Jayhawks Head South for Three Games in Arkansas
Feb. 21, 2013
LEADING OFF: After cancelling its three-game series originally scheduled to be played in Lawrence this weekend, Kansas baseball will hit the road and take on SIU-Edwardsville, Central Arkansas and Jackson State in Little Rock and Conway, Ark., Friday and Saturday. The Jayhawks will play SIU-Edwardsville at 3 p.m. on Friday at Gary Hogan Field. KU will then face Central Arkansas (1 p.m.) and Jackson State (5 p.m.) in a doubleheader Saturday.
ON THE AIR: All three games from the weekend trip to Arkansas can be heard on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. Fans can find the All-Access link at KUAthletics.com. Aaron Berlin will call all the action for KU’s three games this weekend.
SERIES HISTORY: KU will be facing all three opponents for the first time on the baseball diamond. The Jayhawks are scheduled to meet Jackson State again in a midweek non-conference game on Wednesday, March 13 in Lawrence.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas hits the road again after splitting four games in Mesa, Ariz., against Nevada in its opening weekend. The Jayhawks will play their first true road game on Saturday when they face Central Arkansas, while KU’s other two games will be at neutral sites.
KU’s offense showed drastic improvement from the beginning of the 2012 season, batting .336 in the first four games of the season and scoring 26 runs in the Nevada series. Freshman Jacob Boylan leads the Big 12 with a .615 batting average, going 8-for-13 with two doubles and a triple. The Jayhawks’ pitching staff posted a 3.89 ERA in four games, allowing a .312 batting average. Senior Thomas Taylor pitched 6 2/3 innings in his start and fanned five with no walks, while allowing two runs on nine hits.
SCOUTING THE COUGARS: SIU-Edwardsville will open its weekend in Little Rock, Ark., by facing KU at Gary Hogan Field. The Cougars enter the weekend at 1-2 having salvaged the final game of a three-game series at Lipscomb. SIUE was picked to finish seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference in the preseason coaches’ poll after going 27-28 last season.
The Cougars offense struggled in its opening series at Lipscomb, batting just .223 in their first three games. SIUE scored 11 runs in the three-game series and reached base at a .344 clip. Junior OF Devin Caldwell and senior IF Matt Highland led the offensive effort, both going 5-for-10 in the first series. Caldwell hit one of SIUE’s two home runs and collected three RBIs. In addition to hitting .500, Highland also drew four walks for a .643 on-base percentage in the series.
SIUE’s pitching staff posted a 5.04 ERA in the Lipscomb series and held the Bisons to a .253 batting average. The Jayhawks will likely see junior right-handed pitcher Travis Felax on Friday afternoon. Felax pitched four innings and allowed four runs on six hits in his first start of the season. Last year, Felax recorded a 6-5 mark with a 3.67 ERA in 14 starts. He tallied 69 strikeouts in 95 2/3 innings.
Cougar head coach Tony Stoecklin is in his first season at the helm of SIU-Edwardsville after serving as an assistant coach with the program for the last 14 seasons. Previously, Stoecklin served as the team’s pitching coach and helped the staff rank in the top five in the Ohio Valley Conference in ERA the last two years.
SCOUTING THE BEARS: Central Arkansas dominated a weekend series against Murray State, outscoring the Racers 29-7 in the three-game set. However, the Bears fell at No. 4 Vanderbilt on Wednesday afternoon. UCA was predicted to finish fifth in the Southland Conference by the league’s coaches after finishing 25-30 overall last season.
UCA’s offense heads into the weekend sporting a .264 batting average and has scored 31 runs in four games. Senior OF Forrestt Allday leads the Bears with a .471 batting average, going 8-for-17 in four games, with a double and five runs scored. Junior OF Jonathan Davis is batting .333 and has a team-best four stolen bases in five attempts.
The Bears’ pitching staff has posted a 3.55 ERA and has held the opposition to a .260 batting average. The Jayhawks will likely see LHP Jeffrey Enloe on Saturday afternoon. Enloe allowed one run on three hits over six innings in his first start against Murray State, posting one walk and seven strikeouts. Last season, the senior went 5-8 with a 5.44 ERA in 16 starts.
UCA head coach Allen Gum is in his third season at the school and has a record of 52-60 during his tenure. Gum spent the previous five seasons at Southern Arkansas, where he compiled a 226-68 record at the Division II institution.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS: Jackson State will play Friday night at Central Arkansas, before facing KU on Saturday evening as part of a day-night doubleheader for the Jayhawks. The Tigers enter the weekend at 2-2 after splitting four games at their tournament over the weekend. JSU was tabbed as the East Division favorite in the Southwestern Athletic Conference by the coaches in the league’s preseason poll.
JSU’s offense produced a .237 batting average in its first four games, scoring 20 runs on 32 hits. Junior OF Desmond Russell leads the team with a .471 batting average, going 8-for-17 in four starts, with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs. Senior 1B Malcolm Tate also got off to a fast start, collecting four doubles in 10 at bats at the Jackson State Tournament.
The Tiger pitching staff was solid in its first weekend action, posting a 4.26 ERA in four games, while holding opponents to a .245 batting average. JSU has not announced a starting pitcher for its game with Kansas, but both junior LHP Brandon Gregory and Russell tossed complete games during the first weekend. Gregory tossed a four-hit shutout against Texas Southern in the season-opener with no walks and six strikeouts.
Head coach Omar Johnson is in his seventh season at Jackson State and has a record of 205-128 at the school. Johnson previously coached at North Alabama, where he helped the Lions reach the College World Series in 1999.
LAST TIME OUT: Nevada pinch hitter Brad Gerig’s two-strike double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning plated the winning runs as the Wolf Pack rallied from three separate deficits in a wild 9-8 win over Kansas Monday at Hohokam Park.
BOYLAN POINT: Nobody in the Big 12 Conference got off to a better start than KU freshman Jacob Boylan. The freshman entered Friday’s opener in the fourth inning as a pinch hitter and after making outs in his first two at bats, he went 8-for-11 the rest of the weekend. His .615 batting average through four games leads the Big 12, while he’s also tops in the conference in on-base percentage (.667) and slugging percentage (.923).
Boylan’s strong start included two doubles, a triple, three runs scored and two RBIs. He is one of four Jayhawks to hit safely in all four games and he leads the team with three multi-hit games this season.
START ME UP: Senior Tanner Poppe returned to his former role as starting pitcher on Monday and recorded a career high seven strikeouts in his outing against Nevada. The senior pitcher looked strong through five innings of work, but ran into trouble in the sixth inning.
The senior served as the team’s closer for much of last season and went 0-5 with five saves and a 6.52 ERA in that role. In his career, Poppe has a 4.42 ERA as a starting pitcher and a 6.31 average as a reliever.
AROUND THE HORN:
UP NEXT: Kansas will play its home opener on Tuesday, Feb. 26 when Missouri State visits Hoglund Ballpark at 3 p.m. The Jayhawks and Bears will meet in Lawrence in February, before squaring off again in Springfield on March 26.