No. 22 Jayhawks Conclude Regular Season at Michigan
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After posting its highest finish in Big 12 history, the No. 22-ranked Kansas baseball team heads to Michigan for a two-game set to close out the regular season of competition, May 17-18.
The Jayhawks (33-21, 15-9 Big 12) have won 10 of their last 11 games and head to Ray Fisher Stadium to face the Wolverines (27-26-1, 13-11 Big Ten) for the first time since March 22, 2002.
Both games of the series against the Wolverines can be heard on Jayhawk Digital Passport through KUAthletics.com/Showcase with Sean Kellerman and Scott Heitshusen calling the action. Subscription prices for Jayhawk Digital Passport are as follows: $2.95/day, $6.95/month or $49.95/year.
- For the first time since May 5, 2009, Kansas ranks in the top-25 on the Baseball America poll, sitting at No. 22.
- The Jayhawks closed out Big 12 play winning nine-straight games against conference opponents, a first since 1978 when KU won nine in a row against Big Eight opponents.
- Kansas has won 10 of its last 11 games, including three-consecutive conference series sweeps (at Baylor, vs. then-No. 19 Texas Tech and vs. West Virginia).
- The three sweeps in a row in league play was a first since 2012 when Baylor started off Big 12 play 18-0 and was the first time KU has swept three weekend opponents consecutively in the Ritch Price era.
- The three sweeps over conference opponents was the first time since 2009, when Kansas swept then-No. 1 Texas (March 20-22), then-No. 17 Oklahoma State (April 10-12) and Nebraska (April 24-26).
- The Jayhawks are guaranteed a third-place finish in the Big 12 standings, the highest finish for KU in the 18-year history of the conference and highest finish in any league play since 1994 when Kansas finished third in the Big Eight.
- The highest finish for a KU team in the Ritch Price era was fifth in 2006 and 2009, with both seasons spawning a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
- Updated RPI for the conference has the Jayhawks with the sixth-best RPI (record against opponent): 11–Texas (2-1); 13–TCU (1-2); 14–Texas Tech (3-0); 24–Oklahoma State (0-3); 29–West Virginia (3-0); 38–Kansas.
SERIES HISTORY: Saturday’s contest between Kansas and Michigan marks the ninth meeting between the two squads and the first in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Wolverines hold a 5-3 series lead over the Jayhawks, dating back to their first meeting, March 17, 1982, where UM won, 14-5. The last meeting between the two schools came on March 22, 2002, with KU coming out on top, 9-7. Kansas and Michigan have never faced one another in the Ritch Price era, but the Jayhawks have won three of the last five going back to March 15, 1988.
SCOUTING REPORT: The Wolverines are coming off a midweek victory over UIC, 2-1, after winning two out of three against Ohio State over the weekend. The team holds a .259 batting average, including 89 doubles, 12 triples and 16 bombs, but only one player is hitting over .300 (CF–Jackson Glines). Glines is batting .337 (66-for-196) with 18 doubles, three triples and a home run, and leads the team with 39 RBIs and a .474 slugging percentage. Shortstop Travis Maezes is the next best offensive weapon with a .290 average (58-for-200), with 18 doubles, two triples and two home runs.
Michigan has a team ERA of 3.27 and is holding opponents to a .246 batting average. Of the 434 hits given up, 87 have been doubles, 12 have been triples and 10 have been home runs. Kansas will face LHP Trent Szkutnik Saturday and LHP Logan McAnallen on Sunday. Szkutnik holds a 3.44 ERA in 13 starts, tossing 73 and one-third innings on the season. He has allowed 36 runs off 79 hits and 33 walks, while striking out 52 batters.
McAnallen has made nine starts for a 3-3 record and 4.11 ERA. He has struck out 40 batters in 50 and one-third innings, giving up 26 runs in the process. In the back end, closer Jacob Cronenworth has saved 11 games in 23 and two-thirds innings of work, striking out 26.
It is unclear how deep the starters will go, as Michigan has the Big Ten Baseball Tournament the following week, May 21-25.
LAST TIME OUT: The Jayhawks swept conference foe West Virginia at home on Senior Weekend (May 9-11) to finish the Big 12 slate on a nine-game winning streak, including three-consecutive sweeps (at Baylor, vs. then-No. 19 Texas Tech and vs. West Virginia) and solidifying a third-place finish in the league standings.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp blasted a two-run bomb in the bottom of the eighth inning in his final Friday night at Hoglund Ballpark against WVU (May 9) to lift Kansas to the 5-3 win.
- Junior left fielder Michael Suiter dropped the hammer in the first inning Friday night (May 9) against the Mountaineers to give Kansas the early 2-0 lead.
- Senior right hander Jordan Piche’ tossed seven innings Friday night (May 9), allowing just two runs off eight hits in the no decision.
- Junior right fielder Dakota Smith posted a 3-for-4 effort against West Virginia (May 10), driving in three runs and scoring once to have his hands involved in four of the five KU runs on the day.
- Junior righty Robert Kahana tossed six and one-third innings Saturday (May 10) against WVU, giving up two runs off six hits for his fourth win on the season.
- Freshman closer Stephen Villines made three-consecutive appearances on the weekend, a first for him, picking up two saves to move his season total to eight.
- Senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge and Tucker Tharp combined for six two-out RBIs in Sunday’s finale against WVU (May 11), leading Kansas to the 9-8 victory on Senior Day.
- Dakota Smith added two more RBIs in Sunday’s contest, moving his weekend total against the Mountaineers to five.
- Michael Suiter led all hitters against West Virginia with a .538 batting average (7-for-13), including a home run, three RBIs and six runs scored.
- Sophomore first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk was hit twice in the sixth inning in Sunday’s game vs. WVU (May 11) and he has now been hit by a pitch nine times, which ranks third on the team.
- Senior Tom Hougland made his first career-start Sunday (May 11), debuting at first base for the Jayhawks.
- Junior shortstop Justin Protacio scored four times against the Mountaineers, moving him into a tie for first place in the conference with 46 runs.
- Michael Suiter‘s name is all over the conference charts as he ranks sixth in batting average (.341), tied for third in hits (71), fifth in on-base percentage (.433), sixth in runs scored (42) and ninth in total bases (92).
- Frank Duncan ranks first in the Big 12 in innings pitched (98.2), third in strikeouts (75) and tied for first in complete games (4).
- Junior righty Drew Morovick is tied for first in the league with eight wins on the season.
- In conference play, Justin Protacio leads the league with 18 runs scored and 20 walks.
THREES ALL OVER THE PLACE: For the first time in school history, the Kansas baseball team swept three-consecutive Big 12 conference opponents in a three-game series, ending the league slate on a nine-game winning streak. Those nine wins pushed KU’s record in the conference to 15-9, solidifying a third-place finish, the highest in school history in the Big 12 and highest in any league since 1994, when the Jayhawks took third in the Big Eight.
SENIOR SENDOFF: Seniors Ka’iana Eldredge and Tucker Tharp took their last home game to heart on Sunday, combining for six two-out RBIs (three a piece), pacing the Jayhawks to a 9-8 win over West Virginia (May 11) to close out the season with another series sweep.
FRESHMAN NEWCOMER: The Big 12 Conference named freshman closer Stephen Villines the league’s Newcomer of the Week Monday (May 12), for his performances over the weekend against West Virginia.
“I couldn’t be more proud of that young man,” head coach Ritch Price said. “To close out all three games against West Virginia–the best hitting team in the conference–is an amazing accomplishment for a freshman.”
Villines made three-consecutive appearances on the weekend against the Mountaineers, a first for the side-armer. In the four innings he pitched, Villines gave up four hits and a run, while striking out one batter, picking up two saves in the process.
DOUBLE DEUCE: For the first time since May 5, 2009, the Kansas baseball team finds itself ranked among the top-25 in the nation, sitting at No. 22 in the Baseball America national poll.
KU becomes the sixth Big 12 Conference team, out of nine, to appear in the rankings this year, and is the highest national ranking for the squad since March 2003 when it was ranked No. 20. Earlier in the season, Kansas also held national rankings in Collegiate Baseball, with rankings of No. 26 (March 3) and No. 18 (March 17).
UP NEXT: After the two-game stint at Michigan, the Jayhawks will fly directly to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, May 21-25, where they will enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed.
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