Jayhawks Open Nine-game Homestand with BYU
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LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas baseball team returns home to Hoglund Ballpark to open up a nine-game homestand beginning with BYU, Thursday, March 3, at 3 p.m.
The Jayhawks (3-4) return to Lawrence following a 1-3 showing in the Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge where KU played two games each against Utah and then-No. 5 Oregon State. The Cougars (7-1) swept Saint Louis in four games to open the season and took three out of four vs. Samford this past weekend.
- Kansas enters the weekend with an all-time record of 1,838-1,753-17.
- Head coach Ritch Price is in his 22nd season as a Division I head coach with a record of 634-600-3 (.514).
- Price is in his 14th year at Kansas with a record of 418-371-2 (.530), and is just 21 wins from becoming KU’s all-time winningest coach (Floyd Temple, 438).
- Since 2013, the Jayhawks and Cougars have met seven times with Kansas winning five of those matchups, including a four-game sweep in 2014 to open that season (Feb. 14-17).
- Kansas’ 3-4 start ranks second-to-last during the first seven games of a season in Price’s tenure. In 2008 and 2015, KU started 2-5 – its worst – while in 2014, the Jayhawks rattled off nine-straight wins to begin that campaign.
- The last time the two squads met, the Jayhawks outscored the Cougars 33-15 in four games, averaging 8.25 runs per game compared to the 3.75 runs per contest by BYU.
Kansas and BYU have met nine times in the history of the two programs with the Jayhawks holding the advantage in the all-time series, 6-3. The two squads first met on March 22, 1968, in Lawrence, where KU won, 4-3. It would be 26 years until the teams met again on May 28, 1994, with the Cougars winning, 8-3. During head coach Ritch Price’s tenure, he has played BYU seven times in back-to-back seasons in 2013-14. In Provo in 2013, the Jayhawks dropped the series 2-1, before bouncing back to sweep a four-game set in 2014.
The Jayhawks and Cougars will see commonality on their rosters as BYU junior infielder Tanner Chauncey and KU sophomore lefty Ryan Jackson played against one another in high school in Las Vegas, Nevada. Jackson’s Green Valley squad won 5-1 against Chauncey. Five BYU freshmen hail from California, a recruiting hot bed for Kansas head coach Ritch Price. On this year’s roster, the Jayhawks have 11 players – 31 percent – that call the Golden State home.
COUGARS’ HEAD COACH BILL KINNEBERG
Mike Littlewood returned to BYU, his alma mater, in 2012 to take over the reins of its baseball program. Prior to taking over at BYU, Littlewood served as the head coach of Dixie State College in St. George, Utah from 1996-2012. Under his leadership at Dixie State, his teams made four appearances in the National Junior College World Series, winning the national championship in 2004 and finishing runner-up in 2001. Due to his team’s success in 2004, Littlewood was named the National Junior College Coach of the Year. In his first season with BYU, the Cougars posted a 32-21 mark that tied them for second place in the West Coach Conference with a third-place finish in the WCC tournament. The Cougars have gone 89-78 under his hand since 2012.
SCOUTING THE COUGARS
BYU enters this week’s series with a record of 7-1 after sweeping Saint Louis (Feb. 19-22) in four games to open the season and winning three-out-of-four at Samford (Feb. 25-27). The Cougars rank 10th in the nation with 102 hits, 12th in stolen bases (17), 21st in runs (70), 22nd in batting average (.339) and 24th in scoring (8.8 runs per game). Outfielder Brennon Lund leads the team and ranks second in the country with 19 hits, and has swiped the 10th-most bases in the NCAA at six. Lund holds a team-best .500 (19-for-38) batting average and has driven in six runs and hit five doubles. Second baseman Brennon Anderson holds a .586 slugging percentage and has driven in a team-high 12 runs off a double and two home runs.
On the mound, Kansas will see righty Michael Rucker (Thursday, March 3) and righty Maverik Buffo (Friday, March 4). Rucker holds a 1.38 ERA – team best among starters – and has struck out 15 batters in 13 innings pitched. Buffo has a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings pitched and has struck out eight batters.
Redshirt-sophomore Jon Hander made his first start on the mound for Kansas in 660 days (one year, nine months and 19 days) when he took the ball against Utah (Feb. 26). Hander missed the entire 2015 season after having Tommy John surgery. Amped up for his first start back, Hander battled through four innings in a 67-pitch performance. Prior to that contest, Hander’s last appearance in a game came on June 1, 2014, in a relief stint against Kentucky.
Three of four Arizona players on the KU roster had a chance to play in front of family and friends in the Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge (Feb. 26-29), as freshmen Devin Foyle and Rudy Karre, and junior Marcus Wheeler played integral roles in the offensive strategy on the weekend. The trio combined for a .342 batting average (13-for-38) including two doubles, three RBIs and two runs scored. Junior Sean Rackoski is the other Jayhawk who hails from the Grand Canyon State, however, he did not play as he is sidelined with an injury.
Freshman righties Jackson Goddard and Zack Leban virtually shut down the high octane offense of then-No. 5 Oregon State. Prior to Sunday’s (Feb. 28) contest, the Beavers hadn’t scored less than seven runs in a game all season and averaged 9.1 runs per contest. Together, the rookie duo held OSU to just three runs in eight innings pitched, including four hits and four strikeouts. More impressively, Goddard and Leban didn’t surrender a walk in the combined 128-pitch effort.
PERFECT AT THE DISH
Junior first baseman Marcus Wheeler batted a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate in the 8-4 win over Utah (Feb. 29). The three hits for Wheeler set a new career mark as he hit a double down the right-field line in his first at bat and smoked two singles to left field in his final two. He led the Jayhawks with a .500 average and .625 slugging percentage in the Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge.
IN VILLINES WE TRUST
Junior closer Stephen Villines showed his efficiency in the final two and 2/3 innings against Utah (Feb. 29), striking out three of the nine batters he faced in just 25 pitches. His only blemish was a late hit batsmen that was left stranded on base in the ninth inning. So far in 2016, Villines has had his hands involved in all three of the Jayhawks’ victories. He earned the win against Northern Colorado (Feb. 22) and Utah (Feb. 29), and also picked up a save against the Bears (Feb. 23).
Kansas continues its nine-game homestand as it plays host to Creighton in midweek-action, Tuesday, March 8, before welcoming in North Dakota, Saint Louis and Purdue for the Millard Management Classic (March 11-13). All games of the homestand can be seen live on ESPN3. Fans can also listen to the games live on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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