Marcus Ethen is one of five Omaha seniors who will be honored Sunday with Senior Day festivities at Seymour Smith Park.
Courtesy: Omaha Athletics

Omaha Welcomes Mastodons for Last Home Series

Omaha Athletics | May 04, 2017
Leading Off
The Omaha baseball team begins its final homestand this weekend, welcoming Fort Wayne for a three-game Summit League series, May 5-7 at Seymour Smith Park. First pitch on Friday is set for 4 p.m., followed by 2 p.m. on Saturday and Noon on Sunday. Live stats and audio, as available, will be linked on OMavs.com.

Sunday's game also marks Senior Day for five Omaha seniors -- Marcus Ethen, Shane Meltz, Sam Murphy, Sam Palensky and Brett Sasse. Fans are encouraged to arrive early, as the group will be honored with pregame festivities.

Quick Hits
•Sam Palensky saw his career-long 25-game reaching base streak expire April 18 at Air Force. It was the longest streak of any UNO player this year and the longest of any Maverick since Clayton Taylor (32) in 2016.
•Ryan Cate now carries the longest active reaching base streak on the team at 15 games.
•Over the last six games, Cate (.423), Palensky (.360), Cole Thibodeau (.364) and Jack Kalina have stepped up offensively. The quartet has played all six contests, accounting for a combined 16 runs scored, 13 runs driven in, 14 walks and eight extra-base hits.
•Eight of the Mavericks' 10 wins this season have come on the road.
•The Mavericks put down a season-high five sacrifice bunts April 23 in their win at North Dakota State.
•Corey Binger is one of 29 pitchers in the country with three or more complete games this season.
•Twenty-eight players have seen playing time this season.
•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.
•UNO returned 19 letterwinners this year, including six position players with starting experience: Palensky, Suponchick, Cate, Kalina, Adam Caniglia and Riley Herold.
•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 263-309 all-time against all opponents on the schedule this year and 152-138 all-time against the five other teams in the Summit League. The Mavericks have compiled a 72-57 record in Summit League play since 2013.

Scouting the Fort Wayne Mastodons
Fort Wayne enters the weekend with a record of 7-34 (2-19 Summit League). The Mastodons look to snap a five-game losing streak after dropping last weekend's series at Oral Roberts, 15-1, 10-0 and 11-2.

Head coach Bobby Pierce is in his ninth season at Fort Wayne, carrying a record of 172-304 and a career mark of 227-358 over 11 years.

Friday marks the 32nd meeting all-time between Omaha and Western Illinois, and the Mavericks lead the series, 17-14. The two teams last met March 24-25 in Fort Wayne, Ind., with Omaha sweeping the weekend series, 4-1, 14-1 in seven innings and 9-8.

Leading the League
Freshman Cole Thibodeau ranks second nationally and leads the Summit League with 12 sacrifice hits. Junior Corey Binger and senior Sam Murphy lead all league pitchers for games started (11), while Binger is also first for complete games (three).

As a team, Omaha is 19th in the country and the league's top squad for sac bunts (39).

Maverick Mound Notes
•As a staff, Omaha is better on the bump in league play, having lowered its ERA to 5.62 from 8.35 in non-conference.
•Maverick hurlers have issued 113 strikeouts in league play, which leads the conference.
•Junior right-hander Payton Kinney is slated to make his first mound start Saturday vs. Fort Wayne. Over 12 appearances and 33.2 innings pitched, opposing hitters are batting just .180 against Kinney.
•Senior left-hander Sam Murphy leads the Summit League for games started (11) and is second for strikeouts (56) and strikeouts per game (8.74). Junior right-hander Corey Binger is first for games started (11) and complete games (three) and second for shutouts (one).

Cate's Career Day
Junior Ryan Cate turned in a career-best plate performance April 19 at Air Force, going 5-for-6 with two doubles, two runs scored and six RBI. It was the most hits and most RBI in a game this season by any Maverick.

Over the last six games, Cate has batted a team-leading .393 (11-for-28) with team highs of seven runs, seven RBI and four doubles. The effort has helped stretch his reaching base streak to a team-best 15 games.

Kinney Picks Up a Pair of Ws
Junior right-hander Payton Kinney's last two mound outings have been strong, as the Firth, Neb., native notched his first two wins of the year and had a 1.74 ERA in relief.

On April 19 at Air Force, Kinney threw 5.1 innings in relief of starter Brett Sasse, allowing four runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Kinney retired 14 consecutive Falcon batters from the third to the seventh innings before allowing a leadoff single in the eighth.

On April 23 at North Dakota State, Kinney tossed 5.0 shutout innings out of the bullpen after taking over for starter Cal Hehnke. Kinney held the Bison to one hit with no walks and five strikeouts.

Suponchick vs. the Summit League
Sophomore Grant Suponchick has batted a team-leading .321 against Summit League competition, up from .222 in non-conference games. In those 19 league contests, the Papillion, Neb., native has posted two doubles, two home runs, eight runs scored, 10 RBI and eight walks, and he owns a .464 slugging percentage and a .406 on-base percentage. He also has six mound appearances and a pair of saves in league play.

Mission: Complete
Omaha's pitching staff threw four complete games last season, the most of any Maverick staff since 2011. This season, Maverick hurlers have combined for five already through games of April 28. Junior right-hander Corey Binger has three to his credit -- at Incarnate Word (March 5), at Fort Wayne (March 24) and vs. North Dakota State (March 31) -- and senior left-hander Sam Murphy has two -- at Fort Wayne (March 24) and at Western Illinois (April 28).

Climbing the Career Charts
Senior left-hander Sam Murphy entered the year ranked 10th in school history with 48 mound appearances and has now climbed up to second in the category with 60 appearances. He ranks behind only Brandon Dahl (2006-10), who had 63. Murphy has also faced 809 batters in his career -- the seventh-most of any Maverick -- and is 10th for innings pitched (179.1).

Palensky On the Move
After starting all 56 games at second base as a junior, senior Sam Palensky made a switch in his 2017 campaign. Palensky had the starting nod at shortstop for the first 35 games of the season and has now started the last six at third base.

At the plate, the Papillion, Neb., native owns a team-leading nine multi-hit performances and reached base in 25 straight contests from March 3 - April 16. Over the last six games, he has hit .360 with a triple, five runs scored and two RBI.

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

Murph on the Mound
Left-handed pitcher Sam Murphy is the veteran of Omaha's pitching staff, as the fifth-year senior is the Mavericks' active career leader for appearances (60), innings pitched (179.1) and strikeouts (161). 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.

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 263-309 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 Tuesday, May 9, hosting crosstown foe Creighton in the Mavericks' home finale. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. at Werner Park, and live stats will be linked on OMavs.com.

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