Timely Kansas Hitting Bests Oklahoma, 7-2
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas baseball leaned on its veteran leadership at the plate and on the mound to secure a 7-2 victory over Oklahoma in the first matchup of a doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
The senior-duo of right fielder Joe Moroney and first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk, along with junior center fielder Joven Afenir provided six of KU’s (18-23-1, 4-8 Big 12) seven runs against the Sooners (20-21-6, 6-10 Big 12). Moroney put Kansas on the board in the first inning, courtesy of a leadoff homerun which tied Sooners’ one-run advantage. The blast also put Moroney in sole possession of the team’s homerun tally with three.
“I’m really proud of him,” head coach Ritch Price said. “He’s a fifth-year senior who asked me to redshirt him his junior year. He saw the depth chart and he knew he had a chance to be a starter if he sat out a year. He’s taken advantage of it. He’s grinded, he has moved from down in the lineup to the one-hole and he’s really thrived. He’s one of the best teammates we’ve ever had at the University of Kansas. He works hard, he’s a great student and he’s going to be really successful in life. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
The upperclassmen heroics continued in the third inning, putting Kansas into the driver’s seat for good. Tied, 1-1, in the bottom of the third-inning, Pidhaichuk provided a 3-1 lead courtesy of two RBIs on a double to left center field.
“I was really proud of Pidhaichuk,” Price said. “He lined that ball up the gap for a two-run double and he plays the best defense on our team at first base.”
As has become commonplace in 2016, Kansas ace Ben Krauth (4-4) outdueled Oklahoma’s starter Chris Andritsos (4-4), holding the Sooners to just two runs through six innings of work with seven strikeouts. Krauth cruised through the first five innings with ease before loading the bases in the sixth. The southpaw dug deep on a 3-2 pitch and delivered a perfect strike to get out of the jam and preserve KU’s 4-2 lead.
“As efficient as Ben was, I was hoping he could finish the whole game, but all of a sudden he just lost it,” Price said. “Despite that, the 3-2 count, two-out, bases-loaded, punch-out on the changeup was absolutely huge in the sixth inning.”
Not to be lost in the action, Afenir provided three timely runs to effectively put the contest out of reach in the bottom of the seventh. Leading just 4-2, the junior ripped a double into straight-away centerfield, adding two more runs and providing ample room for the Kansas bullpen to close down the game.
“The bases loaded, two-run double by Afenir gave us some breathing room and made it really tough for them to come from behind,” Price said. “He’s a quality player who has been struggling the last month or so. We need production out of him if we’re going to be a really good offensive team.”
Thanks to Afenir’s two RBIs, Price called into the bullpen for junior closer Stephen Villines to ice the Sooners over a two-inning span. The call to the pen worked as Villines surrendered just one hit after facing eight Sooners, closing down the Kansas victory in game-one, 7-2.
Game two of the doubleheader followed promptly 45 minutes after the conclusion of the final out. The two teams will play the series finale on Sunday with a first pitch set for 1 p.m. That game can be seen on ESPN3 while an audio broadcast can be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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