Jayhawks Travel to New Mexico for Midweek Action
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After a huge Big 12 Conference series win to upset No. 10 Texas, the Kansas baseball team heads further west to New Mexico to take on the Lobos in a two-game midweek series, March 18-19, at Lobo Field. Tuesday’s game will start at 7 p.m. (CST), while Wednesday’s first pitch is slated for 2 p.m. (CST).
Kansas (14-5, 2-1 Big 12) is coming off its first Big 12 series win of the season and its best start under head coach Ritch Price since his inaugural season when he guided the Jayhawks to a 16-4 record in the first 20 games in 2003.
Both games against New Mexico can be heard on Jayhawk Digital Passport through KUAthletics.com/Showcase with Sean Kellerman calling the action. UNM will also provide a live video stream online via GoLobos.com.
- For the fourth time under 12th-year head coach Ritch Price, the Jayhawks opened Big 12 play with a series win, taking down No. 10 Texas last weekend two games to one.
- The series win over No. 10 Texas marked the first one on the road against the Longhorns since 1996 when KU took two games from UT when it was ranked 18th-nationally (Feb. 16-18).
- The last four losses for the Jayhawks have all been decided by one run, while KU out-hit its opponents in three of those games.
- The Kansas pitching staff only gave up five runs to the Longhorns in the weekend series, three of them earned, which was the lowest run total in a weekend by Texas all season.
- The series victory over No. 10 Texas marked the Jayhawks’ first series win over a top-10 opponent since 2010 when the Jayhawks won two games against then No. 1 LSU (March 12-14).
- The Kansas pitching staff held Texas to 22 scoreless innings over the weekend, matched with the 23 scoreless innings against Stanford two weeks ago (March 7-9), marks 55 zeros on the scoreboard in the last two weekends for its opponents.
- Connor McKay leads the Big 12 in RBIs (28), tied for third in home runs (4) and ranks seventh in slugging percentage (.568).
SERIES HISTORY: Tuesday’s contest between Kansas and New Mexico marks the first meeting between the two schools in the 128 years of KU’s history.
SCOUTING REPORT: New Mexico is coming off a three-game sweep of Mountain West-foe Fresno State and has won four of its last five games dating back to March 9. The Lobos have won two games against ranked opponents this season, including then-No. 33 San Diego (Feb. 15) and No. 18 Arizona State (Feb. 18). In 20 games, UNM has tallied 119 runs (5.95 runs per game), compiled 220 hits (11 hits per game) and has a team batting average of .301.
Senior OF Chase Harris leads all hitters with a .337 average, with a team-high 30 hits and 22 RBIs for a .461 slugging percentage. Four other Lobos are batting over .300, with three of them tallying 10 or more RBIs (Jare Holley, .324, 14 RBIs; Alex Real, .321, 14 RBIs; and John Pustay, .312, 10 RBIs).
On the bump, the Jayhawks will probably see RHP Preston Ryan in game one. The six-foot freshman has only tallied two and two-thirds innings of work this season and has given up seven runs off seven hits and two walks while striking out two. Three of those hits were doubles.
LAST TIME OUT: The Kansas baseball team opened Big 12 Conference play with a series win over No. 10 Texas, accomplishing a feat that hadn’t been done since 1996: a series win on the road at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The Jayhawks won game one Friday night (March 14) 3-2, before dropping a close one on Saturday (March 15) 2-1. Thanks to a five-spot in the top of the ninth inning in Sunday’s rubber match, KU came out with a convincing 6-1 win, to seal the series victory.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Junior right fielder Connor McKay filled up the box score in Friday night’s contest against Texas with a 4-for-5 effort at the plate with four singles and a RBI, tying his season- and career- high for hits in a game.
- Junior left-hander Wes Benjamin gave up just six hits, two runs and two walks while striking out four batters against Texas Friday night (March 14) for his third win of the season.
- Junior shortstop Justin Protacio reached base safely in all three contests against Texas, extending his streak to 31 games, dating back to last season.
- Junior right-hander Robert Kahana pitched his first complete game of the season Saturday (March 15) in the 2-1 loss at Texas. In 100 pitches, he gave up five hits and two unearned runs while striking out four batters.
- Senior right-handed ace Frank Duncan tossed seven scoreless innings and surrendered just the second walk of the season (intentionally), to help pace Kansas to the Sunday (March 16) win over Texas, 6-2.
- Frank Duncan’s four strikeouts against Texas gives him 221 in his career and moves him to No. 5 all-time in KU history.
- Fifteen of Connor McKay’s 28 RBIs have come with two outs and he is second on the team with a .387 two-out batting average as a regular in the KU lineup.
- Kansas holds a .336 average with runners on base this season, tallying 117 hits in 348 at bats. Against Texas, the Jayhawks batted .214 with runners on base, only stranding a total of 26 runners over the weekend. Those numbers were slightly better than those against Stanford (March 7-9), where KU stranded 35 baserunners and batted just .167 with runners on base.
- Senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge leads all Kansas hitters with a .500 batting average with two outs (9-for-18), driving in five runs in the process.
- The Jayhawks scored 10 runs against Texas over the weekend, a team who entered the weekend with a team ERA of 2.05.
- Justin Protacio‘s 20 runs scored ranks second on the Big 12 charts this season, while junior left fielder Michael Suiter has scored 19 times, tying for third.
- Connor McKay‘s 28 RBIs ranks first in the Big 12 and is five RBIs more than any one else in the conference.
- Frank Duncan‘s 34 strikeouts ranks him tied for second in the Big 12, sitting 21 behind conference leader Brandon Finnegan of TCU.
- Both Frank Duncan and Wes Benjamin rank atop the conference leaderboard for innings pitched as Duncan is first with 38.1 innings and Benjamin is tied for third with 35.0 innings.
- Frank Duncan also leads the conference in most complete games with two.
- The Kansas pitching staff held the Longhorns scoreless in all but four innings over the weekend, and has now compiled 45 scoreless innings of work over the last two weekends of play.
SOME RESPECT: For the second time this season, the Kansas baseball team finds itself in the top-30 in the Collegiate Baseball poll, this time, holding down the No. 18 spot in the latest poll (March 17). Previously, Collegiate Baseball ranked the Jayhawks at No. 26 on March 3, after KU started the season 11-1. The squad is also currently receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Poll.
O CANADA: Junior first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk earned his first career Big 12 start Sunday (March 16) against No. 10 Texas, after his superior defensive play late in the game Friday night (March 14), saved a run and kept the momentum in KU’s favor to pull out the win. Pidhaichuk had the wherewithal to throw out UT’s Ben Johnson at home, after colliding with senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge on a key foul out behind the dish for the double play. Then with one out and the score tied, 1-1, in the top of the ninth inning in Sunday’s rubber match (March 16), Pidhaichuk launched a double down the right field line to spark a late rally and open the flood gates for a five-run inning.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Stacked up against one of the top teams in the country, Kansas called upon junior left-handed ace Wes Benjamin Friday night (March 14) at UFCU Disch-Falk Field to go toe-to-toe with No. 10 Texas in what had been hyped as a pitcher’s duel. Benjamin rose to the challenge and tossed eight and two-thirds innings, seven of them scoreless, en route to pacing the Jayhawks to a 3-2 upset bid.
In 118 pitches, the St. Charles, Ill., native gave up six hits, two runs and two walks, while striking out four batters for his third win this season (3-0). Benjamin mixed his off-speed and fastball well to keep the Texas hitters off balance, as he induced 13 fly-ball outs and seven ground outs in the victory. The crucial Friday night win set the table for Kansas to do something that hadn’t been done since 1996: win a series on the road at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
UP NEXT: After the trip to New Mexico, the Jayhawks will head home to enjoy a three-game home stand against Dartmouth in the Millard Management Classic, March 21-23. Then the squad will take a day trip to play Creighton mid-week (March 26), before hosing Oklahoma at Hoglund Ballpark March 28-30.
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