Kansas Hosts Dartmouth for Weekend Series
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Having played 20-of-21 games on the road in the first six weeks of the season, the Kansas baseball team returns to Hoglund Ballpark to host its first home weekend series of the 2014 campaign against Dartmouth in the Millard Management Classic, March 21-23.
The Jayhawks (14-7, 2-1 Big 12) defeated No. 10 Texas twice on the road for the first time since 1996 to win their opening Big 12 Conference series, before heading to New Mexico, where the Lobos swept KU in a two-game mid-week series.
Every home game of the 2014 season can be seen on ESPN3, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, through ESPN on Xbox Live to Gold Members and on Apple TV. Steven Davis will handle the play-by-play with former Kansas baseball players Scott Heitshusen (Friday and Saturday) and Travis Blankenship (Sunday).
In addition, all three games against the Big Green can be heard on Jayhawk Digital Passport through KUAthletics.com/Showcase with Sean Kellerman calling the action. Subscription prices are as follows: $2.95/day, $6.95/month or $49.95/year.
- After a school-best 12-1 start to begin the season, the Jayhawks have dropped six of their last eight games, four decided by just one run.
- In the seven losses this season, KU is being outscored by its opponent by an average of 5.14 to 3.00 runs per game.
- The two losses at New Mexico mark the third mid-week loss this season, compared to the 8-2 record the Jayhawks set during the week in 2013.
- 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 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 KU won two games against then No. 1 LSU (March 12-14).
SERIES HISTORY: Kansas and the Big Green have met two times prior to this weekend’s series, with the Jayhawks holding a 2-0 advantage. Both meetings came under head coach Ritch Price, who holds a 3-0 record over Dartmouth as a head coach. The first time the two squads met was March 20, 2008, when KU won 8-6. The 2009 NCAA Tournament would be the next time the two teams faced one another, with Kansas taking the 16-0 victory May 30.
SCOUTING REPORT: Dartmouth is coming off a three-game series against Nebraska-Omaha played at Hoglund Ballpark in Lawrence. The Big Green have two regulars batting over .300 in junior infielder Thomas Roulis (.333) and senior outfielder Jeff Keller (.303). Keller leads all with six RBIs and five doubles, while Roulis has five RBIs and four walks.
Prior to the start of the 2014 season, Keller was named Preseason Ivy Player of the Year by Baseball America, as he led the Ivy League in 2013 with 39 runs, 41 RBIs, 99 total bases, a .702 slugging percentage, four triples and a school-record 21 doubles.
On the bump, Dartmouth holds a team ERA of 5.91 with senior righty Louis Concato leading the team with a 1.80 ERA. With the Big Green playing three games versus Nebraska-Omaha consecutively with the three-game series against Kansas, the Jayhawks will likely see sophomore righty Michael Danielak, sophomore right-hander Beau Sulser and freshman RHP Mike Concato.
Danielak started one game and holds a record of 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA in nine innings pitched. Sulser tossed 11 innings for a record of 1-1 and a 3.27 ERA. He has given up 11 hits, four runs and two walks while striking out six batters. Concato has made three appearances on the season for a total of 10 and one-third innings pitched holding a 5.23 ERA off of 15 hits and six earned runs.
LAST TIME OUT: After opening Big 12 Conference play with a series win at No. 10 Texas, a feat that hadn’t been done since 1996, the Kansas baseball team flew out to Albuquerque, N.M., to play the Lobos in a two-game mid-week series (March 18-19). New Mexico came out swinging and took both games from the Jayhawks, dropping KU to an 0-3 record in mid-week contests this season. Kansas hit into four inning-ending double plays, and left 16 runners on base combined in the two contests, en route to being outscored 16-7.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Junior right fielder Connor McKay tallied two hits and an RBI against the Lobos, pushing his Big 12-leading RBI total to 29, six more than anyone else in the league. In addition, he ranks ninth in slugging percentage (.537), tied for seventh in total bases (44) and tied for third in home runs (4).
- Junior shortstop Justin Protacio has reached base safely in 31-consecutive games, dating back to last season. He missed his first start of the 2014 season in game two against New Mexico (March 19) after injuring his thumb in batting practice.
- Freshman designated hitter Michael Tinsley boasted a 2-for-3 effort at the plate against New Mexico (March 18), which included a walk and a run scored.
- Freshman righty Jon Hander made his first career start on the bump at New Mexico (March 19), tossing four and one-third innings, giving up four hits, two runs and two walks while striking out three.
- Junior left fielder Michael Suiter tallied three hits and three runs scored in both games against the Lobos. Those two runs scored pushed his season total to 22, which ranks tied for third in the Big 12.
- Senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge gunned out a season-high two runners at second base against the Lobos (March 19).
- Junior infielder Aaron Hernandez made his first career start for the Jayhawks at shortstop at New Mexico (March 19), recording a game-high six assists, that included a Jeter-hop deep in the hole to rob a Lobo base hit.
- Junior right fielder Connor McKay filled up the box score in Friday night’s contest against Texas (March 14) 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 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 29 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 .342 average with runners on base this season, tallying 130 hits in 380 at bats. Against Texas, the Jayhawks batted .214 with runners on base, 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 .474 batting average with two outs (9-for-19), driving in five runs in the process.
- The Jayhawks scored 10 runs against Texas over the weekend, a team that entered the weekend with a team ERA of 2.05.
- 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.
JUST A ROOK: Freshman right-handed hurler Jon Hander made his first career start on the bump as a Jayhawk at New Mexico (March 19). The Sioux Falls, S.D., native tossed three scoreless innings before giving up two runs in the fourth inning. He allowed four hits, two runs, two walks and struck out three of the 19 batters he faced.
MID-WEEK WOES: The Jayhawks have dropped all three mid-week contests this season, compared to the 8-2 record from 2013. In those three games, Kansas has been out-hit 34-25, out-scored 24-14 and has left 20 runners on base. The KU pitching staff holds a 7.92 ERA combined in mid-week games this season, while the offense is batting just .263, compared to the .333 average of its opponents.
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: The Jayhawks will travel to Creighton for mid-week action, Wednesday, March 26, before enjoying four-straight games at Hoglund Ballpark, including a Big 12 Conference weekend series against Oklahoma (March 28-30).
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