Jayhawks Blast Past Shockers, 9-3
LAWRENCE, Kan. – On the coattails of two home runs and five extra-base hits, the Kansas baseball team won its seventh-consecutive game against in-state rival Wichita State, 9-3, Tuesday night at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (15-20) saw the bottom third of their order pound out seven of the team’s 14 hits including three-hit performances from junior centerfielder Joven Afenir and sophomore designated hitter TJ Martin. Afenir finished the day with two doubles, two runs scored and a RBI, while Martin blasted the fourth home run of his career – second of the season – to go along with a double, three RBIs and two runs scored.
“It was a really unusual game for us because we usually have to grind it out in the end,” head coach Ritch Price said. “It was really nice to see us locked in offensively. We swung the bats really well against quality pitching. We had quality at bats tonight. It was good to see the ball leave the yard today too.”
Martin set the tone for the night as he finished a triple shy of the cycle. He blasted a RBI-double his first at bat and closed out his final two with a two-run home run and a single ripped up the middle.
“I am an aggressive fastball hitter,” Martin said. “I saw (Wichita State) was pitching fastballs late in the count. I worked the counts and got them to throw one inside. That helped set the tone for the night.”
His two-run blast in the sixth inning may have separated the game, but it was the play of the other two players in the bottom third of the order that helped Martin set the tone for an offensive explosion in the second inning.
Afenir smoked a RBI-double to left field to break open the scoring, 1-0. Martin followed suit with his own RBI-double down the left-field line before sophomore first baseman Owen Taylor got in on the action with a RBI-single to left.
That momentum carried over and found junior catcher Michael Tinsley in the third inning when he hit his first home run of the season – a two-run shot – over the wall in right field to build a five-run lead on the Shockers, 5-0.
“It feels great to get one under my belt,” Tinsley said. “I’ve squared up some good balls this season under some unlucky circumstances. It feels good to square one up and be rewarded with a home run.”
That home run was the first for Tinsley since April 19, 2015, when he hit one against Texas – he began the year as KU’s top returning career home run hitter with three jacks to his name. He finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
In addition, the two home runs by the Jayhawks marked the second time this season Kansas hit two bombs in a game as sophomore shortstop Matt McLaughlin and freshman Rudy Karre each hit one March 5 against BYU – Kansas now has 10 home runs on the year.
But like Price said, it was an unusual game. The offensive showing allowed Kansas to do something it is not accustomed to this season – coast to the end. The Jayhawks used six different pitchers to solidify the win. Sophomore lefty Blake Weiman started and pitched two innings, giving up just three hits. Freshman righty Jackson Goddard (3-3) come on in the third and tossed two frames, allowing one run off three hits.
Kansas then called to the bullpen and brought on relievers in seniors Hayden Edwards and Sam Gilbert, and freshman Blake Goldsberry each for an inning before turning the ball over to its closer, Stephen Villines, with a 8-3 lead.
Villines shutdown the Shockers (13-24) in the seventh and eighth innings on 20 pitches, allowing one base hit while striking out three of the seven batters he faced to preserve the team’s seventh-straight victory over the Shockers, 9-3.
“It is a pretty remarkable run,” Price said. “When I first got here, they were a national power. It speaks volumes about how far we’ve come as a program. It is a rivalry series that are players look forward to out of respect to their program.”
Kansas is back in action Friday, April 22, as the Jayhawks hit the road for a three-game non-conference matchup at Samford. All three games can be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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