Jayhawks Open Baseball Season Friday Against Nevada
Feb. 13, 2013
LEADING OFF: Kansas baseball will open the 2013 season on Friday, Feb. 15 when it faces Nevada in the first contest of a four-game series at Hohokam Park in Mesa, Ariz. The Jayhawks will battle the Wolf Pack Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Central Time with the series finale scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m.
ON THE AIR: All four games from the KU-Nevada series will be broadcast on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access on KUAthletics.com. Aaron Berlin and Pete Knutson will call the action from Mesa, Ariz. Fans can listen to all four games free of charge.
SERIES HISTORY: Friday's opener will mark the first meeting between KU and Nevada since the 1999 season, when the Wolf Pack took a pair of wins from the Jayhawks at a tournament in Phoenix. The 1999 games are the only meetings between the two schools on the baseball diamond. The Jayhawks are 10-9 all-time against current members of the Mountain West Conference.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas enters the 2013 season with high hopes after advancing to the semifinals of the Big 12 Baseball Championship a year ago. The Jayhawks return 21 letterwinners, including seven position starters and nine pitchers, from last year's team that finished 24-34 and placed seventh in the conference standings. KU is 71-54-1 all-time in season-opening games, including 6-4 under head coach Ritch Price.
Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling is KU's top returning hitter, batting .301 with five doubles, three triples and a .453 on-base percentage last season. Sophomore OF Connor McKay tied for the team lead with five home runs a year ago and finished with 20 RBIs in 43 games. On the mound, junior RHP Frank Duncan is one of the top returning hurlers in the Big 12 Conference. Duncan posted a 6-8 record last year with a 3.23 ERA in 15 starts to earn second team all-conference honors.
SCOUTING THE WOLF PACK: Nevada is playing its first year in the Mountain West Conference after spending the previous 12 seasons in the Western Athletic Conference. The Wolf Pack is hoping a change in leagues will help springboard an NCAA Tournament run. Nevada returns 20 letterwinners, including six position starters, from last year's team that finished with a season record of 32-25, which earned it a share of the WAC regular season title.
The Wolf Pack finished fourth in WAC last season with a team batting average of .286, while averaging 5.2 runs per game. Senior OF Brooks Klein is Nevada's top returning hitter. Klein hit .335 a season ago with eight homers and 42 RBIs to earn First Team All-WAC honors. Sophomore 1B Kewby Meyer also earned All-WAC mention and was tabbed Freshman All-America after batting .324 with nine doubles and 34 RBIs.
Nevada also ranked fourth in the conference with a 4.33 team ERA and held opponents to a .276 batting average. Junior RHP Braden Shipley will make the start opening day against the Jayhawks. Shipley went 9-4 and posted a 2.20 ERA in 15 starts last season, recording 88 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings. He was named WAC Pitcher of the Year in 2012. Sophomore LHP Tyler Wells (3-5, 6.42 ERA), senior RHP Tom Jameson (7-2, 2.55 ERA) and freshman RHP Mark Reece will start the final three games of the series.
Wolf Pack head coach Gary Powers is in his 31st season at Nevada and has a record of 912-730-5 at the school. Powers' 912 wins at the Division I level are the 25th most among active head coaches. Powers has led Nevada to four NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently in 2000.
CHANGING PLACES: Kansas returns seven players that started 40 games or more last season, but a couple of them have changed positions. The most obvious modification is behind the plate where junior Ka'iana Eldredge will open the season as the starting catcher after making 43 starts at second base a year ago. Senior Alex DeLeon, who made 22 starts at catcher and 20 as the designated hitter in 2012, is expected to make his first collegiate start at first base.
Sophomore Dakota Smith, who played exclusively in the outfield last season, will also see innings out of the bullpen this year. Other returning letterwinners who have changed positions include sophomore Joe Luvisi, who will play outfield after playing five games in the infield last season, and senior Tanner Poppe, who will be a starting pitcher this year after making 28 relief appearances in 2012.
KANSAS BASEBALL PICKED EIGHTH: Kansas baseball was selected to finish eighth in the Big 12 standings by the league's coaches prior to the start of the season. The Jayhawks received 18 votes and were picked ahead of conference newcomer, West Virginia, and just three votes behind in-state rival Kansas State for seventh. KU has a history of outperforming its preseason prognastications. Last season, the Jayhawks were predicted to finish ninth in the league standings and placed seventh, while in 2009, KU was projected for a 10th-place finish, but ended the year in fourth-place, en route to an NCAA Tournament berth.
POPPE EARNS PRESEASON HONOR: Kansas senior RHP Tanner Poppe was named one of the Top 100 senior prospects in college baseball by Perfect Game USA, checking in at No. 18 on the list which was released Monday. Poppe, a 6-foot-5 senior from Girard, Kan., is making a return to the starting rotation after serving as the team's closer in 2012. He has had the most success in a starting role, posting a 3.86 ERA as a starter in 2011.
AROUND THE HORN:
JAYHAWKS ANNOUNCE CAPTAINS FOR 2013: On Feb. 8, Kansas head coach Ritch Price announced that senior infielders Alex DeLeon, Jordan Dreiling and Kevin Kuntz would serve as the Jayhawks' captains for the 2013 season. All three seniors will be serving as team captain for the first time in their careers.
KANSAS COMPLETES DOMINICAN WINTER TOUR: During the month of December, Kansas baseball made a week-long tour of the Dominican Republic, going 4-2 against Major League Academy Teams and participating in several community service projects. The Jayhawks came from behind to win all three games against the Kansas City Royals' Academy Team and went 1-2 against the Cleveland Indians on their trip. Sophomore OF Connor McKay led the offense, batting .375 with a double and two triples in four games, while RHP Tanner Poppe and RHP Robert Kahana each tossed five scoreless innings to lead the pitching staff.
KU also participated in community service projects on the trip. Jayhawk players and coaches held a free skills clinic at a local park in Boca Chica, visited an orphanage in San Pedro de Macoris, packed and delivered 1,000 health kits to six rural villages near the capital city of Santo Domingo and donated several dozen baseballs, cleats, uniforms, bats, gloves, caps and shirts to youth and amateur teams across the area.
KU HOSTS INAUGURAL FLOYD TEMPLE ALUMNI GAME: Approximately 50 former Kansas baseball players spanning seven decades of the program's history attended the inaugural Floyd Temple Alumni Game at Hoglund Ballpark on Oct. 27. Prior to the game, a special ceremony was held to recognize Floyd Temple, who passed away in June, 2012. Temple led Kansas baseball for 28 seasons from 1954-81 and remains the program's all-time winningest coach with 438 career victories. Following the ceremony, Kansas' current varsity team defeated the KU alumni in an abbreviated game, 5-0.
KAHANA NAMED TOP 5 PROSPECT IN HAWAIIAN LEAGUE: Sophomore RHP Robert Kahana was named a top prospect in the Hawaii Collegiate League by two different publications in August, 2012. Kahana was listed as the No. 2 prospect in the league by Perfect Game USA and the No. 4 prospect by Baseball America.
MORONEY EARNS SUMMER HONOR: Sophomore OF Joe Moroney was named to the Horizon Air Summer Series All-Star team in August for his play in the Far West Baseball League. Moroney played for the Neptune Beach Pearl and batted .325 in 35 games with five doubles, two triples, 27 runs scored and 12 stolen bases.
BACKDRAFT: KU's roster features 12 players that were drafted by major league organizations at some point in their careers, but opted to become Jayhawks. Senior RHP Tanner Poppe has been drafted twice - by the Kansas City Royals out of high school in 2009 and by the Tampa Bay Rays following his sophomore year at KU in 2011. Other Jayhawks who have been drafted include: LHP Wes Benjamin (New York Yankees, 2011), RHP Alex Cox (Pittsburgh, 2010), RHP Hayden Edwards (Kansas City, 2012), C/IF Ka'iana Eldredge (Cincinnati, 2010), RHP Robert Kahana (Colorado, 2011), IF Kevin Kuntz (Kansas City, 2009), LHP Jordan Luvisi (Arizona, 2009), OF Connor McKay (Colorado, 2011), Tommy Mirabelli (Pittsburgh, 2012), OF Michael Suiter (Cincinnati, 2011) and LHP Tyler Watson (Washington, 2012).
JAYHAWKS ADD SEVEN IN EARLY SIGNING PERIOD: The 2012 Colt World Series batting champion and the 2011 Colorado 2A Pitcher of the Year were among the seven players that KU added during the early signing period in November.
The Jayhawks announced that OF Jovan Afenir (Murrieta, Calif.), OF M.J. Farthing (Reno, Nev.), IF Jon Hander (Sioux Falls, S.D.), LHP Denton Keys (Rye, Colo.), C Lee McMahon (Lawrence, Kan.), RHP Sean Rackoski (Chandler, Ariz.) and C/OF Michael Tinsley (Menlo Park, Calif.) will play at KU for the 2014 season.
BROTHERLY LOVE: Senior LHP Jordan Luvisi and sophomore IF Joe Luvisi are the sixth set of brothers to play at KU under head coach Ritch Price. The pair from Scottsdale, Ariz., join Ryan and Matt Baty, Don and Nick Czyz, Sean and Preston Land, Colton and Conner Murray as well as Ritchie, Ryne and Robby Price as the sets of brothers to be teammates at KU since 2003.
MAJOR LEAGUE CONNECTIONS: Several Kansas baseball players have connections to the Major Leagues:
Wrapping Up the 2012 Season:
UP NEXT: Kansas will return to the friendly confines of Hoglund Ballpark to open a 13-game homestand beginning on Friday, Feb. 22, when the Jayhawks face Northwestern at 3 p.m. KU and the Wildcats will play a three-game series with Saturday's game slated for a 10 a.m. start and Sunday's finale set for an 11 a.m. first pitch.