Kansas Faces First True Road Test at Stanford
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The 11-1 Kansas baseball team heads to Stanford, Calif., to play a three-game series against the Stanford Cardinal, March 7-9, at Klein Field at Sunken Diamond.
The Jayhawks are coming off the best start in program history after sweeping BYU in four games (Feb. 14-15, & 17), winning four games at the Snowbird Classic (Feb. 21-24) and winning three out of four against Houston Baptist (Feb. 28-March 2).
All three games can be heard on Jayhawk Digital Passport through KUAthletics.com/Showcase with Sean Kellerman and Tom Hedrick calling the action.
- The Jayhawks beat Houston Baptist three out of four times en route to an 11-1 record to start the season, the best in school history and no small feat for a program that threw its first pitch in 1880.
- The next best start in KU history came in 2002 when the program started 10-0, before dropping the next eight games.
- During the opening stretch, Kansas has outscored its opponents 108-48 with a .369 two-out average and 46 two-out RBIs.
- The Jayhawk offense holds down the No. 1 spot in the Big 12 in batting average (.335), runs scored (108), hits (141), slugging percentage (.477) and is tied for first for fewest strikeouts (47).
- That offensive presence also ranks among the top in the country, as KU sits at No. 5 in batting average, No. 6 in hits, No. 3 in runs, No. 8 in scoring (9.0) and No. 6 in slugging percentage.
- Connor McKay‘s prowess at the plate has landed his name atop the Big 12 leader boards in RBIs (19), home runs (4) and slugging percentage (.700).
- Tommy Mirabelli finds his name as the league leader in runs scored with 15. Justin Protacio is tied for second with 14, while Michael Suiter (4th) and Tucker Tharp (T-5th) also rank among the leaders.
SERIES HISTORY: Kansas and Stanford have met 12 times with the Cardinal holding a 10-2 advantage over the Jayhawks. All 12 meetings have come under the tenure of head coach Ritch Price, where the two squads met for a three-game series each year from 2004-07. Stanford swept KU in three of those meetings, while Kansas took the 2006 series, 2-1, when the Cardinal held a No. 8 national ranking.
SCOUTING REPORT: Stanford enters the weekend with a record of 5-7 after a tough four-game stretch where the Cardinal were swept by Vanderbilt, before winning a mid-week contest against Cal, 11-1. Against fellow conference mate Texas, Stanford lost two of the three games. In the win over Cal Tuesday (March 4), the Cardinal scored 11 runs off 12 hits and two Bears’ errors while giving up just one run and five hits.
Four Cardinal are batting over .350, with Alex Blandino leading the way with a .429 average. Blandino leads the team in hits (18), doubles (5), RBIs (12) and slugging percentage (.619) in 12 starts on the season. Brett Michael Doran is second on the team in average (.400) with 14 hits, including two doubles, a triple and a home run for nine RBIs.
Blandino led the charge against Cal with four RBIs off of a perfect performance at the plate (3-for-3) with a run scored. Doran batted two-for-three with a RBI and two runs scored.
On the bump, Stanford relies on right-handed hurlers Brett Hanewich, Chris Viall and Cal Quantrill. Hanewich holds a record of 0-1 in three starts with a 2.70 ERA, allowing 15 hits and six runs in 13 and one third innings of work. Viall holds a 4.72 ERA in three starts, allowing seven runs off of 13 hits and nine walks. Quantrill leads the team in strikeouts with 12, holding a 1-2 record in four starts. He has allowed 13 runs off of 17 hits in just 14 and two-thirds innings of work.
LAST TIME OUT: After an 8-0 start that began with a four-game sweep of BYU (Feb. 14-15 & 17) and then four-straight wins at the Snowbird Classic (Feb. 21-24) the Jayhawks took three out of four games against Houston Baptist (Feb. 28-March 2) en route to the best start in program history (11-1). Kansas outscored HBU 32-10 while holding a 51-26 advantage in the hit column. In the lone loss, KU outhit the Huskies nine to seven, but couldn’t deliver the clutch hit needed when runners were on base. In addition, the Jayhawks posted a .370 average combined on the weekend, compared to that of HBU who batted just .218.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Junior shortstop Justin Protacio led the Jayhawk offense with a .500 average on the weekend, compiling nine hits in 18 at bats, including two doubles, a triple, four RBIs and eight runs scored for a .722 slugging percentage.
- Freshman catcher Michael Tinsley also batted .500 on the weekend, recording five hits in 10 at bats with a triple and five RBIs for a .700 slugging percentage.
- Senior righty Frank Duncan (2-0) tossed a complete game two-hit shutout against the Huskies, tallying 10 strikeouts without allowing walk. In his first three starts, he has struck out 27 batters in 23 and a third innings, without giving up a free pass.
- Thirteen different Jayhawks recorded at least one hit against HBU (March 2) in the 14-1 win.
- Freshman catcher Lee McMahon and freshman infielder MJ Farthing recorded their first-career base hits in the sixth inning against HBU (March 2), with Farthing driving in his first-career RBI.
- The Jayhawks scored at least one run in all six offensive innings against the Huskies (March 2), putting up a five-spot twice, in both the fourth and sixth innings. Houston Baptist (7-5) struggled on the mound, allowing head coach Ritch Price the opportunity to use every one of his position players in the 14-1 win.
- Junior right-hander Drew Morovick cruised through five innings of work against HBU (March 2), allowing just one hit and two walks, while striking out four batters in the 66-pitch effort.
- Three Kansas regulars have a .350 or better average with two outs, including Ka’iana Eldredge (.636, 7-for-11, five RBIs), Tucker Tharp (.471, 8-for-17, seven RBIs) and Connor McKay (.381, 8-for-21, nine RBIs).
- KU extended its all-time record in the month of February to 131-95-1 (.577), after its win against HBU (Feb. 28).
- After the series against Stanford, KU will have played its first 15 games away from Hoglund Ballpark, with only three counting as true road contests.
KANSAS RUNS ON DUNCAN: Senior right-handed pitcher Frank Duncan pitched an absolute gem against Houston Baptist (March 1), going the distance for a two-hit shutout, striking out 10 Huskies in the process. It only took 98 pitches and one hour and fifty one minutes for Duncan to accomplish that feat, as he faced just one batter over the minimum and retired the last 18 batters he faced. That performance came just one week after recording a career-high 14 strikeouts against Mississippi Valley State (Feb. 23) in seven and two-thirds innings pitched. He allowed just four hits and one earned run in that start to earn Collegiate Baseball Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week and Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors. His 14 strikeouts were the most by a pitcher in a single game since Mike Zagurski struck out 13 against Northern Colorado (Feb. 25, 2005). Duncan was the first Jayhawk to earn a national weekly honor since Shaeffer Hall earned the same honor (Feb. 24, 2009). In his first three starts this season, Duncan has struck out 27 batters in 23 and a third innings pitched without surrendering a walk.
HAVE A DAY MCKAY: Junior right fielder Connor McKay filled up the box score with a career-high five RBIs against Milwaukee (Feb. 22), which included a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a grand slam in the fifth inning. That was the second granny of McKay’s career and the first for KU since McKay hit one in 2012 against Minnesota (March 10). He has now surpassed his home run total from last season (2) in just eight games on the year, as he hit two two-run bombs against BYU in the opening weekend of play. Eight of his 15 RBIs have come off of his home run production.
IF YOU’RE NOT FIRST, YOU’RE LAST: Kansas has scored first in 10 of its 12 games on the season, en route to a 11-1 record. In those 10 contests, the Jayhawks have won by a margin of 5.3 runs, averaging just 3.1 more hits a game than their opponents.
WE GOT THIS: With senior closer Jordan Piche’ inactive after a 73-pitch performance the night before, freshman right-handed hurlers Stephen Villines and Jon Hander heard their names called for the first time to close out KU’s game against Milwaukee (Feb. 22). Villines entered the game in the sixth inning with Kansas trailing 7-6. He tossed two and two-thirds innings, giving up one hit and one run for his first career win, after the Jayhawks put up a three spot in the eighth inning. Hander came on in the ninth for his first career save and threw 15 pitches, allowing just one hit.
UP NEXT: If the weather cooperates, the Jayhawks will host their home opener Wednesday, March 12 against Creighton at Hoglund Ballpark. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. Kansas will then pick up and hit the road again for a conference-opening series against Texas in Austin (March 14-16), before traveling to New Mexico for a two-game series against the Lobos (March 18-19). First pitch Friday, March 14 against Texas is slated for 6 p.m., with game two and three to start promptly at 1 p.m.
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