Jayhawks Fly South for Snowbird Classic
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After opening the 2014 season with a four-game sweep over BYU, the Kansas baseball team takes its talents to Port Charlotte, Fla., for the Snowbird Classic Feb. 21-24, at North Charlotte Regional Park.
The Jayhawks open the weekend Friday against Northwestern at 9:30 a.m. (CST). The team will have the same time slot on Saturday when it takes on Wisconsin-Milwaukee and then will play Mississippi Valley State on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (CST). KU closes the weekend with St. Bonaventure, Monday at 10 a.m. (CST).
All four games can be heard on Jayhawk Digital Passport through KUAthletics.com/Showcase with legendary play-by-play man Tom Hedrick calling the action alongside Sean Kellerman.
- For the first time since 2007, the Jayhawks opened non-conference play by sweeping their opponent, taking four games from BYU to start the 2014 slate.
- The Jayhawk offense ranks third in the Big 12 in runs scored (33), hits (38) and RBIs (29), and fourth in home runs with three.
- For just the fifth time under head coach Ritch Price, KU won four-straight games to start the season, with the others coming in 2005-07 and 2012.
- Three different Kansas players rank in the top-10 in multiple Big 12 offensive categories: Aaron Hernandez ranks seventh with six hits, Connor McKay ranks third in home runs (2) and fourth in RBIs (7), while Tommy Mirabelli ranks fourth in walks (2), fifth in runs scored (6) and sixth in doubles (2).
NORTHWESTERN SERIES HISTORY: Kansas and the Wildcats have met seven times in program history, with the Jayhawks riding a four-game winning streak and 4-3 series lead. The two squads first met March 5, 1995, where NU won the contest 5-3. Northwestern won the next two meetings in 1998 and 2001. KU has never lost to the Wildcats in head coach Ritch Price’s tenure.
WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE SERIES HISTORY: The Jayhawks hold a 5-1 all-time series lead over the Panthers with the last meeting between the two squads coming in 2004, with a weekend match-up March 5-7. Kansas won the first game 22-6, before dropping the second 7-9. However it was KU winning the rubber match by a score of 8-7. The two teams first met in 2002, where Kansas swept the series 4-1, 8-7 and 13-1.
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE SERIES HISTORY: Two games in 2012 are the only two contests that KU and Mississippi Valley State have played against one another, with Kansas winning both and outscoring the Delta Devils 25-3.
ST. BONAVENTURE SERIES HISTORY: Monday’s contest against St. Bonaventure will be the first time in school history the two teams will meet.
SCOUTING REPORT: Northwestern, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Mississippi Valley State each enter the Snowbird Classic with a record of 0-3, having all been swept opening weekend. St. Bonaventure is the only team on the KU slate that hasn’t played a game yet in 2014, as they open with Iowa Feb. 22.
Catcher Scott Heelan and left fielder Joe Hoscheit lead the Northwestern offense. Hoscheit is batting .313 (5-for-16) with two RBIs and two runs scored, while Heelan holds a .417 batting average (5-for-12) with an RBI. Heelan also led all hitters in 2013 with a .366 average, compiling 37 hits, seven doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs. Brandon Magallones was a weekend regular a year ago, getting the nod opening weekend where he lasted six innings, gave up four hits and two earned runs while striking out six.
The Panthers lost their entire weekend rotation from last season, with Tyler Thicke as the go-to guy having appeared in 20 games in 2013 with three starts. Last weekend, Thicke pitched just four and two thirds innings in his first start of the season, giving up seven hits and six earned runs with three free passes. Wisconsin-Milwaukee also returns six starters to its lineup, with Sam Koenig leading the way with a .667 average (4-for-6) with a double, a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored.
The Delta Devils won just five games in 2013 (5-44) and were swept (19-0, 19-3, 14-2) to open the 2014 campaign, before dropping a mid-week game to Morehead Stat, 3-2 (Feb. 19). Jonathan Parker holds down the weekend rotation with 22 appearances a year ago. He tossed just four and a third innings in his first outing this season, giving up eight hits, nine runs (six earned), while striking out six.
St. Bonaventure is yet to play a game in 2014, but finished the 2013 season with an overall record of 20-28 and 9-15 in the Atlantic-10 Conference play. Joel Rosencrance returns as the top hitter for the Bonnies, batting .305 with 14 doubles, four home runs and 26 RBIs in 2013. Steven Klimek is back as a weekend regular on the mound. With 10 starts a season ago, Klimek recorded a 1-4 record in 49 and a third innings pitched for a 5.66 ERA.
LAST TIME OUT: Kansas opened the 2014 slate by sweeping BYU in a four-game set. The Jayhawks scored 10 or more runs in three of the four contests, including 11 in the come-from-behind walk-off win in the bottom of the 10th inning in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader. KU outscored the Cougars 33-15, with 17 runs coming with two outs. This was the first series sweep to open a season since 2007 when the Jayhawks took six-straight games from Hawaii-Hilo.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp tallied five hits on the weekend, but none bigger than his two-out, walk-off RBI-single in the bottom of the 10th inning to propel the Jayhawks to a come-from-behind victory over BYU in the night cap of a doubleheader (Feb. 15).
- Junior third baseman Aaron Hernandez collected six hits and five RBIs, including the game-winning RBI, in game one and the game-tying RBI sac fly in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader.
- Seven different Jayhawks stepped up and collected a two-out clutch hit this past weekend, with Michael Suiter and Connor McKay leading the way with four two-out RBIs a piece.
- Senior closer Jordan Piche’ appeared in three of the four games for KU, pitching five and two thirds innings. He closed out game one of the doubleheader for his first save of the season, before bouncing back on Monday to close out the series for his second-consecutive save.
- In his first collegiate at bat, freshman outfielder/designated hitter Joven Afenir recorded his first career hit and RBI with one swing against BYU (Feb. 14) and finished the weekend 1-for-4 in two starts.
- Kansas collected 17 two-out RBIs against the Cougars and holds a .421 batting average with two outs. Ka’iana Eldredge leads the team with a .667 average with two outs (4-for-6) which includes a double and three RBIs.
- KU extended its all-time record in the month of February to 126-95-1 (.568) with the four-game sweep of BYU.
- Head coach Ritch Price and the Jayhawks have only made one trip to Florida in his tenure when they competed in the Florida Spring Classic in 2008 in Bradenton. KU went 4-2 on that trip, defeating CCSU (7-6), Dartmouth (8-6), UMBC (4-1) and Northwestern (12-11).
GETTING IT DONE WITH ONE SWING: Junior right fielder Connor McKay tied his season total for home runs from last year in the first weekend of play this season, after dropping two bombs against the Cougars. Both two-run shots came with two outs, the first coming in the bottom of the fifth inning of the first game, KU trailing 4-2. McKay finished the weekend with four hits (.267), two home runs and seven RBIs for a .733 slugging percentage.
NOT THE FOOTBALL PLAYER: It didn’t take junior transfer third baseman Aaron Hernandez time to find his spot in the KU lineup as he batted .400 (6-for-15) this past weekend with a double, five RBIs and three runs scored. His performance helped him earn the honor of Co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, as he shared the accolade with Baylor freshman Darryn Sheppard. Hernandez also made some huge plays with the glove, recording one putout and 14 assists on the weekend.
ARMED AND READY: Prior to picking up two saves against the Cougars this past weekend, senior right-handed closer Jordan Piche’ was named to the 2014 NCBWA Preseason Stopper of the Year Watch List. He led the Big 12 in saves (12) a year ago, and currently holds the top spot this season after one week of play.
UP NEXT: The Jayhawks will host their home opener Feb. 28 against North Dakota to kick off the Salty Iguana Classic (Feb. 28-March 2), where they will also play two games against Houston Baptist. KU will then host a mid-week game against Creighton (March 4), before hitting the road for California to play a three-game weekend series against Stanford (March 7-9).
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