Kansas Baseball Hosts Southern Utah Tuesday, Wednesday Afternoon
March 19, 2012
LEADING OFF: Kansas begins a busy week by hosting its second midweek series of the year at Hoglund Ballpark, facing Southern Utah Tuesday and Wednesday at 3 p.m.
ON THE AIR: Audio and video from this week's games is available free of charge on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. A link to the audio can be found at kuathletics.com. Fans can also follow the action via GameTracker at kuathletics.com.
SERIES HISTORIES: This marks the second-straight season that Kansas and Southern Utah have met in Lawrence. The Jayhawks earned 2-1 victories in both games of a doubleheader played on March 1, 2011.
ABOUT KANSAS: Kansas is hoping some home cooking can change its luck as it prepares for the Big 12 opener. The Jayhawks are 1-1 in home games this season after splitting a midweek series with North Dakota, March 6-7.
KU's offense is averaging 4.4 runs per game and batting .254 as a team, which ranks eighth in the Big 12. Senior DH Chris Manship leads the team with a .341 batting average and has a .591 slugging percentage with six RBIs. KU's pitching staff ranks fourth in the conference with a 3.43 ERA. Redshirt-junior RHP Thomas Taylor has been KU's top starting pitcher, going 2-2 with a 2.62 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings.
SCOUTING THE THUNDERBIRDS: Southern Utah enters the midweek series with Kansas with a 3-15 record after taking one of three games at Northern Colorado over the weekend. SUU snapped an eight-game losing streak with Friday's 20-11 win over the Bears. The Thunderbirds are 2-10 on the road this season.
Southern Utah's offense averages 4.7 runs per game and has batted .253 this season as a team, which ranks sixth in the Summit League. Senior OF Marcus Romero leads the Thunderbird offense with a .343 batting average with five doubles, two homers and a team-best 14 RBIs. Senior SS Bo Cuthbertson has been the team's table setter, reaching base at a .403 clip and has five stolen bases in six attempts this year.
The Thunderbirds' pitching staff has a team ERA of 6.97, which ranks fifth in the Summit League, while opponents are batting .339 against them. KU is likely to face junior RHP Kelsey Outram and junior LHP Justin Neubauer in the series. Outram is 0-4 on the year, but sports a sparkling 2.87 ERA with 12 walks and 22 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. Neubauer has collected two of the team's three victories and has a 4.09 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 22 innings.
Southern Utah head coach David Eldredge is in his seventh season at the school and has led the Thunderbirds to 25 victories or more in four of them. Eldredge's 2008 team won a program record 31 games, including a 16-7 mark in conference play that year.
LAST TIME OUT: Kansas starting pitcher Thomas Taylor allowed one run over 7 2/3 innings with no walks and four strikeouts, while the Jayhawk offense did just enough to conquer Houston Baptist, 3-2, Sunday morning at SAISD Sports Complex in the final day of the Irish Baseball Classic.
THE IDES OF MARCH: As he has the previous two seasons, redshirt-junior 1B Jake Marasco has turned his season around in the month of March. After collecting just two hits in the first two weekends of the season, Marasco was batting .117. However, the redshirt-junior has gone 14-for-41 during KU's March games to raise his season average to a respectable .276 with three doubles and 11 runs scored.
Marasco has been a lion in March throughout his career, batting .354 (52-for-147) with 14 doubles, a homer and a .469 slugging percentage. Below is a look at KU's hottest hitters during this month:
KU's Top Batting Averages In March Games
1. Chris Manship (11-for-31)... .355
2. Jake Marasco (14-for-41).... .341
3. James Stanfield (9-for-30).. .300
THOU SHALL NOT STEAL: Base stealers' worst nightmare this season has been senior C James Stanfield. Heading into the sixth week of the season, Stanfield has thrown out 46.2 percent of all would-be base stealers (6-for-13), which leads the Big 12 among catchers that have started at least 10 games. Stanfield's defensive skills were on display at the Irish Baseball Classic over the weekend as he gunned down three more base runners in four stolen base attempts against him.
QUALITY STARTERS: KU's trio of starting pitchers have been a huge part of the Jayhawks' success in the early part of the season. The tandem of junior RHP Thomas Taylor, sophomore RHP Frank Duncan and freshman LHP Wes Benjamin have a joint 3.09 ERA (35 ER in 102 IP) and have combined for nine quality starts in their 15 games started this season. Duncan leads the team with three wins and 30 strikeouts, while Taylor (2.62 ERA, seventh) and Benjamin (3.27 ERA, 14th) both rank in the top 15 in the Big 12 in ERA.
Kansas plays its second home series this week when it faces Southern Utah in a two-game set. The Jayhawks are 173-81 at home under head coach Ritch Price.
The Jayhawks are also 114-19 in non-conference home games under Price, including 48-7 since 2008.
KU will face Southern Utah for the second time in program history. The Jayhawks are 56-22 all-time against current members of the Summit League, with 21 of the losses coming to Oral Roberts (19-21).
The Jayhawks' 3-2 win over Houston Baptist marked the team's first victory in the state of Texas in 13 tries. KU had lost 12-straight games in the Lone Star State dating back to a 4-3 extra innings win at TCU on Feb. 20, 2011.
Kansas skipper Ritch Price coached his 1,000th game at the Division I level on March 6 against North Dakota. Price has a .522 winning percentage (525 wins, three ties) in 17-plus seasons at Cal Poly and Kansas.
The Jayhawks have outhit 13 of their 19 opponents this season. KU has a 10-3 record when it collects more base hits than its opponent.
KU's defense has been rock solid this season, posting a league-best .982 fielding percentage through 19 games. The Jayhawks have committed just 13 errors in 733 chances and have been charged with multiple errors in a game just once this season (March 9 vs. Stony Brook).
KU scored a season-high 10 runs in the first inning of a game against Mississippi Valley State on Feb. 26. It was the most runs scored in a single frame by a Jayhawk team since an 11-run inning against Tabor in 2007.
Of the Jayhawks' 11 home runs this season, eight have been hit by freshmen. KU's freshman class has outhomered four entire teams in the Big 12.
As a team, the Jayhawks are batting .423 (11-for-26) with the bases loaded this season, which includes a pair of grand slams.
As a team, KU's pitchers have allowed just 2.79 walks per game, which ranks third in the Big 12 behind only Texas Tech (2.34) and Texas A&M (2.55).
KU's outfielders have recorded nine assists this season after collecting just 13 all of last season. Freshman Connor McKay and sophomore Tucker Tharp are tied for the team lead with three each, while senior Jason Brunansky, freshman Dakota Smith and freshman Michael Suiter have also thrown a baserunner out from the outfield.
Senior C James Stanfield collected his third hit against left-handed pitching in the ninth inning of the March 15 loss to Indiana State. Stanfield is 3-for-8 against southpaws this season after going 5-for-22 (.227) against lefties in 2011.
Junior C Alex DeLeon leads the team with five two-out RBIs. As a team, KU has just 16 two-out RBIs and is batting just .210 (42-for-200) with two down in an inning.
Redshirt-junior 1B Jake Marasco has shown some speed this season. The KU first baseman is tied for the team lead with four infield singles and is 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts.
Junior SS Kevin Kuntz is tied for sixth in the Big 12 with 14 walks this season. Kuntz has reached base in 17 of his 19 starts this season.
Senior IF Chris Manship is tied for the team lead with five multi-hit games this season with three of them coming in San Antonio. Manship collected two hits at UTSA (March 2), two against Louisiana (March 3) and two on Sunday against Houston Baptist.
Senior 3B Zac Elgie is KU's leader with 12 RBIs and is batting .381 (8-for-21) with runners in scoring position.
Freshman OF Dakota Smith collected four hits - including his first collegiate homer - in the March 3 game against Louisiana. Smith became the first Jayhawk freshman to go 4-for-4 in a game since Jake Marasco turned the trick on March 7, 2010.
Freshman OF Michael Suiter has done a tremendous job setting the table. Suiter has led off an inning 11 times this season and has reached base in eight of those opportunities (.727).
Sophomore OF Tucker Tharp collected two hits in the 1-0 loss to Notre Dame on Friday, which snapped him out of a 1-for-18 slump.
Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin has pitched well everywhere but San Antonio. In his two starts at Wolff Stadium this year, Benjamin has an 8.44 ERA, allowing 10 runs in 10 2/3 innings. In his three starts in other ballparks, Benjamin has an 0.81 ERA with two runs allowed in 22 1/3 innings.
Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan has been one of the team's best at retiring the leadoff man. Duncan has started 35 innings this year and allowed the first man up to reach just six times (.171).
Senior RHP Jordan Jakubov allowed his first base hit to a left-handed hitter in the Indiana State game on March 15. Lefties are still just 1-for-18 against him (.056).
Junior RHP Tanner Poppe recorded his third save of the season on Sunday and is now 3-for-4 in save opportunities.
Junior RHP Thomas Taylor has induced a team-high five double plays, including another one against Houston Baptist Sunday.
Southern Utah head coach David Eldredge is the father of Kansas 2B Ka'iana Eldredge.
Southern Utah OF Jacob Dunnichay played the first two seasons of his college career at Kansas. Because Dunnichay transferred from KU last season, he is taking a redshirt year this season at SUU.
Kansas assistant coach Ritchie Price coached at South Dakota State for three years. South Dakota State and Southern Utah are both members of the Summit League.
Several players on both rosters hail from the state of Hawaii. Ka'iana Eldredge (Honolulu), Robert Kahana (Ewa Beach), Justin Protacio (Pearl City) and Michael Suiter (Kailua) on Kansas and D.J. Andrade (Waipahu), Mitchell Kauweloa (Kailua), Bryson Kenolio (Mililani), Justin Neuhart (Kualapuu) and Kelsey Outram (Mililani) from Southern Utah.
Both teams have a handful of players from the Phoenix, Ariz. metro area. KU LHP Jordan Luvisi, IF Joey Luvisi and OF Brian Poupore are all from Scottsdale, while Southern Utah SS Bo Cuthbertson (Glendale), UT David Headley (Phoenix) and LHP Justin Walker (Phoenix) are all Phoenix area natives.
UP NEXT: The Jayhawks will open Big 12 play this weekend when it travels to Waco, Texas for a three game series with the Baylor Bears at Baylor Ballpark. Audio of all three games from the KU-BU series will be available on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access.