Jayhawks Look to Get Back on Track Hosting Michigan
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas baseball team continues its homestand at Hoglund Ballpark with a three-game series against Michigan, March 13-15.
The Big Ten foe is coming off its first loss in nine games, and holds a record of 10-6. Michigan is hitting .301, with a team ERA of 3.00 and holds a .968 fielding percentage. Leading the way offensively is Jackson Glines batting .479 with three doubles, nine RBIs and a stolen base. Carmen Benedetti is hitting .368 with seven doubles, one homer and leads the team with 20 RBIs.
The Jayhawks are headed into the weekend looking to get things turned around, currently on a three game winless streak with an overall record of 6-11.
The story of the still-young season so far has been inconsistency.
The Jayhawks have put up big numbers at times with their bats, including 18 hits against Washington (Feb. 19), 15 runs against Chicago State (Feb. 26), 10 home runs this season and two multi-home run games, but have seen some smaller, less desirable numbers lately – seven runs in the last three games combined and seven strikeouts to one walk in the series finale against Utah (March 8) last weekend.
With a solid opponent like Michigan coming to Lawrence, it will serve as the perfect opportunity for the Jayhawks to reestablish their presence at the plate and prove to themselves and others that they are capable of being a top-notch team in 2015.
Senior shortstop and captain Justin Protacio is taking it upon himself to guide the team back to the winning ways they saw a season ago. He has led by example recently, as he is currently on a nine-game hitting streak and a 14-game streak of reaching base safely.
In addition to their plate presence, another blemish in the Jayhawks’ attack has been the performance of the young pitching staff. With an already-inexperienced group paired with the fact that the most experienced pitcher on the staff, Drew Morovick, is battling a sore arm, the coaches have had to rely heavily on junior college transfers and true freshmen to handle the majority of the workload.
In the last six games the Jayhawks have played, out of the 53 innings pitched, 30 and two-thirds of them were thrown by players who had not played a Division I game before this season. Four pitchers combined to pitch the other 22 and one-third innings in that stretch and of those four, only two had pitched more than 15 innings before this season.
“I told our guys (at the beginning of the season) that it would take four to six weeks for us to settle in and get over the nerves, and get to the point where the young guys can pitch at this level,” head coach Ritch Price said. “If we continue to mature and stay the course we will get there, we’ve got guys with talent we are just asking a lot from a lot of young guys right now.”
Though the defense has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season, with four double plays turned against Grand Canyon (March 4) and SportsCenter Top-10 worthy plays, Price has been disappointed with the defense as a whole and knows they can play at a high level they are yet to reach this season.
“We buried ourselves and now we have to be mature enough to play through it,” Price said. “The only way that is going to happen is if guys start making plays they are capable of making and eliminating the mental mistakes.”
All three games of the series against the Wolverines can be seen live on ESPN3 through WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, through ESPN on Xbox Live to Gold Members and on Apple TV. In addition, all three games can be heard live on the Jayhawk Radio Network through KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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