Sophomore Henry Wittren and the Mavericks hit the road for four games this week at K-State and Fort Wayne.
Courtesy: Omaha Athletics

Omaha Hits the Road for K-State, Fort Wayne

Omaha Athletics | March 20, 2017
Leading Off
The Omaha baseball team is set for four games this week, first visiting Kansas State on Tuesday, March 21. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Tointon Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan., and the game will be broadcast live on Fox College Sports. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on OMavs.com.

The Mavericks then tackle their first Summit League road series at Fort Wayne, March 24-26, at Mastodon Field in Fort Wayne, Ind. Friday's contest is set for 2 p.m. CT, followed by 1 p.m. CT on Saturday and Noon CT on Sunday. Links to live stats 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.
•Senior Sam Palensky carries a career-long 10-game reaching base streak, also the longest of any Maverick this year.
•Sophomore Grant Suponchick batted a team-leading .400 and junior Parker Smejkal hit .385 over four starts last week. Smejkal had a pair of multi-hit games, finishing 2-for-2 with a double, a triple, a run scored and two RBI at K-State (March 15) and 2-for-4 vs. South Dakota State (March 17). Suponchick had a standout day in the series opener with SDSU, going 3-for-4.
•Twenty-eight players have seen playing time in the Mavericks' first 19 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, Herold, Suponchick, juniors Ryan Cate and Adam Caniglia and sophomore 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 255-295 all-time against all opponents on the schedule this year and 145-129 all-time against the five other teams in the Summit League. The Mavericks have compiled a 65-48 record in Summit League play since 2013.

Scouting the Kansas State Wildcats
Kansas State enters the week with a record of 14-6 (0-0 Big 12) after winning two out of three in a series with Iowa last weekend. The Wildcats picked up wins of 3-0 on Friday and 5-4 on Saturday, then dropped the finale on Sunday, 12-11.

Head coach Brad Hill is in his 14th season at K-State, carrying a record of 430-340-3 and a career mark of 848-431-3 over 23 years. KSU leads the all-time series with Omaha, 9-2. The two teams met last Wednesday, with the Mavericks claiming a 5-2 victory in Manhattan, Kan.

Scouting the Fort Wayne Mastodons
Fort Wayne carries a record of 4-14 (1-2 Summit League) after dropping two of three games in a series at Western Illinois last weekend. The Mastodons opened with a 6-5 loss on Friday, won 5-1 on Saturday and dropped the finale on Sunday, 4-1.

Head coach Bobby Pierce is in ninth first season at Fort Wayne with a record of 169-284 and a career mark of 224-338 over 11 years.

The two teams last met on May 25, 2016 in Tulsa, Okla., in the opening game of the Summit League Championship, which the Mastodons won 8-6. They last squared off in Fort Wayne April 29-30, 2016, with the Mastodons winning two of three contests.

Leading the League
Freshman Cole Thibodeau ranks 17th nationally and leads the league with five sacrifice bunts. As a team, Omaha is 11th in the country and the league's top squad for sac bunts (19).

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 19 games. Offensively, the Papillion, Neb., native owns a team-leading four multi-hit performances so far and has reached base in 10 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 14 of the first 19 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 .300 over four games last week vs. Kansas State and South Dakota State. In the first weekend of Summit League play, he is hit .333 and drew a team-leading three walks with a .556 on-base percentage against South Dakota State.

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.

Last week, Thibodeau went a perfect 3-for-3 on the basepaths at K-State (March 15). The last Maverick to register three stolen bases in a game was Cole Gruber, who achieved it three times last season -- most recently at South Dakota State on April 9, 2016.

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 255-295 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, March 28, welcoming Air Force. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. at Isaacson Field at Seymour Smith Park, and links to live stats and audio will be available on OMavs.com.

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