Citta, Jayhawks walk off Eagles in 12 innings
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After an 0-for-5 start to his game, redshirt-sophomore Brendt Citta delivered one of the biggest hits of the season for the Kansas baseball team in the bottom of the 12th inning to walk off Morehead State, 8-6, Thursday night at Hoglund Ballpark.
Citta entered that sixth at bat with three strikeouts and a double-play ground out hanging over his head, but that didn’t faze the right fielder. He worked the count full on six pitches fouling three off in the process. Then on that seventh pitch, Citta loaded and lasered a ball over the fence in right field to give Kansas its first walk-off home run victory since April 18, 2015.
“I had some tough at bats earlier in the game,” Citta said. “I had three strikeouts and I was out in front, just waving at the ball. That last at bat, I just tried to stay back and I hit it well. It had a lot of top spin, so I didn’t think it had a chance, but I kept running and heard the crowd go crazy, and I knew it was gone. It felt good”
That walk-off bomb was just one of three huge home runs on the night for Kansas (16-10). It seemed that each time the Jayhawks needed to get something going, it came via a four-bagger.
In the seventh inning, junior David Kyriacou came off the bench and delivered a then-tying two-run shot to right center. That marked the lefty bats third home run in as many games and knocked some life back into the KU dugout.
The second home run came in the bottom of the ninth, after Morehead State (15-12) rung up a three-spot in the top half. Senior first baseman Owen Taylor delivered the blow to lead off the bottom of the frame, drilling one to dead center field.
That sparked a three-run rally with sophomore designated hitter Brett Vosik knotting it up with a two-run, two-out single through the right side.
“It was a tremendous comeback,” head coach Ritch Price said. “You give up the three-spot in the top of the ninth, and then you score three in the bottom to tie it. It was a great, grinded out victory.”
The grinded out win came on the heels of four innings where the Jayhawks got the leadoff runner aboard. In those four innings, Kansas scored.
In the third, freshman Skyler Messinger wore a pitch to start off and scored on a MSU error. In the seventh, Taylor singled and then scored on the Kyriacou home run. In the ninth, Taylor led it off with a four-bagger, and then in the 12th, junior left fielder Devin Foyle drew the five-pitch walk.
“I really like our club offensively,” Price said. “We got dominated early, but we worked some counts and found a way to grind it out. We showed some toughness and put together some good at bats late.”
Those good at bats late were made possible because junior closer Zack Leban (1-0) shut the door the final three innings. He entered in a non-save situation and gave up a run in the top of the ninth with one out. He buckled down and got the next two hitters he faced out, and then threw up three zeroes while recording a career-high six strikeouts.
Those three and 2/3 innings pitched matched Leban’s career high, while he also reached new heights throwing 68 pitches.
“It was Leban’s game there late,” Price said. “I told him, ‘You are either going to win it or lose it today.’ He stepped up and gave us a great performance.”
The Jayhawks continue the series against Morehead State Friday, March 30, with a 6 p.m. first pitch. The game will be available on ESPN3 via WatchESPN.com or on the ESPN app on selected devices. In addition, fans can tune into the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio to hear the live audio broadcast.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hustle play: With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and Kansas trailing by two runs, catcher Jaxx Groshans hit a ball into the hole at short. The sophomore ran a great 90 down to first, narrowly beating out the grounder with a head-first slide for the infield single. Replay showed he in fact did beat it out, and that extended the inning for sophomore Brett Vosik, who delivered.
Off the bench: Junior David Kyriacou tied the game up with one swing of the bat in the seventh inning sailing the ball deep over the wall in the right center. That bomb marked the third of the season for Kyriacou and is the third home run he has hit in as many games. In addition, that tipped KU’s home run total to 19 on the season, one more than the squad hit all of 2017. Kansas finished the game with three bombs, and have now hit 21 on the year.
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