Late Jayhawk Comeback Upsets No. 6 TCU, 4-3
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Heart, defense and a two-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the Kansas baseball team to a 4-3 win over No. 6 TCU Friday night at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (12-16, 2-4 Big 12) trailed the Horned Frogs (22-7, 4-3 Big 12) three different times by one run and battled back each time to tie it until the eighth inning. It was a leadoff walk by junior catcher Michael Tinsley and a single to right field by freshman left fielder Devin Foyle that set the table for a two-run frame and give KU its first and only lead of the game.
“It was a great team win for us,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We played well in every phase of the game today and I can’t say enough about the performance of our team defense. We might have taken five or six runs off the board when it was all said and done. Just tremendous defense all the way around.”
The offense may have come alive to pull ahead late in the game, but it was the defensive effort from all nine positions that helped senior lefty Ben Krauth battle his way through six innings of work on the mound. Each time TCU put runners on base, Krauth found a way to deliver an out with help from his fielders.
The Jayhawks set that defensive tone early in the first inning after sophomore shortstop Matt McLaughlin made a jump turn in the six hole to gun a runner out at first to end the frame. Then senior third baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk made two huge diving plays to end the second and fifth innings, respectively. Junior centerfielder Joven Afenir robbed a sure RBI base hit in the seventh inning and freshman second baseman David Kyriacou added a diving play of his own to keep a runner at third.
In all, the Kansas defense help strand a total of 13 TCU base runners and held the Horned Frogs to just one base hit in 17 tries with runners in scoring position.
“I don’t know if I have seen more plus plays in a game defensively all year,” Price said. “Pidhaichuk, Afenir, Kyriacou and McLaughlin all made great plays when it mattered – it kept the game manageable.”
Manageable is all the Kansas skipper could ask for as his Friday night ace struggled early on. Krauth gave up a home run in the first inning and another run in the fourth inning after he walked the bases loaded and gave up the RBI-hit-by-pitch. However, despite the two runs off five hits and four walks, Krauth managed to strike out nine batters for the fifth-consecutive time in as many starts.
“(Krauth) did a great job of grinding and competing,” Price said. “That is the best offense I have seen and he kept the game manageable. He has great next-pitch mentality and that kept TCU out of the big innings.”
Neither team really strung together a big inning. In fact, it was a lot of back and forth between to two clubs. TCU hit a home run in the first inning and senior right fielder Joe Moroney answered right back with his first career four bagger to lead off the game in the bottom half of the first.
“I had two strikes on me and I was in battle mode,” Moroney said. “(TCU starter Luken Baker) kind of left the ball up and I put a good swing on it and the wind helped push it out.”
The Horned Frogs retook the lead in the fourth inning after Krauth walked the bases loaded and gave up a run on a hit-by-pitch. The Jayhawks came right back in the sixth and tied it on a RBI-single from junior first baseman Marcus Wheeler.
TCU put up another run in the seventh before Kansas hung up the only crooked number of the game in the eighth. Tinsley led off the frame with a walk and moved to third on a single to right by Foyle. Afenir reached base by way of an error and Tinsley scored to tie it up. Wheeler then laid down a beauty of a bunt to put runners at second and third with one out for sophomore designated hitter Owen Taylor.
Taylor took the first pitch he saw deep to center field for his team-leading fourth sacrifice fly and gave the Jayhawks their first and only lead of the game, 4-3.
“One of the things we preach is to be aggressive early in the count with a runner at third and less than two outs,” Price said. “Taylor – who has been struggling – goes up there first pitch and bangs the ball to center field for the sacrifice fly. He did everything we preach and executed it perfectly. It was great to see that young man clutch up for us.”
However, TCU wasn’t done. The Horned Frogs kept it interesting with runners at first and third with one out in the ninth and junior Stephen Villines (3-1) on the mound. The sidearm slinger – who entered the game with two outs in the eighth – buckled down with a huge strikeout and a groundout to preserve the victory.
Sophomore lefty Blake Weiman takes to the hill Saturday, April 9, in game two of the series with No. 6 TCU. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3 and the Jayhawk Television Network (JTV). For more information on JTV visit KUAthletics.com/JTV.
Prior to first pitch in Saturday’s contest, KU will recognize the 10th anniversary of the 2006 Big 12 Championship team. Members of that team who could make the game against the Horned Frogs will be introduced with a special video to follow.
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