Kansas back in action with three-game set against Northwestern
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After winter weather spoiled Kansas’ midweek series against UAPB, the Jayhawks hop back on the diamond Friday, Feb. 23, for the first of a three-game series against Northwestern at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (2-1) won their home-opening series for the second-straight season and look to continue that momentum against the Wildcats (1-2), who posted a 1-2 record this past weekend. KU and Northwestern have met 10 times prior to this weekend’s games, with Kansas owning a 7-3 mark in those contests.
In addition, since Tuesday and Wednesday’s games got canceled, the Jayhawks added a Monday, Feb. 26, contest against Omaha with a 2 p.m. first pitch.
All four games can be seen on ESPN3, available at WatchESPN.com or streaming live on multiple devices via the ESPN app. In addition to a video broadcast, the contests can also be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
- Kansas’ all-time record: 1,887-1,813-18 (.510)
- Head coach Ritch Price’s record in Division I: 684-659-4 (.509)
- Price’s record at Kansas: 467-431-3 (.520)
- KU won its first series of the season against Murray State marking the first time the Jayhawks won a three-game series in their first attempt since 2014 when they swept BYU in a four-game set to open up that campaign.
- The series victory over the Racers also marks the second-straight season that KU has won its home-opening three-game set – something that hadn’t been done since the 2013 and 2014 campaigns.
- No other team in the 126-year history of the Kansas baseball program opened the season with more consecutive home games than the 2018 squad will do (11).
- The Jayhawks will play 33 home games – the most since 1991 when the same number was reached.
- Thirty-one of KU’s 56 games slated for 2018 will be against 2017 NCAA Tournament teams, including five games against opponents that advanced to the College World Series a year ago.
- The Jayhawks are 76-50-3 all-time in season openers and 10-6 under the direction of Price.
- Kansas returns its entire starting rotation and nine of its 10 position starters from the 2017 squad that finished seventh in the Big 12 Conference with an overall record of 30-28.
NO HOLES AT SHORT
Sophomore shortstop Benjamin Sems showed his defensive prowess against the Racers (2/18) Sunday afternoon with six plus-plays defensively in the hole. Seemingly each time the ball was hit his way, Sems showed off his range and arm strength to get the job done. Those six assists were not only a career-high, but matched the most assists in a game by the previous shortstop, Matt McLaughlin, who did it four times over his three-year career.
FILLING IN NICELY
With the departure of KU’s all-time saves leader Stephen Villines, the Jayhawks had some huge shoes to fill to try and close out games. That burden has fallen to junior Zack Leban. In his first two appearances, Leban is a perfect 2-for-2 in save opportunities striking out three batters over two and 2/3 innings of work. In fact, when looking at the full-time closers in the Ritch Price era, Leban is the quickest to two saves in a season in terms of the number of appearances it took to reach that number – he has done it in the least amount of appearances as possible (2).
LONG TIME COMING
Redshirt-sophomore outfielder Brendt Citta had to wait 633 days to step back on the diamond after transferring from San Jose State following the 2016 season. That time off was well spent as Citta roped the Jayhawks’ first home run of the season with a two-run blast over the wall in left center. That four-bagger came on the first pitch he saw as a Kansas player. Prior to that, his last at bat came on May 25, 2016.
PRICE NAMES 2018 CAPTAINS
Head coach Ritch Price announced that seniors Tanner Gragg and Owen Taylor, and redshirt-sophomore Brendt Citta will handle captains’ duties for the 2018 season. The trio is each holding the honor of captain for the first time in their careers and represents what the Kansas baseball program is all about.
STARS AND STRIPES
The Kansas baseball team will represent the United States at the International University Sports Federation’s (FISU) Sixth World University Baseball Championships (WCB) July 6-15, 2018, in Chiayi, Taiwan. The Jayhawks were selected by the United States International University Sports Federation (US-IUSF) to represent the United States. They are the first collegiate team to wear the red, white and blue in the WCB and are the third team overall to represent the country as a collegiate national team, joining Cal State Fullerton (2015) and Iowa (2017) who played in the World University Games.
Sophomore second baseman James Cosentino was named to the 2017 Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America team following a rookie campaign that featured a .271 batting average, with 11 doubles, four home runs, 31 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He returns to the lineup as the Jayhawks’ leading offensive performer from a year ago. He was the sixth player in Kansas history to be recognized as a Freshman All-American and the second Jayhawk in as many years to be honored, as outfielder Devin Foyle earned a spot on the 2016 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America team.
GATORADE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Freshman lefty/first baseman Conner VanCleave was named the 2017 Gatorade Kansas Baseball Player of the Year after he led his team to the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) Class 4A DII State Baseball Championship. During his senior campaign, VanCleave compiled an 8-1 mark on the mound with a 0.29 ERA in 48 and 2/3 innings pitched. He struck out 101 of the 186 batters he faced, including 15 K’s in the state semifinal contest. As a hitter, VanCleave finished the season with 43 hits in 56 at bats for a .768 batting average. He hit 18 singles, 14 doubles, six triples and five home runs. He drove in 53 RBIs and scored 25 runs while maintaining a 1.500 slugging percentage and an .831 on-base percentage.
HE’S GOT TENURE
Kansas head coach Ritch Price is the most tenured skipper in the Big 12 Conference as he has coached in 381 league games – 23 more than any other current coach. He starts his 16th season in the league, one more than Kansas State’s Brad Hill and 10 more than the majority of the conference’s head coaches.
1. 381 – Ritch Price, Kansas (16th season)
2. 358 –Brad Hill, K-State (15th season)
3. 120 – Tim Tadlock, Texas Tech (Sixth season)
4. 117 – Jim Schlossnagle, TCU (Sixth season)
5. 116 – Randy Mazey, West Virginia (Sixth season)
THE ALL-TIME WINNER
Head coach Ritch Price became KU’s all-time winningest coach at 439 wins after an 11-7 win over Northwestern State (March 4), 2017, surpassing legendary skipper Floyd Temple (438). Price’s current 467 win total accounts for 25 percent of the program’s 1,887 victories spanning 126 seasons played. In addition, Price is 18 wins away from eclipsing the 700-win mark at the Division I level, a feat only 15 other active Power Five coaches have achieved.
THREE DRAFTED IN 2017
Three Jayhawks were selected in the 2017 MLB Draft with lefty Blake Weiman (8th, Pittsburgh Pirates) and closer Stephen Villines (10th, New York Mets) picked inside the top-10 rounds. The duo became the 27th and 28th players in Kansas history to be drafted in the top-10 rounds. In addition, shortstop Matt McLaughlin heard his name called in the 12th round, when the Colorado Rockies selected him with the 356th pick.
Kansas continues its 11-game homestand when it welcomes in Big Ten foe, Northwestern, for a three-game set Feb. 23-25 at Hoglund Ballpark.
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