Jayhawks Drop Series Finale to BYU, 7-6

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – A combined five lead changes, 10 different pitchers and four home runs highlighted Saturday’s series finale at Hoglund Ballpark where the Kansas baseball team fell short, 7-6, to BYU in the ninth inning.
The Jayhawks (3-7) held a one-run advantage, 6-5, heading into the final frame with their closer Stephen Villines still toeing the rubber after entering the game in the sixth. The sophomore gave up a lead-off double to BYU (10-1) designated hitter Colton Shaver and left one belt high to first baseman Nate Favero, who hit it off the scoreboard in right field to give the Cougars their third and final lead of the day, 7-6.
“That was the difference in this series,” head coach Ritch Price said. “They hit the five home runs on Thursday night and we lose 11-10. Then today, they clutched up with the two huge home runs – the three-run homer and the two-run homer.”
Both home runs by the Cougars came at opportune times to stymie the Jayhawks’ momentum. Kansas took an early 3-0 lead in the third inning after it took advantage of a BYU error and two bases-loaded walks. However, in the fifth, Shaver answered with a three-run shot over the hitters’ eye in center field following a RBI-groundout to put the Cougars on top, 4-3.
KU answered back to tie it in the bottom of the fifth when sophomore shortstop Matt McLaughlin led off the inning with the Jayhawks’ first home run of the season and second dinger of his career, 4-4.
“I thought our energy was really good the last three days,” McLaughlin said. “Anytime you play a team like that, you have to have energy and you have to bring it every day.”
After BYU took the lead again in the sixth with a RBI double by left fielder Eric Urry, KU right fielder Rudy Karre brought it at the plate. The freshman belted a two-run home run deep over the wall in left center to put the Jayhawks back on top, 6-5.
“I thought we bounced back once we got behind,” Price said. “We took the lead and then they took the lead. To their credit, they swung the bats just about as good as they could have this weekend.”
With things looking up for Kansas heading into the ninth inning, Villines (2-1) gave up the lead-off double and two-run home run to relinquish the lead back to BYU.
However, KU strung together a late rally in its final at bats when junior centerfielder Joven Afenir reached base on a fielding error to lead things off. Tinsley smoked a one-out single through the right side and Afenir moved to third, and it forced BYU to bring in its closer Mason Marshall (2).
Marshall painted two breaking balls on the outside corner to senior second baseman Colby Wright, only to get him to chase the third one in the dirt for the strikeout. That brought junior designated hitter Marcus Wheeler to the plate with two outs. Again, Marshall painted the corner with two breaking balls, but this time, Wheeler didn’t chase the waste pitch in the dirt. Instead, Wheeler grounded out on a 1-2 fastball and left the tying run stranded at third base to end the game.
“The first two breaking balls he (Marshall) threw with runners at first and third and one out to Wright – he painted that outside corner,” Price said. “He threw four quality breaking balls with the game on the line.”
Kansas mustered just six hits on the day with McLaughlin tallying the only multi-hit performance. Freshman righty Jackson Goddard started on the bump and lasted four innings. He allowed four hits, three walks and struck out two batters without surrendering a run.
Right-handers sophomore Tyler Davis, freshman Zack Leban and senior Sam Gilbert combined to throw the next one and 2/3 innings, giving up five runs off seven hits and two walks. Villines pitched the final three and 1/3 innings and was hung with the loss.
Kansas continues its homestand Tuesday, March 8, in midweek action against Creighton. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3. Fans can also tune into the Jayhawk Radio Network for a live audio broadcast via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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