Big Minnesota innings plague Kansas in loss
LAWRENCE, Kan. – An early three-run second inning was too much for the Kansas baseball team to overcome Tuesday night as the Jayhawks lost to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 5-2, at Hoglund Ballpark.
A near perfect night for baseball with cool temperatures, Kansas (10-14) sent rookie Ryan Zeferjahn (3-3) to the hill for his sixth start of the season against Minnesota (15-8). The righty never really found his rhythm and the Gophers tagged him for a three-spot in the second after he allowed three hits and two walks in the inning.
“Minnesota is a really good team,” head coach Ritch Price said. “They won the Big Ten last year and have been in multiple regionals in recent years. They are an experienced team.”
After the three-run second, Zeferjahn settled down and pitched the next two and 1/3 innings without allowing a Minnesota run. He exited after four and 1/3 innings pitched and allowed just those three runs off five hits and four walks, while striking out five batters.
“Zeferjahn struggled those first couple innings,” Price said. “We got him to make adjustments and he settled in, but obviously, his pitch count was too high and we had to go to the bullpen there early – I was pleased with its performance.”
It took until the fourth inning for Kansas to record its first hit off of Minnesota starter Reggie Meyer (1-0) and that belonged to freshman catcher Jaxx Groshans, who led off the frame with a single up the middle. That hit ignited a spark in the Jayhawks as they cut the deficit to one, 3-2, with a two-run inning.
Sophomore right fielder Ty Denzer followed with a one-out single to bring up junior first baseman Owen Tayor with two runners on. Taylor drove one through the right side to knock in two RBIs and send Kansas to the fifth trailing by just one run.
However, that deficit grew to three runs after Kansas had some trouble catching the ball in the outfield in the sixth inning. Denzer dropped a routine fly ball to right field and sophomore left fielder Devin Foyle dropped one two batters later, both leading to runs. A double and two walks in the frame and the Jayhawks found themselves in another three-run hole, 5-2.
“When you are trying to fight yourself back into the win column, you just can’t drop routine balls,” Price said. “We have to catch the ball. When you are struggling, you just can’t make defensive mistakes that lead to crooked numbers.”
It took just the first crooked number to seal KU’s fate, as Meyer and three Minnesota relievers held the Jayhawks scoreless after the fourth inning. If ever there was a silver lining, it would have to be the fact that Kansas struck out just three times against the Golden Gophers – that is five less than the team’s season average and a bright spot after averaging 10 strikeouts per game last weekend.
“We are doing a better job,” Price said. “Our bats are starting to get better. We are trying to stay positive and grind through it, and you can tell by the number of strikeouts being down today we are making progress.”
Kansas wraps up its two-game series with Minnesota on Wednesday, March 29. First pitch is slated for 1:30 p.m. and can be seen live on ESPN3 or heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official “Kansas Jayhawks” app.
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