Kansas Opens Home Slate with Northern Colorado

Redshirt-sophomore Jon Hander will make his first start on the mound since May 7, 2014. Watch Game 1Watch Game 2Notes Game NotesRadio ListenStats Live StatsCalendar ScheduleList RosterTickets TicketsLAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas baseball returns home to Hoglund Ballpark for its home opener, Monday, Feb. 22, as the Jayhawks play host to Northern Colorado in the first of a two-game series against the Bears.

KU (0-1) is coming off a season-opening loss at LIttle Rock and looks to bounce back in two home games with UNC (1-2) before hitting the road for the Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge.

Fans can tune into the action live on the Jayhawk Radio Network available at KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official Kansas Jayahwks app on your mobile device. Both games against the Bears will also be available live on ESPN3 with Steven Davis and Kevin Wheeler on the call.

  • Kansas enters the series against Northern Colorado with an all-time record of 1,835-1,750-17.
  • Head coach Ritch Price is in his 22nd season as a Division I head coach with a record of 631-597-3 (.514).
  • Price is in his 14th year at Kansas with a record of 415-368-2 (.530), and is just 24 wins from becoming KU’s all-time winningest coach (Floyd Temple, 438).
  • Under Price, the Jayhawks have won 12 home openers in 13 seasons, with their only loss coming in 2014 (Oral Roberts).
  • KU has won 10 home-opening series, split two and lost one (Utah – 2015) in Price’s tenure.
  • The last time KU played a home game in February was in 2011 when the Jayhawks fell to Creighton, 4-3, in 10 innings (Feb. 22).
  • Kansas last played a home series in February in 2005, when it swept South Dakota State in a four-game set (Feb. 16-18).
  • The Jayhawks last won a home game in February on the 28th day in 2011, 5-2, against Iowa.
  • KU is 15-2 in February home games under Price.

Kansas and Northern Colorado have played nine times dating back to the first meeting on February 25, 2005, where the Jayhawks won the first of a three-game series against the Bears, 11-1. KU holds the 5-4 advantage in the all-time series with all nine games played in Lawrence during head coach Ritch Price’s tenure. The last time the two teams met was on April 1, 2009, where Kansas won a decisive battle, 15-6. The Jayhawks have outscored the Bears 63-47 in those nine games and average 7.0 runs per contest compared to the 5.2 runs per game by UNC.

Several Jayhawks played against current Northern Colorado Bears in high school and that competitive first still burns from those former high school rivalries. Senior outfielder Joe Moroney matched up against Joe Love in high school of the EBAL league for four years. Moroney played for Amador Valley HS while love played for San Ramon Valley HS. Senior lefty Ben Krauth and Love are both alumni of Diablo Valley CC. Love played there in 2012, while Krauth played from 2013-14. The two never played against one another. Sophomore southpaw Blake Weiman hails from Colorado and played against Justin Mulvaney while attending Columbine HS. Mulvaney played for Arvada West HS. The Jayhawks have three players from the state of Colorado, including Weiman, sophomore first baseman Owen Taylor and freshman righty Blake Goldsberry.

Carl Iwasaki is in his sixth year as the head coach of the Northern Colorado Bears. The Bears are coming off of a 16-32 season that rewarded them with their first appearance in the Western Atlantic Conference tournament in program history. Under Iwasaki’s direction, the Bears have averaged 22 wins per season, qualified for two Great West Conference Tournaments and won the Great West Conference in 2013. In 2013, Iwasaki was donned the Great West Coach of the Year by his peers and College Sports Madness after leading the Bears to their first Great West Conference regular-season title. Iwasaki has more than 20 years of coaching experience in Colorado, Hawaii, California, and Texas. Before coming to Greeley, Iwasaki spent six years as the head coach at Austin College in Texas, where he was honored as Conference Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2007. He spent his playing days at UNC from 1981 to 1984 as a catcher.

Northern Colorado is coming off an opening weekend where they finished 1-2 in a three-game series at Wichita State. The Bears averaged 2 runs per contest and tallied 16 hits in the series, including five doubles. The Bears are led by third baseman Tyler Yamaguchi who is batting .357 with five hits, four runs scored and a RBI. Yamaguchi scored all but two of UNC’s runs against the Shockers. In 2015, Northern Colorado finished 16-32 and return 15 letterwinners, including 11 starters combined between the mound and the field.

If there was a silver lining in KU’s 4-2 loss at Little Rock (Feb. 20), it would have to be the performance of a much improved bullpen. With senior starter Ben Krauth struggling, KU called to the pen and brought in three different relievers to close out the final three frames, where the trio didn’t surrender a run and allowed just one hit. Freshman righty Zack Leban got the nod first and tossed one and 1/3 innings before getting into a bases loaded jam that required assistance from sophomore lefty Blake Weiman to get out of. Weiman came in with one out and bases loaded in the seventh and struck out both hitters he faced to keep the game manageable. Kansas then called to senior righty Sam Gilbert for the eighth where he did something not seen every day – striking out four batters in a single inning. Gilbert stuck to his guns and blew the ball by all four batters he faced for a career-high four strikeouts to help the KU pitching staff close the game on six-straight strikeouts.

Saturday’s loss at Little Rock (Feb. 20), provided an opportunity for players on a young team to garner much needed experience. The Jayhawks saw a total of three freshmen make their collegiate debuts with left fielder Devin Foyle and designated hitter Rudy Karre getting the start. Righty Zack Leban was the other rookie to make an appearance in Saturday’s game as he pitched one and 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. KU’s lineup against the Trojans returned just three players that started 40 or more games in 2015 (Joven Afenir – 43; Matt McLaughlin – 51; and Michael Tinsley – 53). Four other players had started at least one game in 2015 (Colby Wright – 38; Tommy Mirabelli – 26; Joe Moroney – 21; and Owen Taylor – 12).

For the third-straight season, all 56 Kansas baseball games will be made available in some capacity for fans to listen or watch live. All 56 regular-season games can be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network through KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official Kansas Jayhawks mobile app, available by searching “Kansas Jayhawks” in the app store. In addition, 16 of those contests will also be live on the dial. Of those 56 games, 40 will be made available for viewing throughout the course of the season including all 27 home games that will be carried live on ESPN3 with seven also carried on the Jayahwk Television Network (JTV). KU’s game at Kauffman Stadium against Nebraska, April 27, will also be carried on JTV, while all three games at Baylor, at Texas and at Kansas State will also be televised.

The Jayhawks were predicted to finish tied for seventh in the Big 12 standings by the league’s coaches prior to the start of the season. Kansas has a habit of outperforming its preseason prognostications, as in 2014, KU was picked to finish last and posted its highest finish in the history of the conference with a 15-9 league mark, good enough for third. In 2013, the Jayhawks were picked to finish eighth and finished sixth, while in 2012, they were voted to finish ninth and placed seventh.

Kansas hits the road for the second-annual Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge, Feb. 26-29, at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona – the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers. There, the Jayhawks will play two games against Utah (Feb. 26 & 29) and two games against perennial national power Oregon State (Feb. 27-28). All four games can be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio with Saturday’s contest (Feb. 27) against the Beavers available on the dial at KJHK 90.7 FM.
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