Jayhawks Battle Texas A&M in First Round of Big 12 Championship
May 22, 2012
LEADING OFF: Kansas baseball take aim at No. 6 Texas A&M in the first round of action at the Big 12 Baseball Championship. The Jayhawks and Aggies will meet for the first time in conference tournament play at 4 p.m., Wednesday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
ON THE AIR: Fans that can't make it to Oklahoma City have several options to follow the action at the Big 12 Baseball Championship. The conference's official web site, www.big12sports.com, will provide a live video stream of all tournament games. Audio from KU's games will also be available on KLWN (1320 AM) as well as on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access at kuathletics.com.
SERIES HISTORY: Kansas and Texas A&M will be meeting for the 66th time on the baseball diamond, but for the first time in conference tournament play. The Aggies lead the all-time series 48-16 with one tie. Texas A&M took two of three from KU in Lawrence earlier this year. KU is 4-10 in Big 12 Championship play with all four wins coming in 2006.
ABOUT THE JAYHAWKS: Kansas clinched a spot in the Big 12 Baseball Championship by taking two of three from Border Showdown rival Missouri in the final series between the two schools as Big 12 foes. KU has gone 5-5 in the month of May, including 2-2 on the road.
The Jayhawks are batting .248 as a team and averaging 4.2 runs per game. Senior C James Stanfield leads the offense with a .292 batting average with six doubles, 15 RBIs and a .372 on base percentage. On the mound, KU ranks eighth in the Big 12 with a 4.30 ERA and is holding opponents to a .271 batting average this season. Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan is the staff ace with a 2.81 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings. Duncan has also held opponents to a .217 batting average this season, which is the third-lowest in team history.
SCOUTING THE AGGIES: Texas A&M enters the Big 12 Championship as the No. 2 seed with a 41-14 overall record and a 16-8 mark in conference play. The Aggies swept a three-game series from Oklahoma State during the final weekend of action to claim the No. 2 seed. Texas A&M has won its last six games and is 10-1 in the month of May.
The Aggies' offense ranks third in the Big 12 with a .292 team batting average while averaging 5.3 runs per game. Junior OF Tyler Naquin is second in the conference with a .373 batting average with 15 doubles, six triples and 17 stolen bases this season. Senior 1B Jacob House hit his team-leading eighth homer in the Oklahoma State series and finished the regular season with 50 RBIs, 12 doubles and a team-best .481 slugging percentage.
Texas A&M's pitching staff led the Big 12 with a team ERA of 2.78 and held opponents to a .234 batting average. Freshman RHP Daniel Mengden will start Wednesday's opening-round game against Kansas. Mengden did not start in the regular season series in Lawrence, but fanned a pair of hitters pitching in relief in the April 15 contest. He started three games for the Aggies in 2012, posting a 2-3 record with a 3.29 ERA in 38 1/3 innings. The freshman walked just five, struck out 36 and held opponents to a .258 batting average.
Head Coach Rob Childress is in his seventh year at Texas A&M and has an overall record of 287-149-2 at the school. Childress is on the verge of leading the Aggies to a sixth consecutive NCAA Regional berth with a College World Series appearance in 2011.
LAST TIME OUT: Squaring off for the final time as members of the same conference, the Kansas baseball team rallied for a three-run fifth, but Missouri held on for the team's only win of the series, 6-3, Saturday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
MR. MAY: Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan is enjoying one of the best months of any pitcher in KU history. The second-year hurler has allowed just two earned runs in three starts this month, including a complete game shutout of Missouri on May 17. In the month of May, Duncan has posted an 0.82 ERA in 22 innings, allowing 19 hits and just two extra base hits. He has struck out 16 and walked just five.
The sophomore was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Week on Monday, marking the the second time this season Duncan has received this honor. He becomes the first KU pitcher since Brett Bochy in 2010 to be named conference pitcher of the week twice in the same season.
LIKE MIKE: Freshman OF Michael Suiter was an unlikely offensive hero during the final series of the regular season last weekend. After collecting just three hits in his first eight conference series, Suiter went 6-for-11 with a double, a homer and four RBIs vs. Missouri. The freshman collected the only RBI in the series-opening, 1-0 win over the Tigers, while his pair of two-out RBIs in the series clinching game Friday helped the Jayhawks earn a trip to Bricktown for the Big 12 Championship.
The freshman outfielder had enjoyed little success in conference play prior to the Missouri series, going 3-for-41 with no extra base hits or RBIs. However, like another famous Michael, he found a way to elevate his game during his team's most crucial time of the year.
WES SIDE STORY: While his numbers aren't quite as sparkling as Frank Duncan's, freshman LHP Wes Benjamin has also flourished in his final three starts of the regular season. The first-year pitcher has found new life in the month of May, posting a 2-1 record with 1.64 ERA, while holding the opposition to a .211 batting average, allowing 16 hits in 22 innings. Benjamin looks like a rejuvinated pitcher compared to April, when he struggled with an 0-4 record, a 5.06 ERA.
The biggest key for Benjamin has been his ability to control the strike zone. In his three May starts, Benjamin has allowed just six walks in 22 innings (2.54 per 9 IP), while in his four starts in April, he walked 13 in just 21 1/3 innings (5.49 per 9 IP).
Wes Benjamin: A Tale of Two Months
• Kansas faces Texas A&M in the first round of the Big 12 Baseball Championship Wednesday, marking the first meeting between the schools in conference tournament play.
• This marks the sixth time in head coach Ritch Price's tenure that the Jayhawks have advanced to the Big 12 tournament. Price's team won the 2006 championship, becoming the first Kansas team to claim a conference title since 1949.
• The Jayhawks rank second in the Big 12 and 13th in the country with a .978 fielding percentage, which would set a program record if it holds up. KU has committed one error or less in 44 of its 54 games this season.
• KU's outfielders have recorded 18 assists this season after collecting 13 all of last season. Freshman Connor McKay leads the team with six assists, while sophomore Tucker Tharp has five and freshman Michael Suiter has thrown out four.
• KU also ranks 92nd among Division I teams in sacrifice bunts (47) and 93rd in WHIP (1.39).
• Individually, sophomore RHP Frank Duncan ranks 36th in the country in strikouts (92), 74th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.07) and 82nd in WHIP (1.08). Junior SS Kevin Kuntz ranks 43rd in sacrifice bunts (13), while junior Jordan Dreiling is 101st in on-base percentage (.451).
• In the Big 12, RHP Frank Duncan ranks third in innings pitched (105 2/3), fifth in strikeouts (92), sixth in opponent batting average (.217) and 12th in ERA (2.81). Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin is eighth in innings pitched (88), junior RHP Tanner Poppe ranks fourth in the league with five saves, while freshman RHP Robert Kahana ranks sixth in the league with 26 appearances.
• While Missouri won the finale, KU claimed the final Big 12 series between the Jayhawks and Tigers, winning the first two games. Over the teams' last 11 meetings, KU has claimed nine of them, including series wins in each of the past three seasons.
• Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin tossed a complete game shutout at Kansas State on May 12, marking the first the first shutout by a KU pitcher in a conference game since 2000. After going over 12 years between shutouts in Big 12 play, it took the Jayhawks just five days to record their next one as RHP Frank Duncan blanked Missouri on May 17.
• Kansas collected a rare shutout of K-State on May 12. The Jayhawks' 6-0 win over the Wildcats marked the team's first shutout in Manhattan since April 24, 1983.
• The Jayhawks scored a season-high 16 runs and hit a season-best three home runs in the May 1 win at UALR. Every KU starter scored at least one run in the game.
• Kansas senior 3B Zac Elgie hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to knock off Sunflower Showdown rival Kansas State on April 25. It was the first walk-off homer by a Jayhawk since March 31, 2009, when Nick Faunce hit a game-winning round-tripper against Northern Colorado.
• Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan's complete game victory at Texas on April 20 was the first by a Jayhawk on the road since Mike Zagurski's nine-inning victory at Missouri on May 14, 2005. Last Saturday, Wes Benjamin threw KU's second complete game on the road 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.
• 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 .516 winning percentage (536 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.
• Junior C Alex DeLeon has been a very good hitter in the clutch this season. The junior is batting .353 (24-for-68) with men on base, including .378 (14-for-37) with runners in scoring position.
• Senior C James Stanfield has ranks third in the Big 12, having caught 36.4 percent (16-for-44) of would-be base stealers this season. Stanfield ranks just behind Texas' Jacob Felts (37.3 percent) and Oklahoma's Tanner Toal (36.8 percent).
• Redshirt junior 1B Jake Marasco is batting .364 (16-for-44) against left-handed pitching this season.
• Senior 1B/DH Chris Manship hit .280 (7-for-25) in neutral site games this season, with a double and two triples.
• Sophomore 2B Ka'iana Eldredge collected hits in two of the three games against Missouri, giving him at least one base hit in three of the last four games he's started.
• Junior IF Jordan Dreiling made a season-saving play in Thursday's game against Missouri. The junior entered the game at third base in the eighth inning and made a diving stab that he turned into a third-to-first double play to end the game in the ninth after Missouri had put the go-ahead run on.
• Senior 3B Zac Elgie leads the team with seven multi-RBI games this season and is the active career leader with 37.
• Junior SS Kevin Kuntz collected his team-leading fifth bunt base hit in Saturday's game against Missouri. Of the junior's 55 hits this year, five have come via a bunt, while six more have stayed on the infield.
• Freshman IF Justin Protactio collected two hits and recorded two stolen bases in the May 1 win at UALR. It marked Protacio's first multi-hit game and just the second multi-steal game by a Jayhawk this season.
• Freshman OF Connor McKay collected his team-leading sixth outfield assist in the May 12 win over Kansas State. McKay's six assists are the most by a KU outfielder since Brian Heere collected seven in 2010.
• Sophomore OF Tucker Tharp has hit safely in a career-best seven-straight games, dating back to the Air Force game on May 2. Tharp's streak is the third-longest by a Jayhawk this season.
• Freshman Michael Suiter collected three two-out RBIs in the Missouri series after recording just three in the first 41 games of the season.
• Freshman LHP Wes Benjamin was the first KU freshman to pitch a complete game shutout since 1986 when he blanked K-State on May 12 of this year.
• Sophomore RHP Frank Duncan leads the team, having induced 119 ground ball outs in 105 2/3 innings on the mound.
• Redshirt senior RHP Jordan Jakubov has regained his early-season form. Jakubov has allowed just two earned runs in his last five appearances (11 1/3 innings), including three scoreless innings against K-State on May 13.
• Senior RHP Matt Kohorst has made six scoreless appearances this year in six games on the mound. Kohorst has also struck out seven in 7 2/3 innings pitched.
• Junior Jordan Luvisi earned his first victory in a Kansas uniform on April 25 against Kansas State, 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).
• Redshirt junior RHP Thomas Taylor has induced a team-best eight double plays this season in his 14 starts. The number is surprising considering Taylor has recorded 106 fly ball outs, compared to 66 ground ball outs.
• Kansas has one player on its roster from Texas, OF Taylor Hart (Jasper), while Texas A&M has no Kansas natives on its roster.
• Texas A&M media relations contact Adam Quisenberry served as KU's baseball contact during the 2005 season.
UP NEXT: Kansas will meet either third-seeded Texas or sixth-seeded Missouri in its second game of the Big 12 Baseball Championship on Thursday. If KU defeats Texas A&M, it would play the winner of the Texas-Missouri game at 7:30 p.m., while a Jayhawk loss would pit KU against the loser of the Texas-Missouri matchup at 12:30 p.m. in an elimination game.