Home Runs, Miscues Plague Kansas at No. 16 Missouri State, 18-11

Box Score Final Box (.pdf)

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Four defensive errors and three home runs by Bears’ left fielder Spencer Johnson doomed the Jayhawks as the Kansas baseball team lost a midweek bout, 18-11, to No. 16 Missouri State Wednesday night at Hammons Field.
Johnson led the field with three home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in nine of Missouri State’s 18 runs. He is the second player this season to hit three home runs in a game against the Jayhawks (11-16) as BYU’s Kyle Dean accomplished the same feat on March 3 at Hoglund Ballpark.
“He was really special tonight,” head coach Ritch Price said. “All three home runs he hit, he smoked – he didn’t get any cheap ones.”
Like last year’s meeting in Springfield, Kansas chalked up a crooked number in the top of the first inning after senior second baseman Colby Wright roped a three-run double off Missouri State (24-5) starter Andy Cheray. However, that lead quickly got erased when senior third baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk buried a routine throw across the diamond with two outs to load the bases for the Bears’ hero of the game Johnson.
Johnson drove the first pitch he saw from Kansas starter freshman righty Blake Goldsberry (0-4) deep and over the wall in right center for his first of three home runs on the day and ignite a six-run first inning for Missouri State.
“Obviously we hurt ourselves with the poor defense that we played and it set the table for a lot of those runs,” Price said. “When you are asking young pitchers to get more than three outs in an inning – you are going to be in big time trouble. (Goldsberry) got a ground ball and had a chance to get out of the inning with no runs on the board. We kick it and the next hitter hits a grand slam and we are down after scoring three runs in the first. It set the tone and we continued to make two or three more bad plays.”
The two teams played even until the bottom of the fourth when Goldsberry found himself in trouble again.  The rookie hurler gave up a lead-off single before walking the next batter and giving up a RBI-double. That brought Johnson to the plate with runners at second and third and no outs.
Price made the call to the bullpen and brought in senior Hayden Edwards. The righty worked a 1-1 count before leaving a fastball on the outer half of the plate. Johnson took that pitch over the left-center wall for the three-run jack and his seventh RBI of the game. Another inning extension by way of a dropped fly ball by senior right fielder Joe Moroney and the Bears added a five-spot to take the eight-run advantage, 12-4.
Sophomore shortstop Matt McLaughlin and junior catcher Michael Tinsley chipped away at the Bears’ lead in the sixth after the duo each drove in a run. McLaughlin plated junior centerfielder Joven Afenir on a sacrifice fly while Tinsley’s RBI-single scored freshman left fielder Devin Foyle to pull within seven, 13-6.
“The one thing I was proud of was that we continued to keep competing and swinging the bats,” Price said. “Before it was over, we ended up with some nice numbers offensively on the board. That is the only positive.”  
The Jayhawks scored two more runs in the seventh and three runs in the eighth to pull within four runs of the Bears, 15-11. But a two-run home run by Johnson in the seventh and a three-run home run by Jake Burger in the bottom half of the eighth all finished off the night.
Kansas is back in action April 8-10 as the Jayhawks welcome in No. 6 TCU for a three-game conference set. First pitch Friday night is slated for 6 p.m. All three games of the series can be seen on ESPN3 with Saturday and Sunday’s contests also broadcasted live on the Jayhawk Television Network (JTV). For more information on JTV visit KUAthletics.com/JTV.

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