Jayhawks Host No. 23 Sooners in Pivotal Big 12 Series
April 26, 2012
LEADING OFF: Kansas will battle No. 23 Oklahoma in a three-game Big 12 series at Hoglund Ballpark this weekend. The Jayhawks and Sooners will open the series Friday at 6 p.m., and play Saturday at 6 p.m., before wrapping up the three-game set on Sunday at noon.
ON THE AIR: Fans can watch free streaming video of all three games via AT&T Jayhawk All-Access at KUAthletics.com. The entire series with the Sooners will also be carried on the News and Talk of Lawrence, 1320 AM KLWN.
SERIES HISTORY: Kansas will meet Oklahoma for the 238th time on the baseball diamond Friday night in a series that dates back to 1906. OU leads the all-time series 149-87 with one tie, including 62-39 in games played in Lawrence. The Sooners have won eight-straight meetings dating back to 2009. OU swept the Jayhawks in a three-game series in 2010 in their last trip to Hoglund Ballpark, winning the final two games of the series with ninth-inning rallies.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: After starting April cold, Kansas has won five of its last seven games, including a walk-off win over Sunflower Showdown rival Kansas State on Wednesday night. Two of KU's other wins during the seven-game stretch have come against Top 25 teams Texas A&M and Texas. KU is 8-5 at home this season.
KU's offense averages 4.4 runs per game and is batting .250 as a team, which ranks ninth in the Big 12. Sophomore OF Tucker Tharp leads the Jayhawk regulars with a .285 batting average with two homers and a .367 on-base percentage. On the mound, the Jayhawks sport a 4.32 team ERA, which ranks seventh in the conference and are holding opponents to a .269 batting average. Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan is the ace of the pitching staff with four wins and a 3.17 ERA in 10 starts.
SCOUTING THE SOONERS: Oklahoma enters the weekend ranked 23rd in the latest Collegiate Baseball News poll. However, the Sooners dropped both of the their midweek contests, including an 8-2 loss to Dallas Baptist Wednesday night. OU is 7-8 in the Big 12, which puts them in fifth place. The Sooners are 8-9 on the road this year.
Oklahoma averages 5.3 runs per game and is batting .270 as a team, which ranks seventh in the league. Junior OF Max White leads the team with a .357 batting average, including a team-high 10 doubles and 36 RBIs. Freshman C Hunter Lockwood leads the conference with nine homers and has 34 RBIs to go along with a .507 slugging percentage.
The Sooners' pitching staff ranks fifth in the Big 12 with a 3.96 team ERA and is holding opponents to a .269 batting average. Sophomore LHP Jordan John is the staff ace with a 7-4 record to go along with a 2.54 ERA in 71 innings with 20 walks and 68 strikeouts. John opened the season as the team's closer and has four saves, but has turned those duties over to Damien Magnifico, Steven Okert and Kindle Ladd, who have combined for five saves.
Oklahoma head coach Sunny Galloway is in his seventh season at the school and has a 287-151-1 record at OU and a 622-307-1 mark overall. Galloway has led the Sooners to the College World Series in 2010 and to a pair of Super Regional appearances in his tenure.
LAST TIME OUT: Zac Elgie needed one pitch in the bottom of the 11th inning to send a walk-off home run into the night as Kansas outmuscled Kansas State, 8-7, in a non-conference baseball game played Wednesday night at Hoglund Ballpark.
DOMINATING DUNCAN: Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan has earned the title `staff ace' after his performance at No. 23 Texas last Friday. The second-year pitcher tossed the first complete game by a Jayhawk this year in a 7-2 win over the Longhorns, which helped him earn Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors. Duncan made quick work of the Texas lineup, retiring 20 men in a row from the first inning until a leadoff single in the eighth.
The sophomore righty has been one of the best-kept secrets in the Big 12, posting a 3.17 ERA in his 10 starts. He ranks third in the conference in strikeouts (69), fifth in opponent batting average (.207) and second in innings pitched (76 2/3).
LET'S GET IT STARTED: Since moving into the leadoff role on April 6, sophomore OF Tucker Tharp has been one of the team's best hitters. The second-year outfielder has hit .352 as the top man in the order and .351 (13-for-37) in KU's last 10 games. Tharp recorded his second four-hit game in the last three weeks on Wednesday night, going 4-for-6 against Kansas State, which included a leadoff home run. The sophomore has been a brilliant table setter, reaching base 47.6 percent (20-for-42) of the innings he's led off.
ZAC ATTACK: Senior Zac Elgie sent Kansas fans home happy on Wednesday night with a walk-off blast to beat Kansas State in 11 innings. It marked the first walk-off home run by a Jayhawk since Nick Faunce's game-winning homer against Northern Colorado in 2009 and the first of Elgie's career.
The senior gave a fitting end to a wild game as he has been one of KU's best hitters in the month of April. In 15 games this month, Elgie is batting .296 (16-for-54) with five doubles, three homers and a team-best .556 slugging percentage.
THOU SHALL NOT STEAL: Base runners' worst nightmare this season has been senior C James Stanfield. Stanfield has thrown out 38.2 percent of all would-be base stealers (13-for-34), which leads the Big 12 among catchers that have started at least 18 games. His 13 base runners caught stealing are also tops in the conference. The senior backstop 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 top defensive catchers:
Big 12 Caught Stealing Percentage
Kansas hosts No. 23 Oklahoma in a Big 12 series this weekend at Hoglund Ballpark. The 23rd-ranked Sooners mark the third-straight conference opponent to face the Jayhawks while ranked in the Top 25. KU is 2-8 against ranked foes this season.
The Jayhawks are 8-5 at home this year and will play nine of their final 14 regular season games in the friendly confines of Hoglund Ballpark.
As a team, KU is batting .269 in its home games, compared to .235 on the road.
KU entered the week ranked 28th in the country - and third in the conference - in fielding percentage at .976.
The Jayhawks also ranked 53rd in the country in sacrifice bunts (40) and 94th in walks allowed per nine innings (3.31).
Kansas knocked off then-No. 23 Texas on April 20 which marked the team's first road win over a Top 25 opponent this season.
The Jayhawks earned a 5-3 win over then-No. 2 Texas A&M on April 15. It marked the highest ranked team KU has knocked off since Feb. 19, 2011 when the Jayhawks defeated then-No. 1 TCU.
KU's 16-inning loss to Wichita State on April 11 marked the second-longest game in school history and the longest since an 18-inning game against Oklahoma State on April 15, 1967.
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.
KU has allowed just 33 stolen bases this season. The Jayhawks have also caught 22-of-55 attempted base stealers (40 percent).
KU's outfielders have recorded 15 assists this season after collecting 13 all of last season. Sophomore Tucker Tharp and freshmen Connor McKay and Michael Suiter are all tied for the team lead with four assists each.
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 .518 winning percentage (533 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 has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 starts, which includes four multi-hit games during that stretch.
Redshirt junior Jake Marasco has been a much better hitter at home this season. In 11 games at Hoglund Ballpark, Marasco is batting .316 (14-for-42), compared to .233 (14-for-60) on the road.
Sophomore 2B Ka'iana Eldredge is 3-for-6 with the bases loaded this season. As a team, KU is 23-for-59 (.390).
Junior IF Jordan Dreiling leads the team with a .462 on-base percentage and has reached base in nine of his last 10 starts. During that time, he has collected nine hits and drawn 13 walks.
Junior SS Kevin Kuntz collected a career-high four RBIs in the April 20 win at Texas. All four runs that Kuntz drove in came on two-out base hits.
Senior 3B Zac Elgie recorded a sacrifice fly in the first inning of Wednesday's win against Kansas State. The senior is batting .556 (10-for-18) in the opening frame with 18 of his 26 RBIs coming in the first.
Sophomore OF Tucker Tharp recorded his second four-hit game of the season Wednesday and is tied for second on the team with eight multi-hit games. Six of his multi-hit games have come in April.
Freshman OF Dakota Smith has hit safely in nine-straight Big 12 games, dating back to March 31. Overall, Smith is on a career-best six-game hitting streak.
Freshman OF Connor McKay recorded a two-run single against K-State Wednesday and is batting .273 (9-for-33) with men in scoring position. He also is tied for second with five multi-RBI contests.
Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin recorded his team-best fifth quality start of the year Saturday at No. 23 Texas, allowing three runs on 10 hits over 6 2/3 innings.
Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan has been especially tough in the month of April. The second-year pitcher has a 2.89 ERA, has walked five and struck out 27 in 28 innings pitched this month.
Freshman LHP Jaydee Jurgensen walked a batter in the 10th inning Wednesday, which snapped a string of 11-straight hitters retired, dating back to the Wichita State game on April 11.
Freshman RHP Robert Kahana pitched 1 1/3 innings without allowing a run on Wednesday, which dropped his ERA to 2.82. Kahana's earned run average ranks 12th in the conference and tops among Big 12 freshmen.
Junior Jordan Luvisi earned his first victory in a Kansas uniform on Wednesday, retiring the only two men he faced to end the top of the 11th. After a disasterous start to the season, Luvisi has allowed just three runs in his last seven appearances.
Freshman RHP Drew Morovick has been extremely effective against leadoff men. In the 33 innings that the first-year righty has started, he has allowed just six men to reach base (.182).
Junior RHP Thomas Taylor has been dominant against right-handed hitters this season, allowing just 30 hits in 137 at bats against righties (.219).
Freshman RHP Colin Toalson has turned a corner. After taking the loss at Creighton on April 3, Toalson has made five scoreless appearances and allowed just one run in his last seven innings on the mound.
JAYHAWK PRO UPDATE: Kansas had 14 former student-athletes in major league organizations to open the 2012 season. Below is a rundown of where the former Jayhawks have landed:
RHP Brett Bochy opened the year with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
LHP Sam Freeman is in his second year with the Springfield Cardinals, the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
LHP Tom Gorzelanny is on the Washington Nationals' 40-man roster, but is fulfilling a rehab assignment with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs.
LHP Shaeffer Hall is in his second season with the Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees.
IF Brandon Macias opened the 2012 season in Single-A with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
IF Erik Morrison joined the Chicago White Sox organization this offseason and began the year in Double-A with the Birmingham Barrons.
RHP Colton Murray opened his second professional season with the Lakewood BlueClaws, a Single-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
IF David Narodowski began his second season with the South Bend Silver Hawks, a Single-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
IF Robby Price is in his second year of pro ball and began the 2012 season with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, an Advanced Single-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
RHP Cameron Selik opened his second year of professional baseball with the Potomac Nationals, a Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
RHP Paul Smyth began his second year with the Midland Rockhounds, the Double-A affiliate of the Oakland A's.
LHP Mike Zagurski was recalled to the major leagues by the Arizona Diamondbacks this week, marking his fourth season in the majors.
UP NEXT: Kansas will travel to Little Rock, Ark., for its final midweek games of the season next week. The Jayhawks take on Arkansas-Little Rock on Tuesday (6 p.m.) and Wednesday (3 p.m.) at Gary Hogan Field.