Jayhawk notebook: Baseball newcomers and honorees, golf and tennis transfers, coaching changes
Just over three weeks removed from the end of its debut season under Dan Fitzgerald, the Kansas baseball program has already had a busy offseason.
The Jayhawks, who brought in a whopping 18 transfers in Fitzgerald’s first year, have continued to be active in the portal. Between Tuesday and Sunday, KU earned commitments from former Wichita State pitcher Grant Adler, New Mexico outfielder Lenny Junior Ashby and USC Upstate pitcher Reese Dutton, while also adding an incoming freshman in Olathe West ace and longtime Oklahoma commit Kasey Crawford.
Adler and Dutton figure to strengthen a KU pitching staff that was among the worst in the Big 12 Conference last year. Adler, who will be a senior, shone in his one year with the Shockers. After a standout tenure at Cowley College, he came to Wichita and settled in as the season went on, allowing just six earned runs in his final six outings as the Sunday starter, finishing with a 2.55 ERA and earning American Athletic Conference Newcomer Pitcher of the Year honors. He transferred following a series of coaching changes that saw Eric Wedge part ways with the university before it declined to retain interim coach Loren Hibbs.
Dutton broke his school’s single-season strikeout record as a junior with 102. The right-hander, also a junior-college product, tallied a 3.29 ERA over his 15 starts, capped off with a seven-inning, one-run gem against Winthrop in the conference tournament.
Ashby, a native of Oranjestad, Aruba, earned junior college All-American honors by batting .453 during a COVID-shortened freshman season at Odessa College, excelled again with the Wranglers the following year, then made his way to New Mexico. Ashby earned second-team All-Mountain West honors in back-to-back years before entering the transfer portal on May 30. He committed to Kansas on Friday.
Crawford committed to Oklahoma way back in 2020, and was expected to attend as recently as March, but joined KU instead. He now becomes part of Fitzgerald’s first full-offseason freshman recruiting cohort since being hired on June 15, 2022.
Kansas had just four seniors decide to move on after the season and should be on track for a great deal of continuity entering 2024.
photo by: Kansas Athletics
The Jayhawks also picked up a couple of postseason honors for projected returners Janson Reeder, an American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings Second-Team All-Region player whom Fitzgerald called an “incredible worker and outstanding teammate” in a Kansas press release, and Kodey Shojinaga, a freshman All-American.
“If you look at what Kodey has done as a freshman and compare it to freshman around the country, he’s clearly one of the top guys,” Fitzgerald said in a release. “I think that he’s a guy that you can build around. He’s a middle of the order bat as a true freshman. There is no question in my mind that he is one of the top freshman players in the country. He’s one of the top players in the country, and the fact that he happens to be a freshman is pretty special.”
The Kansas tennis team has acquired transfer Gracie Mulville, a former five-star recruit out of high school who spent two years at South Carolina. She went 10-15 in singles and 8-17 overall with a variety of doubles partners during the 2023 season. Kansas Athletics officially announced the move Monday.
“Gracie played at the top of the lineup in the SEC and brings invaluable experience to our program,” head coach Todd Chapman said in a press release.
KU also revealed Friday that the Jayhawks, who made the NCAA Tournament last season, will take part in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kickoff Weekend, taking on No. 26 Arizona State in Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 26 in the opening round.
Jayhawks in the XFL
Having survived its first season, the latest go-round of the XFL minor football league is looking to become the first of its three iterations to make it to a second year. As part of that process, it staged a rookie draft Friday in which three Kansas football players were selected. Despite KU’s defensive struggles last season, all three came from that side of the ball.
The Seattle Sea Dragons drew heavily from last year’s Jayhawks defensive line, adding both Sam Burt and Malcolm Lee to their roster. Burt spent six seasons in Kansas and started all 13 games in his final year, tallying 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks from his defensive tackle spot; Lee, who plays on the edge, was a super-senior himself and in his fifth season finished with 31 tackles, 3.5 for loss, including one sack.
The San Antonio Brahmas took one more Jayhawk off the board when they picked Lorenzo McCaskill in the closed draft. McCaskill also played at the collegiate level for six years, taking a winding path from Holmes Community College for one year to Louisiana for four and then to Kansas for his last. His best season came in his final campaign with the Ragin’ Cajuns in 2021, when he made 84 tackles and recovered a fumble.
Three KU coaching staffs saw minor changes in the past week. Following the April departure of associate head coach Terry Nooner from the women’s basketball program (he took over at Wichita State), Brandon Schneider filled two assistant positions by adding Marqu’es Webb, who was previously at Vanderbilt and Mercer, and promoting internal hire Brock McGinnis to assistant coach from his role as director of player development.
The men’s golf staff lost its own associate head coach when Chris Wilson resigned Monday after seven years at Kansas, intending to leave the coaching profession altogether.
Finally, women’s swimming and diving hired Ryan Evans, most recently the head coach at Division II University of Mary, as an assistant.
Highly touted golf transfer
The women’s golf team, meanwhile, added a high-caliber transfer to a group of incoming golfers that already includes freshmen Lyla Louderbaugh and Lauren Pham. The reigning Ohio Valley Conference player of the year as a freshman, Ruth Toennessen, is transferring to KU from Morehead State, where she averaged a 74.6.
“Ruth had a fantastic college season last spring and is a proven winner,” KU coach Lindsay Kuhle said in a release. “She is competitive and wants to take her game to the next level and eventually turn professional. She has an exceptional work ethic which is extremely important in this program.”