Senior righty Shane Meltz will get the start for Omaha Wednesday at Kansas.
Courtesy: Omaha Athletics

Mavericks Visit Kansas, Host Northern Colorado

Omaha Athletics | March 07, 2017
Leading Off
The Omaha baseball team is set for four games this week, first visiting Kansas on Wednesday, March 8. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. at Hoglund Ballpark in Lawrence, Kan., and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN3. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on OMavs.com.

The Mavericks then make their home debut at Isaacson Field at Seymour Smith Park, welcoming Northern Colorado for a three-game series on Thursday, March 9 and Friday, March 10. Thursday's contest is a single game at 3 p.m., and Friday is a doubleheader starting at Noon. Student broadcasters Noah Sullinger and Justin Doering will have the radio call on MavRadio.fm, and links to live stats and audio will be available on OMavs.com.

Quick Hits
•Twenty-eight players have seen playing time in the Mavericks' first 12 games, with junior James Smith, sophomores Nate Mallott and Parker Smejkal, redshirt freshman Andrew Hall and freshmen Cole Thibodeau and Mark Ehresman all making their first career starts.
•Omaha played a three-game series at No. 6 Louisville Feb. 24-26, marking the highest-ranked opponent Omaha has faced in the Division I era.
•Junior Adam Caniglia is hitting a team-leading .268 entering the week.
•The 2017 season marks Omaha’s second with full NCAA Division I postseason eligibility for the Summit League and NCAA Tournaments. The Mavericks completed a required four-year Division I reclassification period from 2012 to 2015.
•UNO returns 19 letterwinners this year, including six position players with starting experience: Caniglia, senior Sam Palensky, junior Ryan Cate and sophomores Riley Herold, Jack Kalina and Grant Suponchick.
•Cate is the Mavericks' lone returning All-Summit selection.
•UNO was picked fourth in the Summit League Preseason Coaches’ Poll for the second straight season. In 2016, the Mavericks went on to finish as the league's regular-season runner-up.
•Omaha is 254-289 all-time against all opponents on the schedule this year and 145-123 all-time against the five other teams in the Summit League. The Mavericks have compiled a 65-45 record in Summit League play since 2013.

Scouting the Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas enters the week with a record of 4-7 (0-0 Big 12) after a three-game series vs. Northwestern State last weekend, in which the Jayhawks won 8-2 on Friday and 11-7 on Saturday before falling 7-6 on Sunday.

Head coach Ritch Price is in his 15th season at Kansas, carrying a record of 439-409-3 and a career mark of 656-637-4 over 23 years. Price's last victory made him KU's winningest coach in program history.

Kansas leads the all-time series with Omaha, 4-0, with all four games played in Lawrence, Kan. The two teams last met on Feb. 21, when the Jayhawks took an 11-1 decision.

Scouting the Northern Colorado Bears
Northern Colorado carries a record of 6-7 (0-0 WAC) after a four-game series with North Dakota State last weekend. The Bears won 7-5 on Friday, split a Saturday doubleheader with a 7-4 loss and a 7-6 victory, then capped it with an 8-2 triumph on Sunday.

Head coach Carl Iwasaki is in his seventh season at UNC and has a record of 132-205 and a career mark of 235-345 over 13 years.

Thursday marks the 41st meeting all-time between Omaha and Northern Colorado, with the series tied at 20-20. The two programs last met March 21-22, 2013 in Greeley, Colo., where the Bears swept both games, 13-12 in 10 innings and 19-3.

Mavericks Selected Fourth in Summit League Preseason Poll
Omaha was picked fourth in the 2017 Summit League Preseason Coaches Poll, the league office announced Feb. 9.

Defending league champion Oral Roberts was tabbed the league favorite and received all five of its possible first-place votes for 25 total points. South Dakota State came in second with 18 points and one first-place vote, and North Dakota State was third with 17 points. With Omaha garnering 13 points for fourth, Western Illinois (nine) followed in fifth and Fort Wayne (eight) rounded it out in sixth.

Home Sweet Home
Omaha has a new home facility for the 2017 season, as the Mavericks will play 19 of their 21 home games at J.J. Isaacson Field at Seymour Smith Park in partnership with the City of Omaha. UNO will play two more home games -- against in-state foes Nebraska and Creighton -- at Werner Park.

The City of Omaha has completed a variety of facility and field improvements at Seymour Smith Park in preparation for the coming season, including grading and sodding of a new playing surface, a new irrigation system and work on the mound, plate and warning track.

Smejkal Stepping Up
Sophomore Parker Smejkal leads the Mavericks with seven RBI this season and has batted .257 while starting 10 games. The Columbus, Neb., native had a hot streak over four games at Kansas and No. 6 Louisville last week, hitting a team-best .385 with two walks, a run scored and a team-high .500 on-base percentage. He also had the first two multi-hit performances of his career, going 2-for-4 against UL on Feb. 24 and 2-for-3 on Feb. 26.

Palensky Settling In
After starting all 56 games at second base as a junior, senior Sam Palensky made the switch to shortstop for his 2017 campaign and has had the starting nod there in all nine games. The Papillion, Neb., native owns a team-leading four multi-hit performances so far, including a 2-for-4 day at UNLV on Feb. 19, when he scored twice and added two RBI.

Palensky is following in the steps of his older brother, Caleb, a four-year starting infielder from 2011-14.

Road Warriors
Omaha has opened the 2017 season with 13 straight road games in four different states, visiting Nevada once, Kentucky once, Texas once and Kansas three times. Out of the gate, the Mavericks saw two 2016 NCAA Tournament teams in the first two weekends, having faced Saint Mary's on Feb. 19, then visiting Louisville for a three-game series last weekend.

Maverick Mound Notes
•Omaha returns two starters from its 2016 weekend rotation with senior southpaw Sam Murphy and junior right-hander Corey Binger. Murphy was primarily the Mavericks' Saturday starter, while Binger had the Sunday spot.
•Both Murphy and Binger were honored with Summit League Pitcher of the Week awards last year, as Binger earned the recognition on March 14 and May 16, and Murphy was tabbed on April 4.
•The duo finished in the top 10 in the Summit League in multiple categories in 2016. Binger was first for complete games (two) and shutouts (one), third for wins (seven) and seventh for ERA (4.06) and innings pitched (75.1). Murphy was fifth for ERA (3.86), strikeouts (65) and strikeouts per game (8.09) and ninth for innings pitched (72.1).
•Binger's two complete games came vs. Bowling Green (March 12) and at Western Illinois (May 15), with the latter a 14-0 shutout.
•Sophomore right-hander Grant Suponchick made four mound appearances in his freshman campaign with 10.1 innings pitched, including two starts. He got the ball for his first career start at Wichita State (March 1), throwing a season-long 4.0 innings while allowing one run on four hits and a walk with one strikeout.
•Junior right-hander James Smith is a transfer from Trinidad State JC. In 2016, he went 11-1 on the mound with a 3.42 ERA last season for the Trojans, totaling a team-high 84.1 innings of work and issuing 79 strikeouts to 22 walks.
•Junior right-hander Ryan Cate led the Mavericks with five saves in 15 relief appearances last season.
•The Omaha bullpen returns four more experienced arms in junior right-hander David Flattery and senior right-handers Shane Meltz, Brett Sasse and Eric Moreno. Flattery made 17 appearances with four starts and two saves, totaling 45.2 innings of work, while Meltz made 16 appearances with four starts, one win and one save over 34.1 innings. Moreno also made 16 appearances with one save over 23.1 innings, and Sasse tallied two wins in 14 appearances and four starts, compiling 37.2 innings.
•Omaha's 2016 pitching staff was better on the bump in Summit League play, lowering its ERA to 4.17 in league contests from 5.98 in non-conference games.

2017 Slate Takes Mavericks Around the Nation
Omaha’s 2017 schedule includes 55 games, and the team will play in 12 states against schools from 10 other Division I conferences. Four opponents – Louisville, Nebraska, Saint Mary's and Oral Roberts – played in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Entering the season, the Mavericks had never faced two of their opponents in Saint Mary's and Louisville. Omaha holds a combined all-time record of 254-289 over all teams on the regular-season slate.

Porter Enters First Season as Head Coach
Head coach Evan Porter enters his first year as the skipper of the Omaha baseball program in 2017 after serving four years as an assistant coach. One of the most decorated players in UNO history, Porter was four-year starter at shortstop from 2005-09 and a two-time All-American. He was also a three-time all-region selection from 2007-09, earning awards from Daktronics and Rawlings/ABCA. Additionally, Porter was a two-time All-NCC pick (2007-08) and was first-team All-MIAA in 2009.

Porter's name runs through the Omaha record books, as he remains the program's all-time leader in games played (239), at-bats (869), hits (323), doubles (75), home runs (43), runs batted in (249) and total bases (527). His 97 hits recorded as a senior were a UNO single-season record that still stands.

A member of the UNO squad that earned a berth to the 2007 NCAA Division II College World Series, Porter was part of two Maverick teams (2006, 2008) that set a school record with 45 wins. During his time, UNO made four straight NCAA regional appearances and won the 2008 NCC championship.

Following his senior campaign, Porter was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 23rd round. He has played professionally overseas for the Solingen Alligators in Germany (2010), Gothenburg Sharks in Sweden (2011), Victoria Park Reds in Australia (2011-12), ADO AamigoO Lakers in Holland (2012) and Sölvesborg Firehawks in Sweden (2014, 2016).

Porter is assisted by assistant coach Chris Gadsden, in his 18th year, and pitching coach Brian Strawn, in his second year, as well as volunteer assistant coach Brett Swain, who is in his first year.

Up Next
Omaha returns to action on Wednesday, March 15, visiting Kansas State. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan., and links to live stats, audio and video will be available on OMavs.com.

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