Arizona Boys Shine in KU’s Win Over Utah, 8-4
GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Arizona natives freshman left fielder Devin Foyle and senior first baseman Marcus Wheeler combined for five hits and drove in three runs, as the Kansas baseball team topped Utah, 8-4, Monday afternoon at Goodyear Ballpark.
Wheeler batted a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with two singles, a double and drove in one run, while Foyle posted a 2-for-4 effort with a double and two RBIs. The duo played integral roles in both of KU’s big innings, the first back-to-back crooked numbers for KU in seven games.
“That might have been the first time we were ahead in all the games we have played this year,” head coach Ritch Price said. “Foyle had the bases loaded earlier in the game and popped it up to the catcher. In the seventh inning, he worked the count and drilled the ball into left field for the two-run double. That was a huge step forward for him. Any time a freshman can start to contribute with runners in scoring position, you are on the right track.”
Foyle had been on track the last three games, leading the team with a .500 batting average (5-for-10) through those contests with two RBIs and a run scored. The only thing sweeter was the ability to do it in front of a home crowd.
“I struggled at first, but the ball was going to drop eventually,” Foyle said. “What better place than to do it here in front of my family. I went up there pretty confident those last at bats and tried to put a good swing on it.”
Foyle’s two-run double in the seventh paced Kansas (3-4) to a four-run inning after they had surrendered its three-run lead on a Utah (2-6) three-run jack in the top half of the frame.
Sophomore lefty Blake Weiman produced another quality start on the bump with five innings pitched and allowing just one run. Junior reliever Sam Gilbert came on in the sixth and pitched a scoreless frame, but found himself in trouble in the seventh.
Gilbert gave up a lead-off single and a one out single to bring up Utes’ catcher AJ Young. The No. 8 hitter in the order stroked a 2-2 breaking ball deep over the wall in left field to knot the game up, 4-4, immediately following a three-run KU sixth.
Following the three-run home run, Price called back to his bullpen to bring in junior closer Stephen Villines with one out in the seventh. Villines efficiently closed the door on the final two and 2/3 innings striking out three of the nine batters he faced in the 25-pitch effort.
“I thought it was important that we bounced back and found a way to win today,” Price said. “I was really pleased with how professional we were. We left the hotel today at 6:58 a.m., and were on the field stretching at 7:30 a.m. this morning. We went about our business the right way. Our guys grinded, worked hard and competed. It shows that the game of baseball is important to our guys.”
The importance of the game was evident as six different Jayhawks tallied at least one hit on the day, with five driving in a run. Wheeler led the charge with a career-high three hits on the day, that ties for the most by a KU player this season. Foyle and sophomore shortstop Matt McLaughlin were the only other two to post multiple-hit efforts on the day while senior second baseman Colby Wright and McLaughlin scored a game-high two runs apiece.
“We have been trying to emphasize clutch hitting and playing small ball,” Wheeler said. “Today, we finally put it all together. I just wanted to come out and help my team as much as possible. Coming out here with my family and playing in this beautiful weather – you have to come out with a lot of energy. It was a lot of fun to play in front of everyone.”
Kansas returns home to Hoglund Ballpark to open up a nine-game homestand, Thursday, March 3, for the first of a three-game set against BYU. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. All nine games of the homestand can be seen live on ESPN3. Fans can also tune into the Jayhawk Radio network for a live audio broadcast of the contests via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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