Senior Sam Palensky and the Omaha baseball team begin the second half of Summit League play this weekend at North Dakota...
Courtesy: Omaha Athletics

Omaha Opens Second Half of League at NDSU

Omaha Athletics | April 20, 2017
Leading Off
The Omaha baseball team resumes Summit League play this weekend, visiting North Dakota State for a three-game series, April 21-23 at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo, N.D. First pitch on Friday is set for 6:30 p.m., followed by 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Links to live stats, audio and video will be available on OMavs.com.

Quick Hits
Senior Sam Palensky saw his career-long 25-game reaching base streak expire Tuesday 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.
•Omaha's 17 runs, 18 hits, 17 RBI, five doubles and nine walks as a team Wednesday at Air Force were all season highs.
•Sophomore Grant Suponchick is batting a team-leading .372 in Summit League play, the fourth-highest average of any league hitter.
•Sophomore right-hander Cal Hehnke is slated to make his first start of the year on Sunday. Hehnke has previously started once in his career -- March 8, 2016 at Air Force, where he threw a career-long 6.0 innings.
•Junior Ryan Cate has a team-leading 10 doubles in 2017 after smacking two more Wednesday at Air Force.
•Junior Corey Binger is one of 17 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.
•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 returned 19 letterwinners this year, including six position players with starting experience: Palensky, Suponchick and Cate, junior Adam Caniglia and sophomores Riley Herold 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 261-306 all-time against all opponents on the schedule this year and 150-136 all-time against the five other teams in the Summit League. The Mavericks have compiled a 70-55 record in Summit League play since 2013.

Scouting the North Dakota State Bison
North Dakota State enters the weekend with a record of 18-18 (9-6 Summit League) and a four-game win streak. The Bison swept a three-game series against Fort Wayne last weekend -- 6-4, 2-1 in 11 innings and 12-2 in seven innings -- then defeated Dakota Wesleyan 3-2 on Tuesday.

Head coach Tod Brown is in his 10th season at NDSU, carrying a career record of 233-267.

Omaha leads the all-time series with North Dakota State, 33-32. The teams last met for a three-game series March 31 - April 2 at Seymour Smith Park, with the Mavericks winning the opener, 10-0 in seven innings, before the Bison took games two and three, 1-0 and 6-1.

Leading the League
Freshman Cole Thibodeau ranks 22nd nationally and leads the Summit League with eight sacrifice bunts. Junior Corey Binger leads all league pitchers for games started (nine), complete games (three) and shutouts (one), and senior Sam Murphy matches him for games started (nine) and strikeouts per game (9.49).

As a team, Omaha is 27th in the country and the league's top squad for sac bunts (30).

Cate's Career Day
Junior Ryan Cate turned in a career-best plate performance Wednesday 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.

Cate's effort stretched his reaching base streak to 10 games, the longest of any Omaha player entering this weekend's series at North Dakota State.

Strong Out of the Pen
Omaha got a pair of strong outings from the bullpen last weekend vs. Oral Roberts. On Saturday, junior right-hander Payton Kinney threw 4.1 innings, striking out a season-high nine batters and issuing no walks. On Sunday, sophomore right-hander Cal Hehnke tossed 4.0 innings of relief, limiting ORU to one run on two hits with a career-high six strikeouts.

Suponchick vs. the Summit League
Sophomore Grant Suponchick has batted a team-leading .372 against Summit League competition over the last month, up from .197 in non-conference games. In those 15 league games, the Papillion, Neb., native has posted two doubles, two home runs, eight runs scored, seven RBI and six walks, and he owns a .558 slugging percentage and a .449 on-base percentage.

On April 8 vs. Western Illinois, Suponchick homered and picked up the save with a 2.0-inning relief appearance, limiting the Leathernecks to one run on three hits over the final 2.0 innings.

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 58 appearances. He ranks behind only Brandon Dahl (2006-10), who had 63. Murphy has also faced 751 batters in his career -- the eighth-most of any Maverick.

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. Palensky had the starting nod there for 35 straight games to kick off the season before making his first start at third base on April 19 at Air Force. Offensively, the Papillion, Neb., native owns a team-leading seven multi-hit performances and reached base in 25 straight contests from March 3 to April 16.

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 (58), innings pitched (164.1) and strikeouts (150). 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 third complete game of the year for the win against North Dakota State (March 31). He shut out the Bison, issuing no walks with three strikeouts and surrendering just two hits over seven innings. The week before at Fort Wayne (March 24), Binger allowed one run on eight hits and a walk with a career-high eight strikeouts. Over his last four outings, he has allowed 17 strikeouts to four walks for a 4.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

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 261-306 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. This year, Omaha has notched in double digits eight times, going 5-3. On April 19 at Air Force, the Mavericks pounded out a season-high 18 hits in a 17-16 win over the Falcons.

Over the last six years of Division I play, UNO is a combined 95-38 when keying at least 10 hits.

Going the Extra Mile
When registering three or more extra-base hits in a game, Omaha went 13-5 in 2016 and is 6-3 this season. On the flip side, the Mavericks were 20-7 last year when limiting their opponents to less than three extra-base hits in a contest and are 4-5 in 2017.

Offense Keying Wins
In the last five seasons (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017), Omaha has gone a combined 80-13 when outhitting its opponent. Last year, the Mavericks were 18-1 in those games, with the only loss coming vs. Fort Wayne in the opening game of the Summit League Tournament.

Up Next
Omaha returns to action on Tuesday, April 25, visiting Nebraska. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. at Hawks Field, and the game will be broadcast live on NET. Links to live stats, audio and video will be available on OMavs.com.

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