Jayhawks Downed in Opener by No. 8 Texas Tech, 10-3
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Six late Texas Tech runs broke open a close game, as the Kansas baseball team dropped the series opener to the No. 8 Red Raiders, 10-3, Friday night at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (19-27-1, 5-10 Big 12) seized momentum in the sixth inning after three-straight singles brought junior centerfielder Joven Afenir to the plate with runners at first and second and nobody out. With the Red Raiders’ (35-13, 15-4 Big 12) lead cut to one, 3-2, Kansas had a prime opportunity to steal one from the top-rated team in the league.
Third base coach Ritchie Price called for Afenir to bunt before giving him a green light with a 1-1 count. Afenir squared one up and drilled it right back up the middle where TTU reliever Hayden Howard snagged the line drive and threw it to second base for the double play, and just like that, any momentum Kansas gathered dissipated.
“It was a great at bat,” head coach Ritch Price said. “That pretty much sums up our season right there. (Ritchie) gives the green light and (Afenir) hits the ball as hard as he hit a ball all season. I don’t know how (Howard) caught it. It took a run off the board and we could have had runners at first and third with a chance to put up multiple runs.”
Multiple runs would have allowed the Jayhawks to use its bullpen in a different manner after starter Ben Krauth (4-5) exited the game after just five and 2/3 innings. The southpaw worked in and out of trouble all day and got hung with the loss after giving up three runs in the middle innings.
Instead of having the option to go straight to closer Stephen Villines – which is almost the norm when Krauth pitches – Price had to try and bridge the gap with multiple relievers. Senior righty Sam Gilbert closed out the sixth inning and kept it a game in the seventh after recording two outs and giving up one run to keep the Jayhawks within two, 4-2.
However, senior Hayden Edwards, junior Jermey Kravetz and sophomore Casey Douglas combined to throw the final two and 1/3 innings giving up six runs to put the hopes of a comeback out of reach.
Multiple times throughout the game Kansas had chances to take control. Senior first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk led off the third inning with a double and failed to score. KU advanced runners to second and third with one out in the fourth and stranded both. Then in the seventh inning, pinch hitter Marcus Wheeler led off with his fourth double of the season, but KU couldn’t connect.
“I thought we had been swinging the bats well,” Price said. “We had multiple opportunities to take the lead and weren’t able to clutch up in those situations. We cut the lead to one run in the sixth and had an opportunity – they made some really great plays defensively.”
Along with the crucial double play in the sixth, the Texas Tech middle infielders smothered everything up the middle, saving multiple runs on the day.
Junior catcher Michael Tinsley and freshman left fielder Devin Foyle each posted 2-for-4 performances with Foyle scoring two runs. Senior second baseman Colby Wright drove in two runs with his lone hit of the game, while four other Jayhawks tallied a base knock. Tinsley has now recorded multiple hits in five of his last six games while Wright’s single extends his hitting streak to a season-long 14 games.
Kansas and No. 8 Texas Tech return to Hoglund Ballpark, Saturday for a 2 p.m. first pitch. Prior to the start of the game, the Jayhawks will recognize their senior class for its contributions over the last four years. Fans can watch the contest on the Jayhawk Television Network and on ESPN3. Visit KUAthletics.com/JTV for more information on affiliates.
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