Jayhawks continue conference play at West Virginia
Senior closer Stephen Villines has recorded three-straight saves in his last three outings.
at WEST VIRGINIA
Turski vs. Myers
Goddard vs. Grove
Zeferjahn vs. TBD
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas baseball team continues Big 12 Conference play when the Jayhawks travel to West Virginia for a three-game set April 7-9 at Monongalia County Ballpark in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Kansas (13-18, 3-3 Big 12) and West Virginia (17-10, 4-2 Big 12) are each coming off a league series win and rank tied for second and fifth, respectively, in the conference standings.
Fans can watch all three games live on Mountaineer TV (a webstream) or tune into a live audio broadcast on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official “Kansas Jayhawks” app. Saturday and Sunday’s games will also be available on the dial on KJHK 90.7 FM and KLWN, respectively.
- Last weekend’s series victory over Texas (March 31-April 2) marked the sixth time since 2009 that the Jayhawks have won a Big 12 Conference home-opening series with the 2010 conference home opening set ending in a tie when the Sunday contest against then-No. 22 Texas A&M finished in an 8-8 tie after 11 innings.
- That series win also marked the 30th Big 12 Conference series victory at Hoglund Ballpark and the 25th during the Ritch Price years.
- Kansas defeated Missouri State, 4-2, Tuesday (April 4) night at Hammons Field in Springfield, Missouri – a first on the road against MSU since April 13, 2010, when the Jayhawks defeated the Bears, 6-4.
- That decision over Missouri State also marked the third-straight win for Kansas – its longest winning-streak since March 29-April 1, 2016, when it also won three-straight against the then-No. 16 Bears, Benedictine College (Kan.) and Baylor.
- The Jayhawks haven’t won four games in a row since stringing together a seven-gamer April 25-May 4, 2014, where they swept both Baylor (April 25-27) and then-No. 19 Texas Tech (May 2-4), and beat Wichita State (April 29) in midweek action.
- KU owns two series victories over West Virginia, and look to add to that total when it travels to Morgantown, West Virginia, to continue Big 12 play at Monongalia County Ballpark.
- Kansas hasn’t won back-to-back conference series since sweeping three-straight league opponents to close out Big 12 play in 2014.
- 2014 also marks the last time the Jayhawks started conference play 3-3 – they finished that season with the program’s highest finish in Big 12 play at third with a 15-9 record.
LAST TIME AT WEST VIRGINIA
Only six current Jayhawks saw action last time Kansas traveled to Monongalia County Ballpark in Morgantown, West Virginia, April 24-26, 2015. KU won the first two games of the three-game set, 3-1 and 9-5, before falling short in the finale, 5-4. Junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin started all three of those contents at West Virginia when he was a freshman while then-sophomore Stephen Villines made two appearances and earned a save.
AGAINST THE MOUNTAINEERS
Senior Marcus Wheeler has made two career starts against West Virginia and appears to have its number. In seven plate appearances, Wheeler has tallied five hits for a .714 batting average including one double, one home run and five RBIs. All other Jayhawks with experience against WVU have combined for just seven hits with one extra-base hit – a Rudy Karre double in 2016.
.500 IN CONFERENCE
Kansas started Big 12 play at then-No. 3 TCU and against Texas and holds a 3-3 record in those six contests. Since Big 12 play started in 1997, the Jayhawks have started 3-3 or better in league play in six seasons (1997, 2000, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014) with their last coming in 2014 where they also advanced to the fifth NCAA Tournament in school history.
*KU started the 2010 conference campaign 3-2-1 after a Sunday contest against then-No. 22 Texas A&M ended in a 8-8 tie after 11 innings.
LEBAN FOR THE SETUP
Sophomore reliever Zack Leban has been a staple out of the bullpen for head coach Ritch Price and the Jayhawks. Leban has made the third-most appearances out of the pen for Kansas and holds the best ERA among relievers (1.37). In 19 and 2/3 innings, Leban as allowed just three earned runs while striking out 21 batters. In his last 10 innings of relief spanning six games, Leban has not allowed an earned run.
Senior closer Stephen Villines converted three-straight saves in four days to aid in the Jayhawks’ three-game win streak heading into this weekend’s conference matchup at West Virginia (April 7-9). This past weekend against Texas he converted two – Saturday and Sunday – to help the Jayhawks pick up their sixth-ever series win against the Longhorns. In Saturday’s (April 1) contest, Villines tossed the final one and 2/3 innings where he struck out three of the five outs he recorded to hold onto a 2-1 KU victory. On Sunday (April 2), he picked up career save No. 32 after a perfect one-two-three ninth and became Kansas’ all-time saves leader surpassing the great Don Czyz who held that title from 2006 until April 2, 2017. Tuesday at Missouri State (April 4) he kept the streak going with a scoreless ninth to help Kansas win its first contest at Hammons Field since April 13, 2010. Villines has now racked up seven saves on the season and averages 2.0 strikeouts per appearance.
A FIRST FOR KANSAS
This past weekend’s series win against Texas marked the first time in Kansas history that the Jayhawks defeated the Longhorns on the gridiron, hardwood and diamond in the same athletic year. KU defeated UT 24-21 in football on November 19, 2016; swept the season series in men’s basketball; and then won two out of three games (the series) against them in baseball.
After starter Jackson Goddard exited Sunday’s (April 2) game against Texas after just five innings, head coach Ritch Price needed to piece together the final four frames, and he got exactly what he needed out of his bullpen to seal up a Kansas victory. Junior lefties Jeider Rincon and Blake Weiman, sophomore righty Zack Leban and senior closer Stephen Villines combined to record the final 12 outs without allowing a run. To take it a step further, the quartet allowed just two base runners – a Rincon HBP and Weiman base knock – of the 13 batters they faced.
AND THEN THERE WERE THREE
Kansas has played 28 games so far in 2017 and only three Jayhawks have started each of those contests. Sophomore Devin Foyle made all 28 of his starts in the outfield – 19 in left, one in center and eight in right – while freshman James Cosentino is the staple at second base. Sophomore Rudy Karre rounds out the trio having made 25 starts in center field, two at designated hitter and one at third base.
IMPROVEMENT ON THE HILL
Exactly 28 games in and Kansas can see a steady improvement on the mound between this time in 2015 until now. Two years ago, the squad had a 6.30 team ERA with one starter under a 5.00 ERA. In 2016, those numbers improved to a team ERA of 4.96 and two starters under 4.00 ERA. Comparatively, the team currently holds a team ERA of 4.12 and has struck out 229 batters – 51 batters more than 2016 and 69 hitters more than 2015. In addition, 2017 marks KU’s lowest batting average against in those three years at .252 while it has also surrendered the fewest walks at 96.
The Jayhawks return home to open up a four-game homestand when they host Wichita State (April 11) and conference foe Oklahoma State (April 13-15).
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