Kahana Gives Kansas a Boost

March 7, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Freshman pitcher Robert Kahana made his first career start as a Jayhawk Tuesday and pitched four perfect innings to earn his first win as Kansas knocked off North Dakota 7-4.

The Ewa Beach, Hawaii native had appeared in three other games so far this season, but said he didn’t have any butterflies before making his first start on the mound.

“I wasn’t too nervous,” Kahana said. “I was a starter my whole high school career, so no nerves today.”

Being utilized as a starting pitcher is something that Kansas head coach Ritch Price thinks is in the freshman’s future.

“We have every intention of making Kahana a starting pitcher for us, whether it’s this year or next year.” Price said. “We’re trying to use him as that swing guy where we can pitch him out of the bullpen on the weekends and then start him in midweek games. He’s a really good-looking freshman.”

Kahana had struggled in his role out of the bullpen during the weekend trip to San Antonio, but was flawless Tuesday. Kahana was actually excited to hear that he would be able to start against the Sioux.

“I came out of the bullpen the last couple of games and Gravie (pitching coach Ryan Graves) told me I got to start today so I was pretty pumped about that,” Kahana said. “I went out there in the first inning and just tried to throw strikes and then my offense put up four runs so they gave me some breathing room. I just pitched to contact and trusted my defense.”

Kansas’ offense helped Kahana out in the first inning, scoring four runs off a Zac Elgie grand slam. Kahana couldn’t say anything but thank you.

“I was like ‘thank you’ because I didn’t know what else to say,” Kahana said. “I was just speechless.”

On a day where his slider didn’t seem to work, Kahana used the fastball to his advantage to put guys away. Starting ahead in the count worked in his favor as Kahana struck out four and didn’t walk any batters.

The freshman threw a first-pitch strike to nine of the 12 hitters he faced, which helped him use both sides of the plate.

“My fastball was working for me actually,” Kahana said. “I just started ahead in the count and put away guys mostly with my fastball because my slider wasn’t working for me today.”

After four perfect innings, Kahana was hungry for more but pitching coach Ryan Graves wanted to rest him for this weekend’s matchups.

“I really wanted to go back out there in the fifth,” Kahana said. “Gravie told me I have to get ready for the weekend so I can come out of the bullpen for the double-header. I mean, I wanted to and my arm was good enough to go, but you have to do what Gravie says.”