Sophomore Nate Mallott and the Mavericks visit K-State Wednesday before opening Summit League play at home this weekend.
Courtesy: Omaha Athletics

Omaha Faces K-State, South Dakota State

Omaha Athletics | March 14, 2017
Leading Off
The Omaha baseball team is set for four games this week, first visiting Kansas State on Wednesday, March 15. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan., and links to live video, audio and stats will be available on OMavs.com.

The Mavericks then return home for a three-game series at Isaacson Field at Seymour Smith Park, welcoming South Dakota State, March 17-19, for the first weekend of Summit League play. Friday's contest is set for 4 p.m., followed by 2 p.m. on Saturday and Noon on Sunday. Student broadcasters Noah Sullinger, Justin Doering and Owen Godberson will have the radio call on MavRadio.fm, and links to live stats and audio will be available on OMavs.com.

Quick Hits
•Sophomore Riley Herold enters the week on a six-game hitting streak, the longest of any Maverick this season.
•Redshirt freshman Andrew Hall is hitting a team-leading .293 entering the week.
•Twenty-eight players have seen playing time in the Mavericks' first 15 games, with Hall, junior James Smith, sophomores Nate Mallott and Parker Smejkal 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.
•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: Herold, senior Sam Palensky, juniors Ryan Cate and Adam Caniglia and sophomores 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 145-126 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 State Wildcats
Kansas State enters the week with a record of 12-4 (0-0 Big 12) after dropping two of three games in a series with UC Riverside last weekend. The Wildcats split a doubleheader with a 5-1 loss and a 1-0 win on Friday, then lost the finale on Sunday, 11-2.

Head coach Brad Hill is in his 14th season at K-State, carrying a record of 428-338-3 and a career mark of 846-429-3 over 23 years.

KSU leads the all-time series with Omaha, 9-1. The two teams last met on March 29, 2016, when the Wildcats took an 11-3 decision in Manhattan, Kan.

Scouting the South Dakota State Jackrabbits
South Dakota State carries a record of 6-7 (0-0 Summit League) after dropping two of three games in a series at Oklahoma State last weekend. The Jackrabbits opened with a 2-1 win over OSU on Friday, then dropped a doubleheader, 6-3 and 8-3, on Sunday.

Head coach Rob Bishop is in his first season at SDSU with a record of 6-7 and a career mark of 140-160-1 over seven years.

Friday marks the 143rd meeting all-time between Omaha and South Dakota State, with the Mavericks leading the series, 80-62. The two programs last met April 22-24, 2016 in Omaha, with the Mavericks winning games one (4-1) and three (10-9) in the series and the Jacks taking game two (15-3).

Success in Summit League Openers
    Omaha has won four straight Summit League openers since joining the league in 2012-13, having outscored its opponents a combined 32-13 in those four games.

    Omaha's Summit League Openers
    Season -- Opponent -- Location -- Result
    2013 -- Fort Wayne -- Omaha, Neb. -- W, 2-0
    2014 -- South Dakota State -- Omaha, Neb. -- W, 10-2
    2015 -- South Dakota State -- Omaha, Neb. -- W, 6-4
    2016 -- Fort Wayne -- Omaha, Neb. -- 14-7

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 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.

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 15 games. Offensively, the Papillion, Neb., native owns a team-leading four multi-hit performances so far and has reached base in six straight contests.

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

More on Mallott
Sophomore Nate Mallott made his Maverick debut Feb. 17 vs. UNLV and has served as Omaha's starting catcher in eight of the first 11 games. The transfer from Scottsdale CC hit .375 on opening weekend at the UNLV Classic, bolstered by a 1-for-2 showing with a run scored vs. Saint Mary's and a 2-for-3 night with a run scored against UNLV on Feb. 19.

Mallott batted .429 last week, belting his first career home run at Kansas on March 8.

A "Cole-giate" Debut
Freshman Cole Thibodeau started all four games of the opening weekend at the UNLV Classic, making his collegiate debut in the Friday game as Omaha's starting right fielder. The Elkhorn, Neb., native also played second base over the next three games that weekend, as well as a relief appearance on the mound. It marked the second straight year Omaha has had a true freshman in its opening day lineup, as sophomore Riley Herold was also an opening day starter in 2016.

Thibodeau batted .455 over three games vs. Kansas and Northern Colorado last week. He twice registered multiple hits: 2-for-4 with a run in game one against Northern Colorado, then 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI in game two against the Bears.

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 254-292 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.

Double Digits
As a team, Omaha produced double-digit hits in 28 games in 2016, going 22-6 in those games. The Mavericks posted their season high with 22 hits at South Dakota State on April 9, 2016. This year, Omaha notched a season-high 11 hits March 5 at Incarnate Word and is 1-2 with double-digit hits.

Over the last six years of Division I play, UNO is a combined 91-37 when keying at least 10 hits.

Up Next
Omaha returns to action on Tuesday, March 21, 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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