Kansas bullpen hangs tough in victory over Mavericks
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Backed by three and 1/3 scoreless innings by its relievers down the home stretch, the Kansas baseball team hung on to defeat Omaha, 6-5, Wednesday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (5-7) relied on its veteran arms in the bullpen to squander a late Maverick (1-12) comeback in the sixth inning and set the table for a strong finish heading into the weekend.
Junior lefty Blake Weiman steadied the ship after Omaha rung up a two-spot with two outs to pull within one run of Kansas in the sixth. Weiman entered with a runner at first and did his job to get out of the frame. He continued to throw the next one and 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits in the process before turning the ball over to ace closer Stephen Villines (2) for the save – he retired all four batters he faced.
“The backend of our bullpen is the strength of our staff right now,” head coach Ritch Price said. “They have been with us the longest and have the most innings under their belt. We just need to find the right combination to bridge the gap to them.”
That bridge fell to junior righty Tyler Davis who came on in the sixth inning with a three-run lead. Davis fell behind in the count to almost every batter he faced and lasted just 2/3 inning and forced Price’s hand to bring in his experienced arms.
Before Davis entered the game, freshman Ryan Zeferjahn (2-1) took the hill and pitched a career-high five innings in just his third start. In the process, the rookie gave up three runs off four hits and a walk in the 73-pitch effort, including Omaha’s lone extra-base hit – a home run in the third inning.
“One of the things about a midweek game is you are starting a freshman on the mound and playing a lot of young guys behind him,” Price said. “That is the first time Zeferjahn pitched five innings since he stepped foot on our campus. He had a tough third, but was able to find himself to give us five quality innings.”
KU scrapped it together on the mound and comparatively, did so at the plate. Six different players accounted for the squad’s six hits while each of the Jayhawks’ six runs were driven in by separate hitters. Sophomore outfielder Devin Foyle and freshmen James Cosentino and Brett Vosik tallied the three extra-base hits for Kansas – all doubles – while freshman catcher Jaxx Groshans, sophomore centerfielder Rudy Karre and junior first baseman Owen Taylor added singles.
No player in the lineup tallied a multi-hit or multi-RBI effort. In fact, only three Jayhawks reached base more than one time. Foyle and Taylor reached twice adding a walk to their base hits, while Karre reached three times, drawing a walk and wearing a hit by a pitch.
Eight different Mavericks toed the rubber against the Jayhawks with Brett Sasse (0-1) picking up the loss. After the fourth inning, the remaining four pitchers kept Kansas at bay, combining to allow just one hit and one walk, facing three batters over the minimum (15).
“The fact that Omaha changed pitchers every inning kept us off balance pretty good,” Price said. “That being said, we had a lot of bad at bats. I felt like our players were just trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark. That is not how we play. We got too comfortable with the six runs and let Omaha back in the game.”
Kansas closes out its eight-game homestand with a three-game series against Houston Baptist March 10-12 at Hoglund Ballpark. Fans can watch the action live on ESPN3 or tune into an audio broadcast on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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