (St. Charles) and Missouri IF Nick Moore (Downers Grove) are both from Suburban Chicago.
– Missouri IF Dillon Everett is from Phoenix, Ariz., while KU IF Joey Luvisi, LHP Jordan Luvisi and OF Brian Poupore are from nearby Scottsdale, Ariz.
UP NEXT: The Big 12 Baseball Championship begins on Wednesday, May 23 in Oklahoma City at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The Jayhawks hope to punch their ticket for the conference tournament this weekend. Tournament games and times will be announced on Saturday evening.