Courtesy: Omaha Athletics

Mavericks Begin Last Road Swing at ORU

Omaha Athletics | May 11, 2017
Leading Off
The Omaha baseball team begins a seven-game road swing this weekend, visiting Summit League leader Oral Roberts, May 12-14, at J.L. Johnson Stadium in Tulsa, Okla. First pitch on Friday is set for 6:30 p.m., followed by 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Saturday and Sunday's contests will be broadcast live on ESPN3, and links to live stats, audio and video for the series will be available on OMavs.com.

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 a career-long 19 games.
•Over the last 10 games, Cate (.400), Palensky (.400), Cole Thibodeau (.346) and Nate Mallott (.314) have stepped up offensively. The foursome has played all 10 contests, accounting for a combined 32 runs scored, 30 runs driven in, 31 walks and 11 extra-base hits.
•Since assuming a starting role at shortstop on April 23, Kalina has batted .333 with four doubles, four walks, five runs scored and five RBI. He also boasts a .500 on-base percentage during that timeframe.
•Eight of the Mavericks' 12 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 36 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 265-311 all-time against all opponents on the schedule this year and 154-139 all-time against the five other teams in the Summit League. The Mavericks have compiled a 74-58 record in Summit League play since 2013.

Scouting the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
Oral Roberts enters the weekend with a record of 33-14 (20-4 Summit League). The Golden Eagles went 1-2 in a series at North Dakota State last weekend, falling 10-7 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday before rebounding with a 4-0 win on Sunday. On Tuesday, ORU fell 7-6 at Wichita State.

Head coach Ryan Folmar is in his fifth season at ORU, carrying a career record of 167-109.

Friday marks the 16th meeting all-time between Omaha and Oral Roberts, and the Golden Eagles lead the series, 13-2. The two teams last met April 15-16 at Seymour Smith Park, with ORU sweeping the weekend series, 12-1 in seven innings, 12-0 in seven innings and 7-3.

Leading the League
Freshman Cole Thibodeau ranks fourth nationally and leads the Summit League with 14 sacrifice hits. Junior Corey Binger and senior Sam Murphy lead all league pitchers for games started (12), while Binger is also first for complete games (three). As a team, Omaha is 11th in the country and the league's top squad for sac bunts (46).

Maverick Mound Notes
•Omaha used 11 pitchers Tuesday night vs. Creighton, and its 10 relievers tied for the fourth-most in a Division I game in NCAA history.
•As a staff, Omaha is better on the bump in league play, having lowered its ERA to 5.61 from 8.29 in non-conference.
•Maverick hurlers have issued 136 strikeouts in league play, which leads the conference.
•Sophomore right-hander Cal Hehnke is slated to start Sunday at Oral Roberts. Hehnke last took the mound on Tuesday with the start vs. Creighton.
•Junior right-hander Payton Kinney picked up his third straight win last Saturday. Over 14 appearances and 40.2 innings pitched, opposing hitters are batting just .182 against him.
•Senior left-hander Sam Murphy leads the Summit League for games started (12) and is second for strikeouts (62). Junior right-hander Corey Binger is first for games started (12) and complete games (three) and second for shutouts (one).

More on Mallott
Sophomore Nate Mallott was on fire in last weekend's series vs. Fort Wayne, batting .429 with three straight multi-hit performances. He tallied two doubles, a home run, a walk, three runs scored and six RBI, and his walkoff single in the bottom of the 13th drove in the game-winning run on Friday.

Three Straight Wins for Kinney
In his last four mound appearances, junior right-hander Payton Kinney has gone 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA. Totaling 17.1 innings of work, he has issued 14 strikeouts to three walks and held opponents to a .159 batting average.

Kinney made his first career start last Saturday vs. Fort Wayne, and he notched his third win in as many appearances. He threw 6.0 shutout innings, scattering five hits with no walks and three strikeouts.

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.

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 nine games, Cate has batted a team-leading .400 (16-for-40) with team highs of 10 runs, 15 RBI and five doubles. The effort has helped stretch his reaching base streak to a team-best, career-long19 games.

Cate's 10 doubles in league play this season are the second-most of any conference hitter.

Suponchick vs. the Summit League
Sophomore Grant Suponchick has batted a team-leading .338 against Summit League competition, up from .224 in non-conference games. In those 22 league contests, the Papillion, Neb., native has posted four doubles, two home runs, 10 runs scored, 12 RBI and 10 walks, and he owns a .479 slugging percentage and a .420 on-base percentage. He also has seven mound appearances and a pair of saves in league play.

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 10 at third base.

At the plate, the Papillion, Neb., native owns a team-leading 13 multi-hit performances and reached base in 25 straight contests from March 3 - April 16. Over the last seven games, he has hit .387 with a double, eight runs scored and two RBI. In last weekend's series vs. Fort Wayne, Palensky registered three consecutive multi-hit games and batted .467 with four runs scored and two more driven in.

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.

Over the last seven games, Thibodeau has batted. 409 with six runs scored and three RBI with eight walks. In league play, he has hit .303 in 22 starts, tallying two doubles, 18 runs scored and three RBI with 13 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.

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 62 appearances. He ranks behind only Brandon Dahl (2006-10), who had 63. Murphy has also faced 837 batters in his career -- the seventh-most of any Maverick -- and is ninth for innings pitched (186.1).

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 265-311 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 16, visiting Iowa for the Mavericks' final non-conference game of the year. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. in Iowa City, Iowa and links to live stats, audio and video will be available on OMavs.com.

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