Jayhawks Open Big 12 Play at No. 10 Texas
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After a short stint in Lawrence to open up the 2014 home slate, the Kansas baseball team heads back out on the road to play at No. 10 Texas, March 14-16, at UFCU DischFalk Field.
The Jayhawks are coming off a tough stretch, dropping their last three games, after defeating Stanford, 4-2, Friday, March 7, in 13 innings.
All three games against Texas 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.
In addition to the radio stream, the series will also be available for viewing on the Longhorn Network with Kevin Dunn and Keith Moreland calling the action.
- Kansas dropped its fourth game of the season and third-straight game in four days after the loss to Oral Roberts (March 11), 8-7.
- In the four losses, KU is batting .228 and averaging 3.25 runs per game, compared to the season average of 7.68 runs per game.
- The Jayhawks have given up more runs in the third and fifth innings, than any other inning this season, which includes ORU’s four runs in the third (March 11).
- For the seventh time this season, KU was held to less than 10 hits against Oral Roberts (March 11) and holds a record of 4-3 when doing so.
- Kansas stranded a season-high 35 baserunners at Stanford over the weekend, including a season and Big 12 single game-high of 16 (March 7).
- Jayhawk pitchers held Stanford scoreless in 23 innings over the weekend, including four in extra innings on Friday night (March 7).
- For the first time in 2014, and the first time in the previous 22 games dating back to May 18, 2013, Kansas was shutout on the road at Stanford (March 9), where the Cardinal defeated KU, 1-0.
- Kansas was held to its second-lowest hit total (4) of 2014 in its loss at Stanford, 1-0, Sunday March 9.
- Connor McKay‘s offensive production is the anchor of the Jayhawk lineup, as he leads the Big 12 in RBIs (26), is tied for first in home runs (4) and ranks fifth in slugging percentage (.633).
SERIES HISTORY: The Jayhawks and Longhorns have met 60 times with Texas leading the series 41-19. The two teams first faced one another in 1906, but have met regularly since 1991. KU struggles on the road against UT, as the team has won just seven games in Austin. The last weekend series meeting against the two teams came in 2013 in Lawrence, where Kansas took 2-of-3 games from the Longhorns, all by the just one run. The las time the Jayhawks won a game in Austin was April 20, 2012 by a score of 7-2, thanks to a complete game three-hitter by current senior right hander Frank Duncan, who also struck out 11 batters that game.
SCOUTING REPORT: No. 10 Texas has won nine of its last 10 games and 14 of its last 16, as the Longhorns hold a record of 14-4 heading into the weekend. Predominately a small ball program, Texas holds the eighth-best team batting average (.245) in the Big 12, while boasting the lowest team ERA (2.05) on the mound. Senior centerfielder Mark Payton is responsible for most of the offensive production, as he holds a .413 batting average with two doubles, four triples, a home run and 11 RBIs for a .619 slugging percentage. The next closest regular in batting average is junior second baseman Brooks Marlow holds a .266 average with a triple and five RBIs.
Payton leads the Big 12 in on-base percentage (.532), triples (4), and is tied for first in walks (16). In addition, he ranks second in hits (26) and batting average (.413), while holding down the No. 6 spot in slugging percentage (.619).
On the bump, KU will likely see three pitchers with an ERA of 2.00 or better. Junior right-handed pitcher Parker French leads the team with a 1.07 ERA in four starts for a record of 2-1. In 25 and one-third innings pitched, French has struck out 25 batters while allowing just six walks. Senior righty Nathan Thornhill isn’t too far off French’s pace, compiling a 1.21 ERA in 22 and one-third innings pitched with 12 strikeouts and 12 walks allowed. Junior left-hander Dillon Peters rounds out the Texas regulars with a 2.00 ERA. He has struck out 12 batters in 27 innings of work, allowing just four walks.
LAST TIME OUT: Kansas hosted Oral Roberts, Tuesday, March 11, to open its 2014 home slate. After jumping out to an early 4-1 lead, the Golden Eagles battled back to take an 8-7 lead into the ninth, where the Jayhawks fell for the fourth time this season. Junior left fielder Michael Suiter led KU with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate with a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored. Sophomore first baseman Jacob Boylan also tallied two hits in three at bats, driving in a run, while scoring once in the loss.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Junior left fielder Michael Suiter was responsible for more than half of Kansas’ runs against Oral Roberts (March 11), as he went 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs and two runs scored.
- Junior right fielder Connor McKay added two more RBIs to his Big 12-leading total of 26 against ORU (March 11), tallying just one hit.
- Sophomore first baseman Jacob Boylan tied his season-high with two hits against the Golden Eagles (March 11), driving in a run in the process.
- After tossing three and one-third innings of scoreless baseball against Stanford (March 8), junior righty Drew Morovick gave up a season-high eight hits and five runs against Oral Roberts (March 11) in just three innings of work.
- Freshman side-armer Stephen Villines tossed two and two-thirds innings of relief against ORU, giving up no hits, no runs and no walks, while striking out two of the seven batters faced. He has given up just two hits and one run in five appearances out of the pen this season.
- Junior shortstop Justin Protacio extended his on-base streak to 28 games, after singling in the second inning against Oral Roberts (March 11).
- Junior right fielder Connor McKay had his hands involved in six of KU’s eight runs against Stanford (March 7-9), after batting .313 (5-for-16) with two doubles, a triple, five RBIs and a run scored.
- Junior shortstop Justin Protacio snapped his 11-game hit streak after his hitless performance Saturday (March 8) against the Cardinal.
- Senior righty Frank Duncan tossed his second complete game on the season in the loss Sunday (March 9) to Stanford. He also surrendered his first walk in 2014 on a controversial ball-four call, which allowed a Stanford hitter a free pass in the fifth inning.
- The Jayhawks batted just .167 with runners on base against Stanford, recording just 10 hits in 60 at bats. On the season, KU holds a .345 average with runners on base, tallying 102 hits.
- With two outs, Kansas holds a .330 average (65-for-197), while batting just .216 with two down against Stanford (8-for-37).
- Fifteen of Connor McKay‘s 26 RBIs have come with two outs and he is second on the team with a .429 two-out batting average as a regular in the KU lineup.
- Senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge leads all Jayhawks with a .500 batting average with two outs (9-for-18), driving in five runs in the process.
- Kansas was held scoreless in 27 innings on the against Stanford (March 7-9), the most of the season, while holding the Cardinal to zeros in all but six innings.
STOP THE BLEEDING: After starting pitcher Robert Kahana gave up five runs in the first three innings in Saturday’s loss to Stanford (March 8), the Kansas bullpen stepped up and combined for five scoreless innings to give the Jayhawks a chance to win late in the game. Junior righty Drew Morovick tossed three and one-third innings, allowing three hits, while junior Dakota Smith tossed one and two-thirds innings, giving up one hit while striking out three Cardinal batters.
EPIC BATTLE: After a costly KU error in the ninth and a couple of Stanford hits took the save away from senior closer Jordan Piche’ Friday night at Stanford (March 7), he found himself in a different role, grinding through five innings to give the Jayhawks the opportunity to win. No inning was more important than the 12th, when he found himself in a bases-loaded jam for the second time on the night, this time with no outs. Piche’ almost hit the first batter he faced with the bases loaded, but later induced a lineout to sophomore Tommy Mirabelli at second. He then got a routine ground ball to junior shortstop Justin Protacio, who patiently tossed it to senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge for the second out. Piche’ then fell behind in the count 3-0 to Stanford’s Tommy Edman, heightening the stress level for Jayhawk fans in attendance yet again. Once more, Piche’ battled back, getting Edman to fly out to right field, compliments of a diving catch by junior right fielder Connor McKay. Uncharacteristic of the senior closer, that was Piche’s second blown save on the year, the other coming Northwestern (Feb. 21).
KANSAS RUNS ON DUNCAN: Senior right hander Frank Duncan tossed his second complete game of the season, Sunday (March 9) in the 1-0 loss at Stanford. In his first three starts, the hurler has tossed 31 and one-third innings, allowing 22 hits, nine runs and just one walk. En route to his 2-1 record, Duncan has struck out a team-high 31 batters and leads the Big 12 in complete games (2). Prior to his complete game at Stanford, 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 51 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).
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 26 RBIs have come off of his home run production. Against Stanford (March 7-9), McKay had his hands involved in six of KU’s eight runs, increasing his Big 12-leading RBI total to 24, before adding two more against Oral Roberts (26).
UP NEXT: Immediately following the series at No. 10 Texas, the Jayhawks will head to Albuquerque, N.M., to play a two-game mid-week series against New Mexico (March 18-19), before heading back to Lawrence to host the Millard Management Classic against Dartmouth (March 21-23).
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