Jayhawks Drop Series Finale at Stanford, 6-2
STANFORD, Calif. – Untimely hitting plagued the Jayhawks as the Kansas baseball team dropped the third and final game at Stanford, 6-2, Sunday afternoon at Klein Field in Sunken Diamond.
The Jayhawks (7-11) stranded five runners on base through the first two innings including bases loaded in the second amounting to nine total on the day. Kansas had no issue hitting Stanford (10-5) pitching, but couldn’t manage the clutch hit with runners on base.
“I thought our bats were much better today than they were on Friday and Saturday,” head coach Ritch Price said. “You have to tip your hat to their defense though. They made some great plays. We just couldn’t find that clutch hit to drive in runs.”
Kansas jumped on the board early in the first inning after junior centerfielder Joven Afenir took a one-out walk to start the rally. Sophomore shortstop Matt McLaughlin and junior catcher Michael Tinsley connected for back-to-back singles, driving in the first run of the game in favor of KU, 1-0.
The Jayhawks had another prime opportunity in the second frame to add to their lead. Sophomore designated hitter TJ Martin drilled a one-out double to left center and freshman third baseman Rudy Karre drew to two-out walk. Afenir followed suit with an infield single up the middle to load the bases for McLaughlin.
One of the toughest players in college baseball to strikeout, McLaughlin dug in and worked the count full on six pitches. Cardinal reliever Andrew Summerville (2-1) threw a 3-2 breaking ball that look low and inside, but the home plate umpire didn’t agree and rung McLaughlin up looking to end the threat of a big Jayhawk inning.
“That was a crucial part in the game,” Price said. “That ball was out of the zone but you can’t argue the call. If McLaughlin walks that is another run and you have Tinsley at the plate who has been hitting the ball well lately. It could have been a whole different ballgame.”
Perhaps the more devastating inning came in the third when Tinsley and senior second baseman Colby Wright led off the innings with back-to-back singles and moved to second and third following a beauty of a sacrifice bunt by freshman left fielder Devin Foyle.
However, the almost guarantee to score a run was cut short when junior first baseman Marcus Wheeler drove one to right field and Tinsley attempted to tag up and score on the sacrifice fly. Cardinal outfielder Quinn Brodey had other plans and rifled the ball home to catcher Alex Dunlap who dropped the tag on Tinsley for the double play.
“That right fielder made a really good throw and the catcher made a great play to finish it,” Price said. “We were very close to making it a close ballgame.”
Sophomore lefty Blake Weiman (1-1) did all he could to keep the Cardinal bats at bay. The southpaw cruised through the first two innings giving up just one hit. However, Stanford found its groove in the bottom half of the third and took the lead, 3-1.
Weiman hit the first batter he faced and followed that up with a four-pitch walk. Stanford executed the perfect sacrifice bunt and that put runners at second and third with one down. Cardinal second baseman Nico Hoerner took matters into his own hands and drove a two-run single to center field to take the lead. Designated hitter Brandon Wulff followed with a single of his own and the Jayhawks found themselves behind, 3-1.
In the sixth Wulff hit Weiman up for a home run to left before Cardinal left fielder Duke Kinamon led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo shot of his own deepening the hole for Kansas, 5-2. That second home run ended Weiman’s day after six and 1/3 innings. Senior righty Sam Gilbert came on and tossed just 1/3 inning before closer Stephen Villines shut the door for the final one and 1/3 innings.
“We got a bad start yesterday, but Weiman bounced back today and took us into the seventh inning,” Price said. “It was good to see him take that growth. We still have some bullpen issues that need to get resolved and some of our guys have to grow up. It’s that time.”
McLaughlin (2-for-4) and Tinsley (2-for-4) led the way for Kansas with multi-hit efforts each driving in a run. Karre and Afenir each scored a run, while three other Jayhawks tallied a hit. McLaughlin and Martin were the only KU players to hit for extra bases as they each hit a double.
The Jayhawks return to the field Wednesday, March 23 as they head north to Omaha, Nebraska, for a midweek game at Creighton. First pitch from TD Ameritrade Park is slated for 6:30 p.m. Fan can tune into the action on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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