Jayhawks Down Pokes, 5-3; Improve to 2-0 in Pool Play
May 25, 2013
Box ScoreÂ |Â Â
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Five minutes after the clock struck midnight at Bricktown Ballpark, Kansas’ Cinderella tale was still real and still being written as the sixth-seeded Jayhawks knocked off No. 2 seed Oklahoma State, 5-3, in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship early Saturday morning. The win improved the Jayhawks to 2-0 in Pool Two and kept KU’s hope for a berth into Sunday’s title game alive.
Kansas (33-24) outfielder Tucker Tharp went 2-for-4 with a double and tied the game in the bottom of the seventh with his first home run of the season, then Michael Suiter drove in the go-ahead run as Kansas plated three runs in its final two innings to surge past Oklahoma State (39-16). Frank Duncan (4-5) and Jordan Piche’ combined to throw 3.1 innings of scoreless relief, while Piche’ notched his Big 12 leading 11th save of the season.
Kansas was able to scratch across four runs on eight hits against Oklahoma State starter Tyler Nurdin, who entered the game with a 1.76 ERA, then added an insurance run in the eighth. Both teams combined to strand 19 base runners in the contest.
“It’s a great win for the University of Kansas,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We obviously beat one of the best left-handers in the country today. We knew we were going to have our hands full and we certainly did. I was really pleased with the way our guys grinded out at-bats. We got some huge, clutch hits by Suiter to put us ahead early, then Tuck’s home run tied it. It’s a great win for the Jayhawks.”
The Jayhawks got to Nurdin in the first inning as clean-up batter Alex DeLeon gave KU a 1-0 lead in the by driving in Kevin Kuntz with a single to left, then loaded the bases before the lefty struck out Connor McKay to end the threat.
Kansas countered with its own lefty, sophomore Wes Benjamin, who held the Cowboys without a hit until the fourth inning, despite allowing multiple walks. Benjamin allowed at least one base runner in every inning and twice worked around the leadoff man reaching base before Oklahoma State took advantage with its first runs in the fifth. Saulyer Saxon led off with a single then later tied the game on another single by Randy McCurry. Two batters later, Zach Fish doubled across McCurry to make it 2-1 before Benjamin could get the Jayhawks out of the inning.
Kansas answered with Tharp’s leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth and a sacrifice bunt from Justin Protacio to move the tying run to third. Nurdin nearly escaped the threat by getting Kevin Kuntz to ground out to third, but early in the next at-bat allowed Tharp to even it up at 2-2 on a wild pitch.
Oklahoma State got the leadoff man aboard again in the sixth then used a two-out single by Donnie Walton to sneak ahead 3-2. Benjamin walked OSU slugger Tanner Krietemeier intentionally before being lifted for Duncan. The junior right-hander struck out McCurry on just four pitches to end the inning and struck out the side in the seventh for four straight strikeouts.
Kansas stranded a runner at third in the sixth but found new life when Tharp homered into the Jayhawks bullpen with one out in the seventh, making it a 3-3 ballgame. It was just the third home run given up by Nurdin in more than 75 innings this season, and the third home run hit during this year’s Big 12 Championship Tournament.
“I worked it to 3-2 and I knew he had to come after me with something,” Tharp said of the long ball. “I just sat back on it, tried to put a good swing on it, and fortunately it left the yard.”
Kansas wasn’t done in the seventh, however. Protacio reached on an error and a perfect bunt between the pitcher’s mound and first base by Kevin Kuntz put two men on with one out. That’s when Suiter delivered a sharply hit ball through the left side and a perfect throw by OSU left fielder Aaron Cornell went for naught as Protacio collided with the catcher, the ball bounded free, and he scored to make it 4-3, Kansas;
After sitting for an extended half inning, Duncan appeared to lose his rhythm and issued a leadoff walk before getting a hit-and-run line out to Protacio at second, who turned a double play with a throw to first. Duncan walked Saxon to put the tying run on, then walked Walton to put the go-ahead runner on with Krietemeier stepping to the plate. Kansas went to Piche’, the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year and National Stopper of the Year Candidate, who struck out the Cowboys’ top hitter to end the threat.
Kansas added an insurance run in the eighth before Piche’ worked around a leadoff error with another double play, and got Fish to fly out to center, ending the game.
Suiter collected two hits for the second game in a row and Dakota Smith went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored. Oklahoma State was led offensively by Aaron Cornell, who went 2-for-3 with a run scored, and Donnie Walton reached base five times with four walks and a base hit.
Kansas will face TCU in its final Pool Two contest at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. With a win, Kansas would advance to Sunday’s title game against the Pool One winner, to be decided between (1)Kansas State and (4)Oklahoma at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. With a loss, Kansas would miss out on an opportunity to advance due to tiebreaking procedures.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.