Jayhawks Head to BYU for Four-Game Series
March 19, 2013
LEADING OFF: After taking its first Big 12 series of the year, Kansas baseball will hit the road to face BYU in a four-game series at Miller Park in Provo, Utah. The Jayhawks will meet the Cougars at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evening, before finishing the series Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.
ON THE AIR: The final three games of the Kansas-BYU series can be seen on BYU Television. Check with your cable/satellite provider for the channel in your area. Fans can also listen to the games on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access with Tom Hedrick and Aaron Berlin on the call.
SERIES HISTORY: Wednesday’s game will mark the first meeting between the schools on the baseball diamond since the 1994 NCAA Regionals. The Jayhawks and Cougars have split their two previous meetings, with KU winning the initial game, 4-3, on March 22, 1968. BYU eliminated Kansas from the NCAA Tournament with an 8-3 win at the Atlantic II Regional in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 28, 1994.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: The Jayhawks won their first conference series of the year, taking two out of three from Big 12 newcomer TCU last weekend. KU has won nine of its last 11 games and is off to its best start since 2006.
The Jayhawks’ offense has shown a remarkable turnaround from last season. KU enters the week fourth in the league in batting average at .302 and is averaging 6.2 runs per game. The Jayhawks also lead the league in stolen bases with 50 in 63 attempts. Sophomore OF Michael Suiter snapped a 13-game hitting streak on Sunday, but still leads the team with a .439 batting average and has three doubles, nine steals and a .493 on-base percentage. Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling is tied for second in the Big 12 with 10 stolen bases and has seven doubles to go along with his .373 batting average.
KU’s pitching staff has the fourth-best ERA in the Big 12 Conference (2.94) and has held opponents to a .254 batting average. Senior RHP Thomas Taylor leads the starting staff with a 2-0 record and a 1.35 ERA in five starts. Taylor is also fourth in the Big 12 in ERA and sixth with 28 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. Junior RHP Jordan Piché has a 4-0 record with two saves and a sparkling 0.48 ERA in eight appearances out of the bullpen. Piché has allowed just one extra base hit and recorded 18 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
LAST TIME OUT: Senior Jordan Dreiling’s RBI single through the left side of the infield broke a scoreless tie in the top of the 12th, while junior Jordan Piché pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, as Kansas earned a series win with a 2-0 extra-innings victory over TCU Sunday afternoon at Lupton Stadium.
SCOUTING THE COUGARS: BYU returns to Miller Park after a tough road trip, where the Cougars dropped four games to No. 25 San Diego and lost another contest Monday to UNLV. The Cougars are 9-11 on the season, but 4-2 at home, which includes series victories over Creighton and then-No. 21 UC Irvine.
BYU’s offense ranks fourth in the West Coast Conference (WCC) with a .263 team batting average, while averaging 5.4 runs per game. Junior IF Adam Law leads the team with a .346 batting average with four doubles, a homer and 17 runs scored. Fellow junior, OF Jaycob Brugman, has been the Cougars’ top run producer, ranking third in the WCC with 20 RBIs to go along with five doubles, three homers and a .548 slugging percentage.
The Cougars’ pitching staff struggled Monday at UNLV, but ranks sixth in the WCC with a 3.99 ERA. BYU has held its opponents to a .266 batting average and has recorded 100 strikeouts in 170 innings. Junior RHP Desmond Poulson will start the series opener against the Jayhawks. The junior is 2-0 with a team-best 2.29 ERA in five starts this season. Poulson has racked up 28 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings and held opponents to a .234 batting average. Sophomore RHP James Lengal is BYU’s closer, he enters the series with an 0-2 mark and a 4.50 ERA with four saves and 13 strikeouts in 16 innings.
Head coach Mike Littlewood is in his first season at BYU. Littlewood came to BYU from Dixie State College in St. George, Utah, where he had been the head baseball coach since 1996. In 16 seasons, Littlewood compiled the most wins in Dixie State history (563-238; .702), while making four appearances in the National Junior College World Series, winning the national championship in 2004 and finishing runner-up in 2001.
SMOOTH CRIMINALS: Kansas stole a team-record 23 bases in the four-game sweep of Niagara March 7-9, more than doubling its season total heading into the series. Through 19 games, the Jayhawks have swiped 50 bases in 63 attempts (.794), which leads the Big 12 and ranks ninth nationally. KU’s aggressiveness on the bases has led to more run production as the team is averaging 6.2 runs per game this season, despite just three homers and a .377 slugging percentage.
Senior Jordan Dreiling leads the team and is tied for second in the Big 12 with 10 stolen bases, while sophomore Michael Suiter is tied for fifth in the league with nine steals. At their current rate, the Jayhawks are on pace for 145 steals this season, which would set the school record. KU’s highest stolen base total during the Ritch Price era is 80, which happened during his first year in 2003.
CAPTAIN CLUTCH: Senior 3B Jordan Dreiling drove in the game-winning run in the top of the 12th as Kansas earned a series win at TCU on March 17. It marked the fifth time this season that the senior captain has either driven in or scored the winning run, including a pair of walk-off RBIs.
When the chips have been down for the Jayhawks, Dreiling has put his best foot forward this season. The senior is batting .455 (10-for-22) with runners in scoring postion and .364 (8-for-22) with seven RBIs from the seventh inning on.
TAYLOR MADE: To say senior RHP Thomas Taylor is on a hot streak would be an understatement. In his last three starts, Taylor has allowed just one earned run while holding his opponents to 13 hits in 22 innings on the mound. The streak started with a complete game shutout against Eastern Michigan on March 2 and continued with a gutsy six-inning performance that was delayed twice by rain in the finale of the Niagara series on March 9.
On Sunday, Taylor pitched seven scoreless innings at TCU, allowing no runs on four hits with two walks and a strikeout. It marked the senior’s fourth quality start of the season, which ties him for the team lead, while his lone strikeout was the 199th of his career. He is currently fourth in the Big 12 in ERA (1.35), tied for sixth in strikeouts (28), eighth in innings pitched (33 1/3) and is one of five pitchers in the league to record a shutout.
THE JORDAN RULES: Junior RHP Jordan Piché has been one of the top relief pitchers in the Big 12 through the first five weeks of the season. He tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings last weekend in KU’s two victories at TCU, recording six strikeouts in the process. The junior college transfer has allowed just one earned run, recorded two saves and tallied four victories, which is tied for most in the Big 12 among relief pitchers.
One big reason for Piché’s effectiveness has been his ability to pitch out of troubled situations. The junior has allowed just five hits in 28 at bats (.179) with men on base and has retired 20 of the 23 hitters he’s faced with two outs in the inning.
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST END: Sophomore OF Michael Suiter snapped his 13-game hitting streak on March 17, going 0-for-6 in an extra-inning win at TCU. It was the second-year outfielder’s first hitless game since Feb. 22, while he also had a string of seven-straight multi-hit games during the hitting streak.
While the finale of the TCU series dropped Suiter’s batting average to .439, he is still light years ahead of where he was at this time last year. Through 19 games, the sophomore has raised his batting average by 156 points (.283 to .439) and his on-base percentage by 96 points (.397 to .493) and dropped his strikeout total by nine (13 to four).
AROUND THE HORN:
UP NEXT: Kansas will continue its 11-game stretch away from Hoglund Ballpark with a non-conference game at Missouri State on Tuesday, March 26 at 6:30 p.m.