Foyle, Jayhawks Turn Tables on Racers, 14-8
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Behind a career day from freshman left fielder Devin Foyle, the Kansas baseball team turned the tables on Murray State with a 14-8 win Wednesday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
A day after dropping game one of the two-game midweek set handedly to Murray State (8-11), the Jayhawks (7-8) found its groove at the plate and sprung for 14 runs off 14 hits against six different Racer pitchers. Foyle accounted for more than a third of those runs after turning in one of the top performances of the season.
The rookie switch hitter finished a triple shy from the cycle that included his first career home run. That four-bagger came in an unlikely way as Foyle had to leg it out for Kansas’ first inside-the-park home run since March 6, 2009, when Robby Price did the same against Northwestern.
“That was not the way I was expecting my first career home run to be like,” Foyle said. “My teammates in the dugout asked me if I thought I was going to be this tired after my first college home run. I didn’t think (assistant coach) Ritchie Price was going to send me so I was surprised when he did.”
Foyle reached base in five of his six plate appearances, driving in a run in each trip. He finished the day 3-for-4 with a RBI-single, a RBI-double, home run and two RBI-walks for five RBIs on the day. His only blemish came in the seventh inning when he struck out swinging after a six-pitch at bat.
“He has been solid out there,” head coach Ritch Price said. “There are so many young guys on the field and Foyle made some great progress these last two days.”
Foyle may have did the bulk of the lifting in KU’s win, but it was senior right fielder Joe Moroney who came up clutch both times the Jayhawks needed it. The first came in the fifth inning when he doubled down the left-field line with one out. Two pitches later he was standing on third base after recording his team-leading fourth steal of the season. Senior third baseman Tommy Mirabelli then drove one deep to center and Moroney scored easily on the sacrifice fly to give KU a two-run cushion, 7-5.
Then in the sixth inning trailing the Racers, 8-7, Moroney doubled to left field again, this time with bases loaded to drive in two runs and take the lead, 9-8. That hit served as just the fourth time Kansas has converted with bases loaded all season in 33 at bats and proved to be the difference maker in the game as Murray State was held scoreless the final three frames.
“I felt with the way we played the last few days that we needed to put our best guys on the field defensively,” Price said. “Moroney gives me everything he has every day. He found a way to muscle that ball down the left-field line with the bases loaded and it was the biggest hit of the ballgame.”
Not to be overshadowed by Foyle and Moroney, sophomore shortstop Matt McLaughlin connected for four base knocks – the most by a Kansas player this season – and drove in two runs while scoring twice. He wasted no time in the first inning getting a monkey off his back when he recorded his first strikeout of the season – he entered the week in a four-way tie as one of the toughest to strike out in the country.
After that, it was business as usual for McLaughlin who turned in the first four-hit performance since Connor McKay at West Virginia (April 25, 2015) and tied his career high with two runs scored. He has now hit safely in all but three games this season with multiple hit efforts in seven of those contests.
However, even with the offense playing as well as it did, Kansas sent four different pitchers to the mound with senior righty Sam Gilbert (1-1) picking up the win in a setup role for closer Stephen Villines. The duo combined to throw the final three and 1/3 innings with Villines shutting the door in the final two frames for his third save of the year.
“The only way we are going to be good is if we can get those guys (Gilbert and freshman righty Zack Leban) to start helping us,” Price said. “Those two guys have way too much talent to have the type of numbers they have at this point in the season.”
Leban entered the game in the fourth inning after starter redshirt-sophomore Jon Hander exited the game. He pitched two and 2/3 innings and gave up three runs off three hits and two walks. Combined, Hander and Leban allowed all eight of Murray State’s runs through five and 2/3 innings.
The Jayhawks hit the road for Palo Alto, California, March 18-20, for a three-game series against perennial national power Stanford. All three games will be available on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio with Friday and Saturday’s contests available on the dial on KWOD 1660 AM and KJHK 90.7 FM, respectively. The Cardinal will also offer an online stream of all three games for free thanks to the Pac-12 Network.
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