Kansas bullpen falters late in loss to Samford

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – After junior lefty Jeider Rincon battled through four innings, the Kansas bullpen gave up five runs and the lead, as the Jayhawks fell to Samford, 8-6, Saturday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
Taylor Turski was originally slated to start for KU (10-12), but a late scratch forced the Jayhawks to alter its pitching plan against the Bulldogs (14-9) and Rincon took the bump in an emergency start. The southpaw gave up an early three-spot in the first inning, but battled back and gave Kansas a chance, exiting the game with a lead.
“That was a really disappointing outcome,” head coach Ritch Price said. “You have a chance to get back to .500. We gave up the three-spot in the first inning, but then we recovered. At that point, you like your chances, but then obviously, the game blew up on us late.”
Samford jumped out to an early lead in the first inning after the Bulldogs used the small-ball approach against Kansas’ spot-starter Rincon. The first two Samford hitters reached base by way of bunt singles to give Bulldog first baseman Austin Edens something to swing for. Edens drove one over the wall in left field and Samford took the early lead, 3-0.
The Jayhawks answered in the home half with a two-run frame of their own thanks to a Samford error. Sophomore centerfielder Rudy Karre singled with two outs through the left side and sophomore third baseman David Kyriacou drew the four-pitch walk. Freshman catcher Jaxx Groshans then popped one to shallow right field where Bulldog second baseman Troy Dixon dropped the ball and both runners scored to cut the lead to one, 3-2.
Both squads played even until Kansas took the lead in the bottom half of the fourth. Sophomore left fielder Devin Foyle led off the frame with a double down the left field line and freshman right fielder Brett Vosik followed with a single up the middle. Two-straight singles by junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin and freshman designated hitter Kaimana Souza-Paaluhi followed and the Jayhawks found themselves on top, 5-3.
Rincon pitched his way through the fourth inning and allowed three runs off five hits and struck out five batters. He handed the ball to freshman reliever Gabriel Sotomayor for the fifth, where the rookie allowed just one baserunner on a walk. Price then called back to the bullpen for the sixth and it took three different hurlers to record three outs in the inning.
Junior righty Tyler Davis started the frame and couldn’t record an out. He gave up back-to-back doubles, and back-to-back singles before junior lefty Chases Kaplan’s number was called. Kaplan got the first two hitters he faced out, but an error by McLaughlin at short extended the inning and forced Price to make the call to sophomore Zack Leban for the final out in the inning – the Bulldogs scored four runs and regained the lead, 7-5.
Leban held the fort down for a season-high two and 1/3 innings, and was credited with one unearned run. He struck out three batters in the process and was able to give Kansas a chance late in the game in the eighth inning to retake the lead.
“It was good to see Leban go multiple innings for us and pitch as well as he did,” Price said. “We knew we were going to have to use our bullpen today when Turski was a scratch – that was devastating to our pitching plan.”
Freshman second baseman James Cosentino and junior first baseman Owen Taylor led off the eighth with back-to-back singles to bring up the Jayhawks’ best hitter in McLaughlin. However, Samford went to its closer and forced McLaughlin to ground into the double play and end any chance of an eighth-inning rally, 7-5.
Each team tacked on a run in the ninth, but it was not enough for Kansas as it dropped game two of the three-game series, 8-6.
Souza-Paaluhi finished the day with a career-high three base knocks and joined Foyle as the only two Jayhawks with multi-hit efforts. In addition, Foyle and Kyriacou were the only to KU players with extra-base hits on the day – both doubles.
The rubber match between the Jayhawks and the Bulldogs is set for Sunday, March 26 at 12 p.m. Fans can watch the game live on ESPN3 or tune into a live audio broadcast on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official “Kansas Jayhawks” app.
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