Kansas opens Hoglund Ballpark against Omaha
Highly touted freshman righty Ryan Zeferjahn will make his first Division I start on the hill for the Jayhawks.
(KU) Zeferjahn vs. (Omaha) Flattery
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas baseball team opens up its 2017 home slate when the Jayhawks play host to Omaha, Tuesday, February 21, at Hoglund Ballpark.
Kansas (1-2) and Omaha (1-3) have met three times in the history of the two programs, with the Jayhawks holding the all-time series lead, 3-0. The last time these two teams met, it took 10 innings to decide a victor, with KU winning in the bottom of the 10th inning, April 13, 2016.
- Kansas’ all-time record: 1,856-1,786-18 (.510).
- Head coach Ritch Price’s record in Division I: 652-633-4 (.507).
- Price (436-404-3 [.519]) is just three wins from becoming KU’s all-time winningest coach (Floyd Temple, 438).
- Under the direction of Price, Kansas has won 13 home openers in 14 seasons, with its only loss coming in 2014 (Oral Roberts, 8-7).
- For the second-straight season, KU will open up Hoglund Ballpark in the month of February. The last time Kansas opened up “the Hog” in back-to-back seasons in February came in 2004 and 2005.
- Since 2003 when Price took over the program, the Jayhawks have played 18 home games in the month of February and hold a record of 16-2 in those contests.
- KU holds an all-time record of 133-103-1 in the month of February, with the first recorded contest played in the month coming on February 28, 1986, where the Jayhawks swept a doubleheader against Missouri Southern.
- Kansas and Omaha have played three times prior to Tuesday’s contest, with the Jayhawks winning all three games in 2001, 2002 and 2016, respectively.
- All three prior matchups against the Mavericks were decided by two runs or less, with the last two coming down to one run.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW
Of the 25 different players to be used throughout the three games played at the Charleston Crab House Challenge, 10 were making their debut in a Jayhawk uniform. In addition, of the 30 combined starts between all 10 on the lineup card, 14 were occupied by players making their first Division I start. Freshman second baseman James Cosentino (3), freshman catcher Jaxx Groshans (2), redshirt-freshman left fielder Peyton Grassanovits (2), freshman right fielder Brett Vosik (1) and freshman third baseman Benjamin Sems (1) combined for nine of those starts.
SOMETHING TO REMEMBER
If making your first Division I start as a freshman wasn’t enough, rookie second baseman James Cosentino will remember his first collegiate base hit even more. In just his second plate appearance in a Jayhawk uniform, Cosentino laced a fastball deep over the wall in right field for his first-career hit and home run, pacing Kansas to a six-run fifth inning at The Citadel (Feb. 17). That three-run blast propelled the Jayhawks to an opening day win over the Bulldogs, 7-5, and solidifying his spot in the lineup. Cosentino went on to start all three contests of the weekend at second base.
SMALL BUT MIGHTY
Sophomore third baseman David Kyriacou may stand at 5-foot-9-inches tall, but that doesn’t deter him from showing off his power with the bat. Kyriacou made just 10 starts a year ago, but found himself a regular on the lineup card opening weekend, where he took full advantage of the opportunity. Kyriacou paced the Jayhawks with a .571 slugging percentage at the Charleston Crab House Challenge where he collected five base knocks, including his first-career home run at The Citadel (Feb. 17). His five hits were more than any other KU player, while his three runs scored tied for the team high on the weekend.
Redshirt-junior righty Sean Rackoski toed the rubber at The Citadel (Feb. 17) for the first time in 642 days with his last start coming on May 17, 2015, against Kansas State. The 6-foot-7-inch power arm missed all of 2016 after he broke his thumb in preseason preparation. In his first outing back, Rackoski gave up two runs in five innings of work to pick up his first win since April 21, 2015, when Kansas defeated Wichita State, 11-6.
Senior closer Stephen Villines iced The Citadel (Feb. 17) to pick up career save 27 and move into a tie for No. 2 all-time in career saves with Paul Smyth. In his first outing, Villines recorded the final seven outs in 32 pitches, including three strikeouts. Villines needs five more saves to become KU’s all-time saves leader, as Don Czyz (31) currently holds the top spot.
THE QUEST FOR 439
Kansas head coach Ritch Price stands three wins away from becoming KU’s all-time winningest coach. Currently, the title is held by legend Floyd Temple, who amassed 438 wins in his 28-year tenure with the Jayhawks. The earliest Price could achieve this feat is game six of the season at Stanford (Feb. 25). In addition, Price is the longest-tenured active coach at a Big 12 institution, as he begins his 15th season with KU. He also has won the most games at his institution among all active league skippers.
WATCH OUT FOR VILLINES
The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named closer Stephen Villines to the 2017 Preseason Stopper of the Year Watch List. In its 13th year, the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award is given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball. Villines has racked up the second-most saves in Kansas history (27) and is just four behind KU great Don Czyz (31) – who won the Stopper of the Year Award in 2006.
JAYHAWKS PICKED NINTH
The Jayhawks were predicted to finish ninth in the Big 12 Conference preseason poll. Kansas has been rebuilding since losing a large core of upperclassmen who guided the now-senior class to a berth in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and its highest finish in Big 12 play at third, and looks to outperform the poll like it has done so many times before. In 2014 KU was picked to finish last and ended league play in third, in 2013 it was picked to finish eighth and finished sixth, and in 2012, it was voted to finish ninth and ended the year in seventh.
PRICE NAMES 2017 CAPTAINS
Kansas skipper Ritch Price appointed senior catcher John Remick, senior closer Stephen Villines and junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin captains for the 2017 campaign. The trio will all be holding captain’s duties for the first time in their careers.
JAYHAWKS IN THE PROS
As Kansas begins its 2017 campaign, 15 former players find themselves on professional rosters heading into Spring Training: Wes Benjamin (Hickory Crawdads – A), Frank Duncan (Reno Aces – AAA), Sam Freeman (Gwinnett Braves – AAA), Tom Gorzelanny (FA), Ben Krauth (Lake County Captains – A), Brandon Macias (Colorado Springs Sky Sox – AAA), Connor McKay (Hickory Crawdads – A), Colton Murray (Lehigh Valley IronPigs – AAA), Jordan Piche´ (Inland Empire 66ers – A), Dakota Smith (Lowell Spinners – A), Michael Suiter (Winston-Samel Dash – A), Tucker Tharp (Columbia Fireflies – A), Michael Tinsley (Mahoning Valley Scrappers – A), Colby Wright (Billings Mustangs – R) and Mike Zagurski (Toledo Mud Hens – AAA).
ALL JAYHAWKS, ALL THE TIME
All Kansas baseball games will be carried live and for free on the Jayhawk Radio Network, which can be found at KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official Kansas Jayhawks app on your mobile device. A handful of games will also be broadcasted on the airwaves. In addition, all 32 home games will be carried live in HD on ESPN3, with nine broadcasted throughout the state of Kansas on the Jayhawk Television Network. Fans can access ESPN3 online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN and ESPN apps, through ESPN on Xbox Live to Gold Members, on Apple TV and a handful of other streaming and smart devices. For more information on the Jayhawk Television Network and ESPN3, visit KUAthletics.com/TV.
FOUR DRAFTED IN 2016
Four Jayhawks were selected in the 2016 MLB Draft with catcher Michael Tinsley picked inside the top-10 rounds by the Cleveland Indians (7th round, pick 212). He became the 26th player in Kansas history to be drafted in the top-10 rounds and just the second position player to don that honor in the Ritch Price era. He was also the highest draft pick among catchers all-time at KU. In addition to Tinsley, lefty Ben Krauth (Cleveland Indians), righty Sam Gilbert (Oakland Athletics) and second baseman Colby Wright (Cincinnati Reds) were also drafted.
Kansas hits the road to take on perennial national power Stanford Feb. 24-26 at Sunken Diamond. Prior to the start of Saturday’s (Feb. 25) contest, there will be a free tailgate at 4:30 prior to first pitch.
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