Kansas Baseball Heads to Oklahoma State for Key Big 12 Battle
April 5, 2012
LEADING OFF: Kansas travels to Stillwater, Okla. to face Oklahoma State in the Jayhawks' third weekend of Big 12 play. KU and the Cowboys will open the three-game series Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, and will play Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and conclude the set Sunday at 1 p.m.
ON THE AIR: Fans can watch Saturday's game live on Fox Sports Net channels around the country. Audio from all three games will be available on Lawrence radio station KLWN (1320 AM), as well as online on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access. Fans can also follow the action on GameTracker at kuathletics.com.
SERIES HISTORY: Kansas and Oklahoma State will be meeting for the 181st time on the baseball diamond in Friday's opening game in a series that dates back to 1921. The Cowboys lead the all-time series 128-52, including 69-13 in Stillwater. KU won last year's three-game set in Lawrence, taking the final two games in a doubleheader on March 20.
ABOUT KANSAS: The Jayhawks will be looking for their second-straight Big 12 series victory at Oklahoma State this weekend after taking 2-of-3 from Texas Tech last weekend. At 2-4 in the Big 12, the Jayhawks are seventh in the league standings. KU is 3-8 in true road games this season.
KU's offense is averaging 4.6 runs per game and batting .257, which ranks ninth in the Big 12. Senior 1B Chris Manship leads the team with a .338 batting average along with a .538 slugging percentage and has 10 RBIs. On the mound, KU has posted a 4.28 team ERA, which ranks seventh in the Big 12 and has held opponents to a .271 batting average. Sophomore Frank Duncan is the staff ace with a 3.33 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings.
SCOUTING THE COWBOYS: Oklahoma State enters the weekend series with Kansas also looking to get back on track after getting swept at No. 8 Baylor last weekend. The Cowboys have dropped five straight Big 12 games after opening conference play with a 3-2 win at Missouri on March 24. OSU is 12-3 at home this season.
Oklahoma State averages 4.9 runs per game and is batting .272 as a team, which ranks eighth in the Big 12. Senior 3B Mark Ginther leads the Cowboy offense with a .324 batting average with five doubles and is in a four-way tie for the team lead with four home runs. Junior 2B Robbie Rea is the team's top RBI man with 20 to go along with a .322 batting average and a .504 slugging percentage.
The Cowboys' pitching staff ranks third in the Big 12 with a 3.32 ERA and has held opponents to a .243 batting average against them. Junior LHP Andrew Heaney is one of the top pitchers in the Big 12 this season, sporting a 5-1 mound record with a 1.69 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings. Heaney has held opponents to a .198 batting average and walked just nine in 207 plate appearances this season. OSU has used a closer-by-committee this season as four different Cowboys have one save. Junior RHP Chase Stevens has been one of the top relievers in the Big 12 with 47 strikeouts in 32 innings and a 3.94 ERA.
OSU head coach Frank Anderson is in his ninth season with the school and boasts an overall record of 311-197 at the school. Anderson has led the Cowboys to six NCAA Regional appearances and the Super Regional round in 2007.
LAST TIME OUT: Sophomore Tucker Tharp hit his first home run of the season and only the second in TD Ameritrade Ballpark all year, but the Jayhawks came up short against Creighton, 7-3 Tuesday night.
MANNY IMPROVEMENTS: Senior 1B/DH Chris Manship has become an impact hitter in the middle of the Jayhawk lineup in recent weeks. The senior helped the Jayhawks to a pair of wins over Texas Tech last weekend by collecting four hits and four RBIs in two starts, which included a pair of doubles. Over his last 10 games, Manship is batting .360 (9-for-25) with two doubles and four RBIs, raising his batting average to .338 on the year. It's a big improvement over last year, when Manship's season average never got above .257.
Manship is batting 102 points better this year than he was at this time last season and has raised his slugging percentage by 250 points.
TUCKER TAKES OFF: Sophomore OF Tucker Tharp has also turned his season around in the last couple of weeks, capped by a 3-for-4 game against Texas Tech on April 1 and a solo home run at TD Ameritrade Park on Tuesday. Tharp has raised his batting average by 81 points since March 15, going 11-for-31 (.355) during that span. After two weekends of Big 12 play, Tharp is the team's leading hitter in conference games at .375 with a pair of multi-hit contests.
A big reason for Tharp's turnaround has been his ability hit the ball up the middle and to the opposite field. Of his 17 base hits this season, seven have been to center field (41.1 percent) and three more have been to right field (17.6 percent). Early in the season, a majority of the balls the sophomore put into play were to the left side.
QUALITY STARTERS: KU's series win over Texas Tech was spearheaded by the pitching performances of RHP Frank Duncan, LHP Wes Benjamin and RHP Thomas Taylor. The trio of hurlers combined to allow six runs in 21 2/3 innings on the mound, while all recording quality starts.
A quality start is when a starting pitcher goes six innings or more and allows three runs or fewer. KU's group of weekend starters has 10 quality starts in 21 chances this year, after the team had just 16 all of 2011. The Jayhawks are 8-2 this season when their starting pitcher has a quality start.
THOU SHALL NOT STEAL: Base runners' worst nightmare this season has been senior C James Stanfield. Heading into the eighth week of the season, Stanfield has thrown out 40.9 percent of all would-be base stealers (9-for-22), which leads the Big 12 among catchers that have started at least 14 games. Stanfield was recently added to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List, which honors the top catcher in Division I baseball each year. Below is a look at the Big 12's caught stealing percentages among its starting catchers:
Big 12 Caught Stealing Percentage
1. James Stanfield, Kansas....... .409 (9-for-22)
2. Bo Altobelli, Texas Tech........... .333 (6-for-18)
3. Troy Stein, Texas A&M............ .316 (6-for-19)
4. Jacob Felts, Texas.................. .321 (9-for-28)
5. Josh Ludy, Baylor................... .294 (5-for-17)
• Kansas travels to Oklahoma State this weekend for its third Big 12 series of the season. The Jayhawks will play just one more conference series outside the state of Kansas this year (April 20-22 at Texas).
• The Jayhawks have played 22 of their first 28 games away from Hoglund Ballpark. However, after this weekend in Stillwater, Okla., KU will play 16 of its final 25 games at home.
• By taking two-of-three from Texas Tech March 30-April 1, Kansas won its first conference series since taking two-of-three at Missouri April 15-17 of last season.
• KU also snapped a 13-game losing streak in Big 12 contests with the March 31 win over the Red Raiders. The Jayhawks' last conference win before that came on April 23, 2011 against Texas.
• Kansas has committed just 23 errors in 28 games played. The Jayhawks' .978 fielding percentage is 14th-best nationally and ranks second in the Big 12.
• KU has allowed just 19 stolen bases this season, which is the third fewest in the Big 12. The Jayhawks have also caught 12-of-31 attempted base stealers (38.7 percent).
• Kansas has done a great job of starting innings. KU has had the leadoff man reach base in 36.7 percent (92-for-251) of its offensive innings in 2012.
• The Jayhawks have scored 29 of their 129 runs this season in the first inning, or 22.5 percent.
• 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.
• Kansas collected eight two-out RBIs in the Texas Tech series and 12 in the team's last five games.
• The Jayhawks' 11-10 victory on March 21 over Southern Utah marked KU's first walk-off win since April 2, 2011 when a bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning gave KU a 4-3 win over then-No. 19 Baylor.
• KU collected 19 hits in the 11-inning win over Southern Utah, which represented the most by the team since recording 20 hits at Oklahoma State on April 30, 2010.
• Kansas skipper Ritch Price coached his 1,000th game at the Division I level on March 6 against North Dakota. Price has a .520 winning percentage (526 wins, three ties) in 17-plus seasons at Cal Poly and Kansas.
• 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.
• Senior C James Stanfield collected two walks and a hit-by-pitch in Sunday's win over Texas Tech. Prior to Sunday's game, Stanfield had been issued just three bases on balls and been hit by pitch once in 2012.
• Redshirt-junior 1B Jake Marasco finished the month of March batting .364, matching a career-high with 24 hits. In his career, Marasco has hit .335 (66-for-197) in March games.
• Junior SS Kevin Kuntz has reached base in 24 of the team's 28 games, including Tuesday night when he singled in the fourth inning at Creighton.
• After a slow start, junior IF Jordan Dreiling has come alive lately. After a 1-for-17 stretch in early March, Dreiling has gone 9-for-31 (.290) over his last 10 games.
• Senior 3B Zac Elgie collected his team leading eighth double of the year Tuesday against Creighton. Of Elgie's 22 hits, 10 have been for extra bases (eight doubles, two homers).
• Freshman OF Connor McKay took over the team lead with his eighth multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-4 in the March 30 win over Texas Tech.
• Freshman OF Michael Suiter has done a tremendous job setting the table. Suiter has led off an inning 16 times this season and has reached base in nine of those opportunities (.563).
• Freshman OF Dakota Smith has hit safely and collected an RBI in three consecutive games. His base hit on March 31 against Texas Tech snapped him out of an 0-for-19 slump.
• Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin worked from ahead for most of the afternoon in his March 31 start against Texas Tech. Benjamin fired first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 31 hitters he faced in the game.
• Junior RHP Frank Duncan continues to pitch well despite a lack of run support. In his last three starts Duncan is 0-3, but has allowed just seven runs in 21 innings and held opposing hitters to a .194 batting average.
• Senior RHP Jordan Jakubov has been great at cleaning up other pitchers' innings. The senior has allowed just three of his 13 inherited base runners to score this season (23.1 percent).
• Freshman RHP Robert Kahana ranks seventh in the Big 12 in earned run average with a 2.53 ERA in 14 games. He also leads the conference in ERA among freshmen.
• Freshman RHP Drew Morovick has done a great job against leadoff men this season. In the 23 innings Morovick has started, just three men have reached base to open the inning (.130).
• Junior RHP Tanner Poppe earned his fourth save of the season Saturday against Texas Tech and the sixth of his career.
• Junior RHP Thomas Taylor has induced a team-high six double plays, including one against Baylor on March 25.
• Kansas has just one player on its roster from the state of Oklahoma: C James Stanfield (Owasso).
• Oklahoma State has two Kansas natives on its roster: IF Robbie Rea (Topeka) and RHP Jon Perrin (Olathe).
• Oklahoma State head coach Frank Anderson graduated from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan.
• KU redshirt freshman RHP Conner Murray and OSU freshman RHP Jon Perrin were teammates at Olathe East High School.
• Kansas junior SS Kevin Kuntz and Oklahoma State junior RHP Mark Robinette were high school teammates at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla.
JAYHAWK PRO UPDATE: Several former Jayhawks have played in major league spring training games this season. KU has six players who were drafted in the last three seasons who played in their first major league games in spring training this season:
• RHP Brett Bochy pitched in his first major league spring training game for the San Francisco Giants on April 1 against the Milwaukee Brewers, recording a perfect eighth inning where he tallied a pair of strikeouts.
• LHP Sam Freeman has pitched in three major league games for the St. Louis Cardinals this spring, allowing three runs in 2 2/3 innings.
• LHP Tom Gorzelanny has pitched in six games this spring for the Washington Nationals out of the bullpen and posted an 8.10 ERA and recorded 11 strikeouts in 10 innings on the mound.
• IF Erik Morrison has played in six games for the Chicago White Sox this spring and collected his first hit - a triple - April 1 against the Cincinnati Reds.
• RHP Colton Murray pitched in his first major league spring training game for the Philadelphia Phillies on March 30 against the New York Yankees. He pitched the eighth inning and tallied a strikeout.
• IF Robby Price played in his fourth major league spring training game on April 1 for the Tampa Bay Rays, coming in as a defensive replacement in a game against the Baltimore Orioles. Price went 1-for-3 in his four games this spring.
• RHP T.J. Walz pitched in a major league spring training game for the Oakland Athletics on March 17 against the San Francisco Giants. Walz retired the Giants in order in the eighth inning in his only appearance for the big league A's this spring.
• LHP Mike Zagurski has been sharp in his spring training games for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Zagurski has made 10 appearances out of the bullpen this spring and posted a 2.61 ERA, allowing three runs in 10 1/3 innings.
UP NEXT: Kansas returns to the friendly confines of Hoglund Ballpark next week as the Jayhawks host in-state rival Wichita State Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. The Jayhawks and Shockers will play a home-and-home series with WSU hosting a game Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m.