Omaha Continues Home Stretch With NDSU
The Omaha baseball team is in the midst of a 12-game homestand and welcomes North Dakota State for a three-game Summit League series this weekend at Seymour Smith Park. The series opens on Friday, March 31 at 4 p.m., followed by 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 1 and Noon on Sunday, April 2. Student broadcasters Owen Godberson, Harrison Popp and Ben Sullinger will have the radio call on the MavRadio broadcasts, and links to live stats and audio will be available on OMavs.com.
•Freshman Cole Thibodeau enters the week on a seven-game hitting streaks, the longest of any Maverick this season.
•Senior Sam Palensky carries a career-long 15-game reaching base streak, also the longest of any Maverick this year.
•Junior Corey Binger is one of 13 pitchers in the country with two or more complete games this season.
•Twenty-eight players have seen playing time in the Mavericks' first 24 games.
•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: Palensky, juniors Ryan Cate and Adam Caniglia and sophomores Riley Herold, Grant Suponchick and Jack Kalina
•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 258-297 all-time against all opponents on the schedule this year and 148-129 all-time against the five other teams in the Summit League. The Mavericks have compiled a 68-48 record in Summit League play since 2013.
Scouting the North Dakota State Bison
North Dakota State enters the week with a record of 9-14 (2-4 Summit League) after a three-game series at Western Illinois last weekend. The Bison won 7-5 in Friday's opener, lost 5-1 on Saturday and finished with a 1-0 shutout victory on Sunday.
Head coach Tod Brown is in his 10th season at NDSU, carrying a career record of 224-263.
Omaha leads the all-time series with North Dakota State, 32-30. The teams last met for a three-game series May 6-8, 2016 in Fargo, N.D., where the Mavericks won the first two games, 6-0 and 7-2, and the Bison took the finale, 4-3.
Suponchick, Murphy Sweep Weekly League Honors
Omaha swept the Summit League’s weekly conference awards on Monday, as sophomore Grant Suponchick was named Player of the Week and senior left-hander Sam Murphy was honored as Pitcher of the Week, recognizing the duo’s performances March 20-26.
Suponchick earned the first player of the week award of his career after leading Omaha to a sweep of Fort Wayne with three multi-hit games. The Papillion, Neb., native tallied three hits, including his first home run of the season in the series finale, and he added a pair of hits in games one and two. Suponchick batted .500 (7-for-14) for the week with an .857 slugging percentage and a .562 on-base percentage, and he scored four runs on two doubles, two walks and a homer with a pair of RBI.
Murphy collected his second career pitcher of the week honor after tossing a seven-inning complete game in Friday’s 14-1 victory at Fort Wayne. The Lake Worth, Fla., native recorded a career-high 16 strikeouts, the most of any Omaha pitcher since 2010, while setting the Mavericks’ Division I record. Murphy allowed just two walks, one earned run and one extra-base hit to notch his first win of the season.
Leading the League
Freshman Cole Thibodeau ranks 19th nationally and leads the Summit League with six sacrifice bunts. Senior Sam Murphy is first among league hurlers for strikeouts (34) and strikeouts per game (11.3), while junior Corey Binger leads the way for games started (six) and complete games (two).
As a team, Omaha is 11th in the country and the league's top squad for sac bunts (24).
Bats Come Alive at Fort Wayne
Omaha turned it up offensively last weekend, hitting .355 as a team in a three-game sweep at Fort Wayne.
Sophomore Grant Suponchick led the charge, batting a team-best .700 (7-for-10) with a 1.200 slugging percentage and a .750 on-base percentage. He scored four runs on two doubles, two walks and a homer with a pair of RBI.
Freshman Cole Thibodeau also hit .429 (6-for-14) with two doubles and four runs scored, while junior Ryan Cate had a .417 average (5-for-12) with three doubles, two runs and three RBI. Sophomore Parker Smejkal had a standout performance in the second game of the series, going 3-for-3 with two runs and four RBI thanks to a pair of two-run homers.
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.
Suponchick vs. the Summit League
Sophomore Grant Suponchick has batted a league-leading .588 (10-for-17) against Summit League competition over the last two weekends, posting two doubles, a home run, four runs scored, two RBI and three walks. In those six games, the Papillion, Neb., native owns an .882 slugging percentage and a .650 on-base percentage.
Sophomore Parker Smejkal belted two home runs in the same game last Friday in game two of a doubleheader against Fort Wayne, the second time this season a Maverick has had a multi-home run performance.
Junior Cole Patterson joined Smejkal with a third Maverick homer in that game. The last time UNO hit three or more roundtrippers in a game was Feb. 19, when Ryan Cate had two and Adam Caniglia had another at UNLV.
Palensky Makes the Move to Short
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 24 games. Offensively, the Papillion, Neb., native owns a team-leading six multi-hit performances so far and has reached base in 15 straight contests, which leads the Mavericks.
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 18 of the first 23 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.
Over the first two weekends of Summit League play, Mallott has hit .300.
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.
In league play, Thibodeau has hit .320 in six starts, tallying two doubles, five runs scored and an RBI with two walks.
On March 15, Thibodeau went a perfect 3-for-3 on the basepaths at K-State. Previously, the last Maverick to register three stolen bases in a game had been Cole Gruber, who achieved it three times in 2016.
Murph on the Mound
Left-handed pitcher Sam Murphy is the veteran of the Omaha's pitching staff, as the fifth-year senior is the Mavericks' active career leader for appearances (55), innings pitched (148.2) and strikeouts (139). Murphy was named Summit League Pitcher of the Week for the second time in his career on March 27 after throwing a seven-inning complete game for his first win of the season, shuttering a career-high 16 batters. The mark set Omaha's Division I record and was the most single-game strikeouts since Joe Holtmeyer in 2010.
Last year, the Lake Worth, Fla., native went 4-6 with one save and a 3.86 ERA and held his opponents to a .254 average. Murphy returned to the mound for the first time in nearly a year on Feb. 20, 2016 after being previously been sidelined since early in the 2015 season due to a broken hand.
Binger Goes the Distance
Junior right-handed pitcher Corey Binger tossed his second complete game of the year for the win in game one of a doubleheader at Fort Wayne last Friday. He allowed one run on eight hits and a walk with a career-high eight strikeouts.
In 2016, Binger served as Omaha's Sunday starter, going 8-3 with a 4.06 ERA. The Victoria, Minn., native threw the second-most innings on the team (75.1) and was a two-time Summit League Pitcher of the Week. Binger issued 51 strikeouts to 19 walks and held his opponents to a .269 batting average, all while ranking third in the league for wins.
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 258-297 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.
Omaha returns to action on Wednesday, April 5, welcoming in-state foe Nebraska. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. at Werner Park, and links to live stats and audio will be available on OMavs.com.