Kansas hosts Baylor for Big 12 clash
Freshman catcher/designated hitter Jaxx Groshans leads the Jayhawks with 25 RBIs.
Turski vs. Lewis
Goddard vs. Parsons
Zeferjahn vs. Bradford
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas baseball team welcomes in Baylor for a three-game Big 12 Conference series April 28-30 at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (21-20, 8-7) have won 11-of-16 games and sit in fourth place in the league standings. The Bears enter the weekend with just one conference series win and has only won two games on the road against Big 12 foes.
Fans can watch Friday and Saturday’s game on ESPN3 with Sunday’s contest on the Jayhawk Television Network. In addition, all three games can be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official “Kansas Jayhawks” app.
- The Jayhawks are coming off a weekend series win at then-No. 19 Oklahoma marking their second-straight conference series win and third of the season.
- That series win against a top-25 opponent was a first since defeating then-No. 9 Oklahoma State in Lawrence two games to one in 2015 and the first on the road since opening Big 12 play with a series win at then-No. 10 Texas in 2014.
- The back-to-back conference series wins vs. Oklahoma State and at Oklahoma marks a first for a KU team since sweeping three-straight league opponents to close out Big 12 play in 2014.
- With that series win against the Sooners and a two-game midweek sweep at Grand Canyon (April 25-26), KU’s RPI has jumped to No. 58 – up 33 spots from last week with seven games remaining against top-20 RPI teams (No. 15 Baylor ; No. 13 Missouri State ; and at No. 5 Texas Tech ).
- Kansas has won 11-of-16 games played in the month of April including four of its last five.
- The Jayhawks have won three Big 12 Conference series this season – a first since the squad earned conference victories over five league opponents in 2014.
- KU has won two of the last three series played at Hoglund Ballpark against Baylor and holds a record of 6-3 in those nine contests.
- Baylor’s lone conference series win this season came against Texas in Waco (April 13-15).
- The Bears hold a 6-6 road record, but only two of those wins came against Big 12 Conference foes.
Kansas is one of the youngest ball clubs in the Big 12 Conference. The Jayhawk freshman class has made the highest percentage of starts in the league at 36.8 percent of the team’s 410 combined starts (151-of-410). The next closest team to KU is Texas Tech, whose freshman class has combined for 34.0 percent of the team’s starts. When it comes to underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores), Kansas ranks second behind West Virginia. The Mountaineers underclassmen have combined to make 74.9 percent of the team’s 390 starts (82-freshman; 210-sophomore). The Jayhawks come in at 68.8 percent with 151 starts coming from freshmen and 131 from sophomores. Comparatively, KU has had the least amount of combined starts by its senior class coming in at 5.1 percent (21-of-410).
STOPPER OF THE YEAR
For the second time in his career, senior closer Stephen Villines was named to the NCBWA Midseason Stopper of the Year Watch List, bestowed to the nation’s top relief pitcher. Villines has racked up 11 saves on the season and leads the Big 12 Conference in that category. So far in 2017, Villines has posted a 3.03 ERA in 32 and 2/3 innings pitched and struck out 28.9 percent of the batters he has faced (41-of-142). In his last 13 appearances, Villines has earned eight saves, and has converted on seven of his last eight save attempts.
HE PUTS THE RP IN RPI
Kansas head coach Ritch Price has preached all season about being patient with his young ball club stating that in his experience, it takes about 25 games for freshmen to stop playing like freshmen. The skipper hit the nail on the head as he has his team headed in the right direction coming down the home stretch. Through the first 25 games, the Jayhawks held a 10-15 record with a RPI of 157 through March 31. In the month of April, KU has posted a record of 11-5, won three Big 12 series and earned a record of 6-4 on the road to increase its RPI to its current position at No. 58. With 15 games remaining in the season, Kansas controls its own destiny with seven games remaining against top-20 RPI teams: No. 15 Baylor (3); No. 13 Missouri State (1); and at No. 5 Texas Tech (3).
ACTIVE CAREER SAVES LEADER
Senior closer Stephen Villines added his 11th save of the season at then-No. 19 Oklahoma (April 22) to push his career total to 37. That number ranks first in the Big 12 Conference and tied for first in the NCAA for the most saves in a career by an active pitcher. Villines is tied with George Washington’s Eddie Muhl for the top spot and is the only Power Five closer in the top-10 in active career saves. Currently, Villines ranks No. 23 all-time in NCAA history with 37 saves and would need six more to crack the all-time top-10. In addition, his 37 saves rank tied for second all-time in the Big 12 with UT’s Corey Knebel (2011-13), with another Longhorn (Huston Street, 2002-04) holding the top spot at 41.
KANSAS’ RECORD WHEN
Kansas is a perfect 10-0 when it holds opponents to two runs or less and is 6-2 in games decided by one run. The Jayhawks are 16-3 when leading after six innings, 19-3 when leading after seven innings and a perfect 20-0 when they have the lead after eight. On the contrary, when KU scores two or fewer runs, it holds a 2-13 mark, and when opponents score first, that record becomes 4-15.
FAST START IN LEAGUE PLAY
Through 15 games in conference play, Kansas holds the fourth-best record in the league at 8-7. That start is the second-best for the Jayhawks since Big 12 play began in 1997, with a 9-6 start in 2013 standing as the best. The three times KU advanced to the NCAA Tournament during the Big 12 era (2006, 2009 and 2014), the squad posted records of 7-8, 8-5 and 6-9, respectively, at this same point. In addition, in those three seasons, Kansas finished with overall conference records of 13-14 (T-5th), 15-12 (4th) and 15-9 (3rd).
WATCH OUT FOR MCLAUGHLIN
Junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin was named to the 2017 Brooks Wallace Award Midseason Watch List. Given annually since 2004, the award is bestowed to the nation’s best shortstop. Six other Big 12 shortstops also found their names on the list with Texas and K-State not represented.
RUDY, RUDY, RUDY
Sophomore centerfielder Rudy Karre helped Kansas to a 4-1 record in its last five games that included a series win at then-No. 19 Oklahoma. Karre led KU with a .450 batting average in those five contests with three doubles, nine RBIs and six runs scored. He drew four walks and was hit by three pitches for a team-best .593 on-base percentage. Against the Sooners, Karre batted an even .500 (6-for-12) with two doubles, four RBIs, six runs scored and a team-best .625 on-base percentage. In KU’s 15-10 win Friday night (April 21), Karre reached base in all six plate appearances with a 3-for-3 effort at the dish that included two doubles, three walks, four runs and four RBIs. He matched that career-high four RBIs at Grand Canyon (April 25) to help the Jayhawks sweep the Lopes in a two-game midweek set. Since April 8 at West Virginia when Karre was batting a low .224, he has raised his average to .271 heading into this weekend’s matchup against Baylor.
TWO-STRAIGHT CONFERENCE SERIES WINS
For the first time since 2014, the Jayhawks won back-to-back league series when they took two out of three from Oklahoma State (April 13-15) and two out of three at then-No. 19 Oklahoma (April 21-23). With those two series wins, KU has now won three Big 12 weekend sets, a first since taking five three-game series in league play in 2014.
Senior closer Stephen Villines is 7-for-8 in his last eight save attempts dating back to April 1. During the streak, Villines has thrown seven and 1/3 innings, allowed six hits, one run, and struck out 11 batters for a 1.23 ERA. Prior to the month of April, Villines made 13 appearances and recorded four saves throwing 20 and 1/3 innings, and giving up 12 runs while striking out 28 hitters for a 4.43 ERA. He became KU’s all-time saves leader on April 2 surpassing the great Don Czyzand currently holds that mark at 37 career saves.
THE ALL-TIME WINNER
Head coach Ritch Price became KU’s new all-time winningest coach at 439 wins after an 11-7 win over Northwestern State (March 4), surpassing legendary skipper Floyd Temple (438). It took Temple 28 seasons to set that standard, before Price eclipsed that mark in just his 15th year at the helm of the program. Price’s 454 wins account for 24 percent of the program’s 1,872 victories spanning 125 seasons.
The Jayhawks continue their 11-game homestand when they welcome in Missouri State for midweek action on Tuesday, May 2.
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