Kansas travels to Missouri State for midweek bout
Senior closer Stephen Villines became KU’s all-time saves leader after picking up two saves against Texas this past weekend.
Zeferjahn vs. Knight
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas baseball team begins a four-game road swing Tuesday, April 4, when the Jayhawks travel to Missouri State for a 6:30 p.m. tilt at Hammons Field.
Kansas (12-15) and Missouri State (18-9) have played 54 games against each other with the Bears holding the four-game advantage in the all-time series, 29-25.
Fans can listen in to a live audio broadcast of the game on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio or tune in on the dial at KWOD 1660 AM.
- Kansas won its first conference series of 2017 when it defeated the Texas Longhorns two games to one at Hoglund Ballpark (March 31-April 2).
- That Big 12 series win also marked the first in league play for the Jayhawks since taking down Oklahoma in 2016 (April 30-May 1).
- That was the first series victory for KU over Texas since 2014 when Kansas defeated the then-No.10 Longhorns in Austin (March 14-16).
- The Jayhawks are an even 3-3 in true midweek games, but have lost their last two contests played during the week.
- In those six contests, Kansas averages five runs per game and has hit .261 with 11 doubles and one triple.
- Opponents are batting .268 against KU in those six games and average 5.3 runs per contest with 11 doubles, one triple and four home runs.
- Kansas has not won a game at Missouri State since April 13, 2010, when it defeated the Bears, 6-4.
MISSOURI STATE WOES
Kansas is just 1-9 against Missouri State in the last 10 contests the two teams have played and has not won a game against the Bears on the road since April 13, 2010. Since their last road win at MSU, the Jayhawks have been outscored by the Bears 74-42 or by an average of 7.4-4.2 runs per contest. In addition, KU has won just nine out of 26 games total played in Springfield, Missouri.
Senior closer Stephen Villines pitched a perfect 2-for-2 in save opportunities over the weekend against Texas 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. Villines has now racked up six saves on the season and averages 2.1 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 27 games so far in 2017 and only three Jayhawks have started each of those contests. Sophomore Devin Foyle made all 27 of his starts in the outfield – 18 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 24 starts in center field, two at designated hitter and one at third base.
IMPROVEMENT ON THE HILL
Exactly 27 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 6.13 team ERA with one starter under a 5.00 ERA. In 2016, those numbers improved to a team ERA of 4.71 and two starters under 4.00 ERA. Comparatively, the team currently holds a team ERA of 4.20 and has struck out 224 batters – 56 batters more than 2016 and 68 hitters more than 2015. In addition, 2017 marks KU’s lowest batting average against in those three years at .254 while it has also surrendered the fewest walks at 90.
KANSAS ON THE ROAD
The Jayhawks have played eight true road contests in 2017 and hold a record of 3-5 in those games. Opponents outscore Kansas 4.1-2.8 runs per contest while holding a batting average that is 51 points higher (.249) than KU (.198). Freshman second baseman James Cosentino leads the Jayhawks with a .321 (9-for-28) batting average on the road with one home runs, three RBIs and three runs scored. No other regular in the KU lineup boasts an average over .300 with junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin the closest at .286 (8-for-28).
HE’S GOT CLASS
Kansas baseball senior closer Stephen Villines was named one of 30 candidates to be considered for the 2017 Senior CLASS Award in collegiate baseball. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as a NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition. Villines is the fourth Jayhawk to be considered for this award during the 2016-17 school year, joining Cassie Wait (volleyball), Fish Smithson (football) and Frank Mason III (men’s basketball) as Kansas nominees. Villines is just one of four Big 12 baseball players to appear on the list of 30. Joining him are Tyler Buffett (Oklahoma State), Jackson Cramer (West Virginia) and Matt Menard (Baylor).
Kansas continues its road swing when it resumes conference play at West Virginia April 7-9 at Monongalia County Ballpark.
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