Freshmen lead Kansas to victory at Oral Roberts
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TULSA, Okla. – Five scoreless innings from righty Ryan Zeferjahn and five RBIs from three other freshmen paced the Kansas baseball team to a 7-2 victory over the Golden Eagles Wednesday night at J.L. Johnson Stadium.
The rookie Zeferjahn (3-1) lit up the radar gun and the stat sheet with a career-high nine strikeouts in five innings, allowing just two hits in the 111-pitch shutout performance. Mix that outing with two RBIs from both right fielder Brett Vosik and shortstop Benjamin Sems, and the Jayhawks (8-8) picked up their second-straight win and first at Oral Roberts (9-7) since head coach Ritch Price’s inaugural season (2003) as the team’s skipper.
“Our short game execution today was fabulous,” Price said. “I started six freshmen in the lineup, including our starting pitcher. It was a pretty darn good performance from those guys today.”
That good performance started with Zeferjahn on the mound – who lasted just two outs against ORU two weeks ago – and ended with a five-run eighth inning that tipped the scales heavily in favor of the Jayhawks.
“We clutched up big in the eighth inning,” Price said. “Two of our freshmen who struck out with bases loaded earlier in the game came back and got huge base hits for us. It was a great win for our club.”
Sophomore centerfielder Rudy Karre led off the eighth with a single to left field. Classmate and third baseman David Kyriacou wore a pitch, and then freshman second baseman James Cosentino legged out a bunt single – his second of the game – to load the bases for the rookie Sems.
Having struck out earlier with the bases loaded, Sems rocketed a fastball up the middle for the two-run single and give Kansas the four-run advantage, 4-0. Junior first baseman Owen Taylor followed with a bunt single to load the bases again, this time for Vosik.
The lefty bat of Vosik smoked a 1-2 pitch to center field to knock in another two runs for KU and build a six-run lead, 6-0. Freshman catcher Jaxx Groshans tacked on another RBI in the inning to round out the scoring for KU at seven runs on the day.
Fueled by a 12-1 routing against the Golden Eagles earlier in the season, the Jayhawks knocked ORU starter Logan Michaels (1-1) out of the game after four innings, hitting him up for two runs in the first three frames. That early lead gave Zeferjahn all the confidence in the world, as he was able to give his team five quality innings for the win.
“I changed my mentality for this game,” Zeferjahn said. “I threw every pitch like it meant the difference in the game, and I was able to locate all of my pitches well. Tonight gave me a lot of confidence. I know I have the stuff there, but I need to be mentally tougher.”
Cosentino led all Jayhawks with a 3-for-5 effort at the dish with a run scored. Sems and Vosik each tallied a team-high two RBIs, while Karre finished the day 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Karre has now hit safely in eight-straight games.
Kansas continues its road swing March 17-19 as the Jayhawks open up Big 12 play at No. 3 TCU.
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