March 12, 2013
|Junior Jordan Piche has been a find for the Jayhawks out of the bullpen, posting three wins and two saves.
LEADING OFF: Riding a four-game win streak, Kansas baseball will close out its homestand on Wednesday afternoon when it meets Jackson State at 3 p.m., at Hoglund Ballpark. The Jayhawks and Tigers will tangle for the second time this season, after an impromptu meeting in Conway, Ark., on Feb. 23.
ON THE AIR: Wednesday's non-conference tilt will be available on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access with live video and play-by-play audio at KUAthletics.com. Veteran broadcaster Tom Hedrick and Pete Knutson will call the action from Hoglund Ballpark.
SERIES HISTORY: Kansas defeated Jackson State, 10-6, earlier this season in Conway, Ark., in the first meeting between the schools on the baseball diamond. KU took a 6-1 lead early in the game, but needed a seventh-inning rally to break open a tie game.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas has won a season-high four-straight and six of its last seven games dating back to March 2. The Jayhawks swept a four-game series from Niagara this past weekend, marking the team's first four-game sweep since May of 2011 when it won all four contests against Alabama A&M.
KU's offense has shown a remarkable turnaround from 2012 through the first four weeks of the year, batting .311 with 23 doubles and 44 stolen bases. The Jayhawks are averaging 6.4 runs per game. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter ranks second in the Big 12 with a .438 batting average (21-for-48) through 15 games. Suiter has eight stolen bases and has scored nine runs for the Jayhawks this season. Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling is tied with Suiter for the team lead in steals and is tied for the conference lead with seven doubles and has 14 RBIs. KU's pitching enjoyed a successful weekend, dropping its team ERA to 3.10, which ranks third in the Big 12. Senior RHP Thomas Taylor leads the staff with a 2-0 record and a 1.71 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings.
LAST TIME OUT: Senior Jordan Dreiling and sophomore Dakota Smith each recorded three RBIs, while senior Thomas Taylor allowed just three unearned runs in six innings as Kansas finished off a four-game sweep of Niagara, 11-4, Saturday at rainy Hoglund Ballpark.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS: Jackson State enters the week at 9-6 overall after sweeping its second Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) series of the year from Mississippi Valley State. The Tigers will meet Missouri in Columbia on Tuesday night, before facing the Jayhawks on Wednesday. JSU has won seven in a row, including a 6-0 record in the SWAC.
Jackson State's offense ranks second in the SWAC with a .274 team batting average, while scoring 6.7 runs per game. Junior OF Charles Tilery leads the team with a .365 batting average and has two doubles, two triples and 17 runs scored in 15 games. Senior 1B Ethan Bright is also batting .344 and is tied for the team lead with six doubles and two homers. Bright also leads the team with a .541 slugging percentage.
On the mound, junior RHP Desmond Russell has been JSU's best pitcher, sporting a 3-0 record and a sparkling 1.38 ERA in three starts. Russell tossed a complete game shutout against Mississippi Valley State on March 9 in his last outing. Sophomore RHP Alexander Juday leads the team with seven relief appearances and has an 0-1 record with a 3.38 ERA in 26 2/3 innings pitched.
Head coach Omar Johnson is in his seventh season at Jackson State and has a record of 212-132 at the school. Johnson previously coached at North Alabama, where he helped the Lions reach the College World Series in 1999.
KU-JACKSON STATE CONNECTIONS:
- The Jayhawks do not have any Mississippi natives on their roster, while Jackson State does not have any players from Kansas.
- Jackson State freshman RHP is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, which is where Kansas stayed during its foreign tour of the island country.
- Kansas OF Joe Moroney is from Pleasanton, Calif., and IF Colby Wright is from Castro Valley, Calif., while Jackson State LHP Christopher Wingard is from San Ramon, Calif.
SUITER NAMED BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Sophomore OF Michael Suiter became the first Jayhawk in nearly two years to earn Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week honors on Monday. The second-year player went 8-for-14 (.571) with seven stolen bases, five runs scored and two RBIs last week against Niagara. He also walked twice in the four-game series to reach base at a .625 clip against the Purple Eagles.
Suiter extended his team-best hitting streak to 10 games, which is the longest by a Jayhawk since Jimmy Waters hit safely in 14-straight games during the 2011 season. During his hitting streak, Suiter is batting .484 (15-for-31) with seven runs scored, three RBIs and eight stolen bases. He has recorded six multi-hit games in his 10-game streak, giving him the tie for the team lead with eight. Suiter has also reached base in 14 consecutive games, dating back to opening day.
SMOOTH CRIMINALS: Kansas stole a team-record 23 bases in the four-game series against Niagara, more than doubling its season total coming into the series. Through 15 games, the Jayhawks have swiped 44 bases in 55 attempts (.800), which leads the Big 12 and ranks seventh nationally. KU's aggressiveness on the bases has led to more run production as the team is averaging 6.4 runs per game this season, despite just two homers and a .389 slugging percentage.
Senior Jordan Dreiling and sophomore Michael Suiter lead the team with eight stolen bases each, which tie them for second in the Big 12. Dreiling, Suiter and junior Tucker Tharp have all had three steals in a single game this season.
WES SIDE STORY: Sophomore LHP Wes Benjamin brought dominating stuff to his fourth start of the season, earning his first victory. The second-year southpaw struck out a career-best 11 hitters and allowed just one earned run over seven innings to pick up the win on March 8 against Niagara.
After a rough start to the season, Benjamin appears to be back on track. The ability to control the strikezone has been paramount to the sophomore's success. In his first two outings (both losses), Benjamin walked five in 8 1/3 innings of work; while in his last two starts, he has just three walks in 14 innings and has allowed just four earned runs.
THE JORDAN RULES: Junior RHP Jordan Piché has been one of the top relief pitchers in the Big 12 through the first four weeks of the season. The junior college transfer allowed his first run of the season in the ninth inning in the March 9 win over Niagara, but still earned his second save. Piché is tied for the conference lead among relief pitchers with three victories this season. He also sports a miniscule 0.68 ERA and has held opponents to a .196 batting average.
One big reason for Piché's effectiveness has been his ability to pitch out of troubled situations. The junior has allowed just four hits in 25 at bats (.160) with men on base and has retired 14 of the 16 hitters he has faced with two outs in the inning.
AROUND THE HORN:
- Kansas will finish its first homestand of the season Wednesday against Jackson State. Originally, the Jayhawks were to play 13-straight games at home during February and March, but winter weather forced the team to play three games in Arkansas and four games in Grand Prairie, Texas.
- The Jayhawks are 9-0 all-time against members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, including 1-0 against Jackson State.
- Kansas is 187-90-1 (.674) at Hoglund Ballpark under head coach Ritch Price, including 123-23 (.842) against non-conference competition at home.
- KU won its home opener for the 10th time in 11 years under Price on March 7 with a 7-0 win over Niagara. Dating back to 2000, the Jayhawks are 13-1 in their first home contest of the season.
- KU's shutout of Niagara on March 7 marked its third in the first 15 games of the 2013 season. The Jayhawks recorded just four shutouts in 58 games in 2012. KU had a school record nine shutouts in 1978.
- The Jayhawks came one stolen base shy of tying the single-game record for steals (10) in two games of the Niagara series. On March 7, KU swiped nine bases against the Purple Eagles and collected nine more stolen bases in the second game of the March 8 doubleheader.
- Kansas is tied for the Big 12 lead in team batting average (.311). The Jayhawks' .311 average is their highest through 15 games since 2003, when the team batted .318 in its first 15 contests.
- The NCAA released its second round of national statistics on Tuesday and the Jayhawks rank in the Top 50 (of 297 teams) in several categories: The Jayhawks are 28th in batting average (.311), seventh in steals (44), 44th in walks (68), 36th in sacrifice bunts (15), 46th in times hit by pitch (22), first in sacrifice flies (18), 49th in ERA (3.10), 32nd in fielding percentage (.977) and 25th in on-base percentage (.408).
- The Jayhawks lead the nation in sacrifice flies with 18, which is four more than the team had in all of 2012. Senior Jordan Dreiling and Tommy Mirabelli are tied for the team lead with four, which tie them for seventh nationally.
- Heading into the fifth week of the season, KU also leads the Big 12 Conference in a handful of statistical categories: The Jayhawks are first in the conference in on-base percentage (.408), tops in stolen bases (44) and lead the league in sacrifice flies (18). KU is also tied for fewest home runs allowed (two) and ranks second in fielding percentage (.977).
- Individually, senior 3B Jordan Dreiling is tied for the league lead in doubles (seven) and sophomore IF Justin Protacio is tops in the conference in walks (16). Senior RHP Thomas Taylor is one of two pitchers in the Big 12 with a complete game shutout.
- The Jayhawks have been impressive in clutch situations this season. As a team, KU is batting .335 (86-for-257) with men on base, including a .329 average (55-for-167) with runners in scoring position.
- Through 15 games, KU has 32 two-out RBIs, while batting .313 (52-for-166) with two outs in an inning.
- KU's defense has been outstanding again this season. The Jayhawks have committed just 13 errors in 556 chances (.977), while throwing out 5-of-10 would-be base stealers and turning 12 double plays in 15 games.
- The Jayhawk outfield collected two more assists in the Niagara series, giving it seven for the season. Sophomore Dakota Smith leads the group with three assists, while Michael Suiter and Tucker Tharp have each thrown out two base runners.
- Kansas has collected 18 sacrifice flies in 15 games this season. In 2012, KU recorded just 14 in 58 games.
- Freshman 1B/DH Jacob Boylan continued his clutch hitting early in the season. Boylan is 10-for-19 (.526) with men on base, including 6-for-12 (.500) with runners in scoring position. He is second on the team with four two-out RBIs.
- Senior 1B/C Alex DeLeon recorded his fourth double of the season in game two of the March 8 doubleheader against Niagara. Heading into the season, the senior had just 12 career doubles in 103 games.
- Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling has reached base in all 15 games this season and scored 11 runs. He is one of five players in the Big 12 to reach base in every one of his team's games.
- Junior C Ka'iana Eldredge tripled home a run in the first game of the March 8 doubleheader against Niagara. It marked Eldredge's first triple since April 30, 2011.
- Sophomore OF Connor McKay saw his first action since the season opener in the Niagara series. McKay hit safely in the final two games of the series and recorded two RBIs, two runs scored and two stolen bases.
- Freshman 2B Tommy Mirabelli enjoyed a breakout weekend against Niagara. The first-year infielder, who has started at second base in each of the last seven games, recorded his first multi-RBI game on March 7 and went 5-for-11 (.455) with three doubles and five RBIs in the four-game series.
- Sophomore IF Justin Protacio drew seven walks in four games against Niagara, giving him the conference lead with 16. Protacio has reached base at a .508 clip this season and is 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts.
- Sophomore OF Dakota Smith recorded his first multi-RBI game of the season, driving in three runs in the series finale against Niagara on March 9.
- Sophomore OF Michael Suiter became the first Jayhawk to win Big 12 Player of the Week honors (March 11) since Jason Brunansky earned the award on April 9, 2011.
- Junior OF Tucker Tharp has been productive, despite a .184 batting average. The junior has reached base at a .333 clip and ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 14 runs scored.
- Sophomore LHP Wes Benjamin tallied a career-high 11 strikeouts in his March 8 victory over Niagara. Benjamin became the first Jayhawk to record double-digit strikeouts in a game since Frank Duncan fanned 11 in a victory over Texas on April 20, 2012.
- Junior RHP Frank Duncan recorded his fourth quality start of the season after collecting seven all of last year. The junior has pitched into the sixth inning in 18 of his 19 career starts.
- Sophomore RHP Robert Kahana has been very effective pitching out of the windup this season. The second-year pitcher has allowed just one hit in 21 at bats when he is not holding runners on (.048).
- Junior RHP Junior Mustain collected his first hold in KU's March 7 victory over Niagara. The junior college transfer entered the game in the sixth inning with KU ahead 2-0 and pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
- Junior RHP Jordan Piché earned his third victory out of the bullpen against Niagara on March 8. Piché has earned his three victories in just six appearances. Former Jayhawk Curtis Shaw holds the school record with nine wins as a relief pitcher in 28 relief appearances in 1990.
- Senior RHP Thomas Taylor is close to moving up on the school's all-time strikeout list. Taylor ranks 10th in Jayhawk history with 198 career strikeouts, with ninth-place Don Czyz (200), eighth-place Pete Smart (202), seventh-place Eric Stonecipher (206) and sixth-place Jamie Splittorff (207) all within striking distance in his next start.
- Freshman LHP Tyler Watson has retired all five left-handed hitters that he has faced this season.
UP NEXT: Kansas will open Big 12 play in Fort Worth, Texas this weekend when it faces conference newcomer TCU in a three-game series. The Jayhawks and Horned Frogs will meet Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m., and complete the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. All three games will be televised on Fox College Sports Central (Friday and Saturday) and Fox Sports Southwest-Plus (Sunday).