Husker Pitching Silences Jayhawk Bats, 3-1
KANSAS CIY, Mo. – Four different Nebraska pitchers combined to hold the Jayhawks to one run off six hits, as the Kansas baseball team fell to former Big 12 foe Nebraska, 3-1, in the College Baseball Hall of Fame Game at Kauffman Stadium Wednesday night.
Playing in the home of the reigning world champion Kansas City Royals, the Jayhawks (17-23-1) loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning trailing the Huskers (26-15) by two runs. Senior third baseman Tommy Mirabelli – who reached base twice prior – strutted to the plate with the game on the line.
“It was interesting,” head coach Ritch Price said. “Nebraska’s closer was having trouble with his command and I liked our chances to do something dramatic. Mirabelli had good at bats all day and made the ball be in the strike zone.”
Mirabelli drilled the third pitch he saw on a line, but right at NU first baseman Scott Schreiber who picked up the bobbled ball and touched the bag to end all hopes of a Kansas comeback, 3-1.
“I thought with (Mirabelli) up, we were going to win the game,” Price said. “He hit the ball hard right at the first baseman – four feet to the right and it’s down the line and we are celebrating a three-run double.”
No heroics for the offense as it notched six base knocks, and in fact, between Kansas and Nebraska, all 11 hits were singles. The two teams didn’t register one extra-base hit. Chalk part of that up to a Jayhawk defensive effort that kept the game manageable early.
Senior righty and local product Hayden Edwards (1-1) started on the bump for KU and looked sharp in the first inning recording all three outs by way of a punch out. However, in the second frame, Edwards struggled with his command. He walked two batters and hit another to load the bases with one out.
Senior second baseman Colby Wright and sophomore shortstop Matt McLaughlin bailed out the towering righty after Nebraska middle infielder Steven Reveles scorched one up the gut for a sure base hit. Wright had different plans and made a tremendous diving stop and glove flipped the ball to McLaughlin at second. McLaughlin caught the ball with his bare hand and rifled it to first base to end the inning and keep the game scoreless.
“We had opportunities to get blown out early,” Price said. “We made two huge double plays – the glove flip from Wright to McLaughlin with the bare-hand pick. That got us out of a huge jam. Edwards really struggled with his command, but found a way to only give up two runs thanks to the defense behind him.”
Edwards went back out in the third and the Huskers hung a crooked number two up on the board thanks to another walk and hit batter – he finished his three-inning stint with three walks, two hit batters and three wild pitches. Both runs that scored in the second inning got on base via a free pass.
Those two runs is all the Huskers would need as Nebraska starter Max Knutson (1-1) did the rest. The rookie left-hander silenced the Jayhawk bats through five and 1/3 innings, giving up one run off four hits and two walks while striking out five batters. He kept Kansas off balance with a firm fastball and good changeup.
“I compliment Knutson,” Price said. “He showed his changeup just enough to keep us off balance with his fastball. He was throwing low 90s. He completely dominated the bottom third of our lineup with one pitch. It was probably his finest outing of the year on the biggest stage.”
Three NU relievers followed to close out the final three and 2/3 innings giving up just two hits.
McLaughlin led Kansas with his first multi-hit game since April 1 at Baylor as he finished the day 2-for-4. Wright, Mirabelli, junior catcher Michael Tinsley and sophomore pinch hitter Owen Taylor each contributed a hit of their own to the Jayhawk hit total.
Kansas now shifts its focus from playing in one of the top venues in professional baseball back to conference play as the team hosts Oklahoma for a three-game weekend set, April 29 – May 1 at Hoglund Ballpark.
“What a great environment tonight,” Price said. “A special thanks to the Kansas City Royals. They treated us great. It is our first loss here. We beat Missouri four times and have played here five times now. For every player in the dugout it is a special night and now it is on to a huge weekend. We start the final four weekends of the season and we have some work to do to make the Big 12 Championship.”
All three games against the Sooners can be seen on ESPN3 with Saturday and Sunday’s contests also on the Jayhawk Television Network, where available. Visit KUAthletics.com/JTV for more information on the coverage area.
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