Goddard paces Kansas to series win at No. 19 Oklahoma

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NORMAN, Okla. – Backed by seven strong innings from sophomore righty Jackson Goddard, the Kansas baseball team won its first road series at No. 19 Oklahoma since 2009 after a 5-2 victory Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The Jayhawks (19-19, 8-6 Big 12) stretched Goddard (4-2) seven innings then turned to its veteran bullpen to shut down the Sooners (27-15, 5-6) who lost their seventh-consecutive game this season and second-straight series to Kansas in the last two years.
“It is a great day to be a Jayhawk,” head coach Ritch Price said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of Goddard. I have been waiting for him to become a big-time guy and he proved that yet again today.”
Goddard and OU starter Kyle Tyler (0-1) matched pitch for pitch through the first five innings as the game had all the makings of a Friday night pitcher’s duel that was absent yesterday after a four hour and 22 minute contest that ended in a 15-10 Jayhawk victory. Much like it has all season, Kansas used great plate discipline in the sixth inning to break open the scoring and rally for a four-spot to take the lead.
Three different times in the frame, the Jayhawks turned 0-2 counts into positive at bats as junior catcher Tanner Gragg worked a walk, sophomore center fielder Rudy Karre smoked a single and freshman second baseman James Cosentino drove in the game’s first run with an RBI-walk.
All that with no outs, the table was set for sophomore left fielder Devin Foyle who drilled a fastball into the right-center gap for the two-run double and freshman designated hitter Jaxx Groshans kept it going with an RBI-single through the left side.
That 4-0 lead didn’t last long as the Sooners tagged Goddard for two runs in the bottom half of the sixth. Showing all the faith in the world in Goddard, Price sent him back out for the seventh and he worked a quick 1-2-3 inning, finishing the day after 101 pitches, seven strikeouts and two walks.
“It is reassuring when the coaches have that kind of confidence in you,” Goddard said. “When they show you that, it makes you want to go out there and pitch your best, knowing they have your back.”
That seventh inning by Goddard not only kept Oklahoma from scoring, but it allowed Price to align his bullpen for the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Junior lefty Blake Weiman started the eighth for the lefty-lefty matchup against Steel Walker, before sophomore Zack Leban came in to collect the final two outs and turn it over to senior closer Stephen Villines for the ninth.
“The bullpen was just special again,” Price said. “Goddard pitching the seventh was huge because it allowed us to align our relievers perfectly.”
Villines then worked a perfect ninth and picked up his 11th save of the season and gave Kansas its first road series win since 2015 (at West Virginia) and first series win on the road against a top-25 team since March 2014 (at then-No. 10 Texas).
“Villines has had a great career at Kansas,” Price said. “To see him walk out there go one-two-three in the ninth, that has to be a great feeling. He has been special for us this year.”
0-2 counts: Three times in the sixth inning, Kansas hitters buried themselves in 0-2 counts, only to reach base and set the table for a four-run inning. Gragg turned his into a walk, Karre turned his into a base hit to left after two unsuccessful bunt attempts and Cosentino broke open the game with the RBI-walk. All three of them came around to score in the inning and give the Jayhawks a 4-0 lead.
Two-run double: Struggling at the plate much of the 2017 season, Foyle blasted one of the biggest hits of his career to give Kansas a three-run lead. The switch hitter drove a fastball into the right-center gap to deflate all hopes from the Sooners.
Clean seventh: After giving up two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Price sent Goddard back out for the seventh inning. Seven pitches later, Kansas was back in the dugout and the Jayhawks were able to align its three big arms in the bullpen perfectly to win its second-straight conference series and third overall on the season.
KU goes for the sweep of No. 19 Oklahoma Sunday at 1 p.m. at L. Dale Mitchell Park. Freshman righty Ryan Zeferjahn is slated to start for the Jayhawks with the game broadcasted on Fox College Sports Central. Fans can also tune in on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the dial on 1660 AM, KWOD.   
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