NCAA Tournament: Jayhawks Face No. 22 Kentucky in Louisville Regional
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the first time since 2009, the Kansas baseball team heads to the NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed in the Louisville Regional and faces No. 2-seeded Kentucky, Friday, May 30, at 1 p.m., inside Jim Patterson Stadium.
Joining the Jayhawks (34-24, 15-9 Big 12) and Wildcats (35-23, 14-16 SEC) in the Louisville Regional are No. 1 Louisville and No. 4 Kent State.
All games of the Louisville Regional can be seen in their entirety on ESPN3, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, thorugh ESPN on Xbox Live to Gold Members and on Apple TV. Clay Matvick will handle the play-by-play alongside Gabe Gross.
All the games in the NCAA Tournament can be heard on Jayhawk Digital Passport through KUAthletics.com/Showcase with play-by-play man Tom Hedrick calling the action alongside Scott Heitshusen. The games will be free to the public.
- This is the fifth time in program history that Kansas has made the NCAA Tournament with the last three under 12th-year head coach Ritch Price (1993, 1994, 2006, 2009 and 2014).
- The Jayhawks hold an overall record of 8-9 in the NCAA Tournament and 8-7 in regional action.
- KU’s first trip to the dance came in 1993, which also happened to be the only year Kansas advanced to the College World Series.
- In the Ritch Price era, the Jayhawks are 3-4 in the tournament, averaging six runs per game, while opponents have scored an average of 7.14 runs per game.
- The last time KU was in a regional (2009), the squad posted a 2-2 record in the Chapel Hill Regional, beating Dartmouth (16-0) and Coastal Carolina (5-1).
- The Jayhawks have lost three-straight games but closed out the regular-season winning 11 of their last 13 games, including nine-straight in conference play.
- Kansas has never played the other three teams in the Louisville Regional, but holds a record of 185-302-3 against SEC, 22-15 against MAC and 3-5 against AAC opponents.
- KU is 5-4 against top-25 opponents this season, with Kentucky ranked No. 22 and Louisville at No. 8 entering regional play.
- The Jayhawks are one of five teams from the Big 12 that earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament, marking the third-most from any conference this year.
- 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.
SERIES HISTORIES: The Jayhawks will face Kentucky Friday for the first time in program history, with the possibility of facing Louisville or Kent State, two other programs KU has never faced on the diamond. Kansas is 185-302-3 all-time against current SEC schools, which includes 400 games played against former Big 12 opponents Missouri and Texas A&M. Against the American Athletics Conference (AAC), KU owns a 3-5 all-time record, while holding a record of 22-15 against members of the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
SCOUTING REPORT: The Wildcats enter regional action with a .302 team batting average, including 116 doubles, 10 triples and 59 home runs for a .453 slugging percentage and a .401 on-base percentage. Kentucky is led by SEC Player of the Year A.J. Reed, who leads the NCAA in homers (23), slugging percentage (.768) and OPS (1.259). On the season, Reed has accumulated a .491 on-base percentage, 70 RBIs and 47 walks, while picking up 11 wins on the bump in 103 innings pitched.
The Jayhawks will face sophomore righty Kyle Cody in Friday’s matchup with UK. Cody has appeared in 17 games, starting five, for a perfect 4-0 record. He has given up 16 runs in 37 and one-third innings for a 2.65 ERA.
Louisville finished the regular-season with a 19-5 mark in the AAC, falling to No. 12 Houston in the championship bout. As a team, the Cardinals hold a .286 average with 102 doubles, 18 triples and 31 home runs. First baseman Jeff Gardner paces the Louisville offense with a .340 batting average with 19 doubles, two triples, nine bombs and 66 RBIs. Centerfielder Cole Sturgeon (.324) and infielder Alex Chittenden (.302) are the only other regulars in the lineup batting over .300.
The Cardinals hold their own on the mound with a 2.85 team ERA paced by Kyle Funkhouser (12-2, 1.81 ERA) and Jared Ruxer (7-1, 2.27 ERA). Funkhouser has struck out 100 batters in 99 and one-third innings, while Ruxer has fanned 68 in 75 and one-third innings of work.In the backend of the bullpen, Nick Burdi closes it out with a 0.56 ERA and 14 saves in 26 appearances.
The Golden Flashes earned their bid to the NCAA Tournament winning the MAC Championship while riding a six-game winning streak. As a squad, Kent State holds a .287 batting average with 119 doubles, 22 triples and 25 home runs. Alex Miklos leads the team with a .362 average, including 18 doubles, seven triples and three home runs. Cody Koch paces Kent State in run production with seven home runs and 56 RBIs.
On the bump, the Golden Flashes hold a 3.78 team ERA, paced by Eric Lauer (8-4, 3.26 ERA), Brian Clark (6-6, 3.78 ERA) and Nick Clagg-Jensen (5-2, 4.76 ERA).
LAST TIME OUT: Kansas exited the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship early after two one-run losses, falling to No. 6 West Virginia, 9-8, and No. 7 Baylor, 4-3.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp posted a perfect 4-for-4 effort at the plate against WVU (May 21) in the conference tournament, including a career-high three doubles and three RBIs.
- Senior right-hander Jordan Piche’ struck out a career-high 11 batters in six and one-third innings of work against West Virginia (May 21) in the league baseball championship.
- Junior right fielder Dakota Smith batted 3-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored against the Mountaineers (May 21).
- Senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge posted three hits in the loss to Baylor (May 22) in an elimination game of the conference tournament.
- Tucker Tharp batted .714 in the conference tournament, including three doubles, three RBIs and a run scored for a 1.143 slugging percentage and .800 on-base percentage.
- Junior shortstop Justin Protacio scored two runs in the conference tournament to push his season total to 49, which ranks tied for first in the league.
- Michael Suiter‘s name is all over the conference charts as he ranks eighth in batting average (.327), fourth in hits (74), tied for sixth in runs scored (45) and fourth in on-base percentage (.417).
- Dakota Smith ranks eighth in the Big 12 in RBIs (42) and tied for fifth in batting average (.333).
- Frank Duncan ranks first in the Big 12 in innings pitched (109.2), second in strikeouts (80) and tied for second in complete games (4).
DANCING: The Jayhawks advanced to their fifth NCAA Tournament in school history this season and third under the direction of head coach Ritch Price. KU’s first trip to the postseason came in 1993, when the squad made its only trip to the College World Series.
THE THARP SHOW: Senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp blasted a career-high three doubles against West Virginia (May 21) in the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, driving in three runs in the process. His 4-for-4 effort at the dish marked his first perfect performance at the plate and second four-hit game of the season.
CONFERENCE HONORS 11: The Big 12 Conference announced May 20 that 11 Jayhawks earned all-conference honors for their performances in 2014. Senior right-handed ace Frank Duncan earned first team honors, while senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge, sophomore second baseman Colby Wright, junior left fielder Michael Suiter and junior right fielder/designated hitter Connor McKay each earned second team recognition.
In addition, junior righty Robert Kahana, senior hurler Jordan Piche’, senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp, junior right fielder/designated hitter Dakota Smith, junior shortstop Justin Protacio and freshman closer Stephen Villines were named honorable mention. Villines was also named to the All-Freshman Team.
BLACKJACK: The Kansas baseball team found itself ranked among the top-25 in the nation two-straight weeks, moving up to No. 21 in the Baseball America national poll (May 19). In addition, KU was ranked No. 25 by Collegiate Baseball for the third time this season, having been ranked No. 26 (March 3) and No. 18 (March 17), respectively, earlier in the year.
KU is the sixth Big 12 Conference team, out of nine, to appear in the rankings this year. No. 21 is the highest national ranking for the Kansas squad since March 2003 when it was ranked No. 20.
UP NEXT: If the Jayhawks win the Louisville Regional, they would advance to play the winner of the Tallahassee Regional in a best-of-three series dubbed the Super Regional, June 6-9, in Tallahassee, Florida.
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