Kansas bullpen staves off Bears in Friday night win
WACO, Texas – Five shutout innings by the Kansas bullpen paced the Jayhawks to a Friday night victory against Baylor, 6-5, at Baylor Ballpark.
The Big 12 showdown showcased a wild start where both Kansas (14-8, 1-3 Big 12) and Baylor (11-8, 2-2 Big 12) each scored four runs with two outs in the first inning. After that first frame, the contest played out like a true Friday night game with a total of three runs scored across the final eight innings.
“I want to praise the resiliency of our guys tonight,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We put up a four-spot in the first inning and then Baylor goes in to hit and gets a grand slam to tie it. We were hit in the mouth, but our guys continued to compete and grind, and when it is all over, it is a Friday night win in the Big 12, and those are really special.”
That special win came off of Baylor hurler Cody Bradford (3-2), who entered the evening’s contest with a 1.89 ERA and riding an eight and 2/3 shutout inning performance against then-No. 8 Texas Tech a week ago. The Jayhawks pounded all 13 of their hits off of Bradford, who gave up all six of KU’s runs.
“I was pleased with our offensive approach tonight,” Price said. “We had a tall task ahead of us after how Bradford dominated Texas Tech a week ago. It ends up being a great Friday night win for us.”
Kansas used the right arm of senior Tyler Davis to piece together the first four innings with regular Friday night starter Jackson Goddard unavailable. Davis gave up the two-out grand slam in the first inning and then a single run in the fourth.
After Davis got out of the fourth, Price opted to go to his bullpen, that shut the door for the next five innings. Sophomore Gabriel Sotomayor (1-0) picked up his first win after facing the minimum of six batters through two innings of relief.
Then it was up to the one-two punch in redshirt-sophomore Ryan Cyr and junior closer Zack Leban. Cyr gave Kansas one and 2/3 innings but exited in the eight with runners at first and second. Leban came on in that frame and threw one pitch, and got KU out of trouble, and then shut the door in the ninth for his 10th save of the season.
“Sotomayor was dominate going six up and six down,” Price said. “Cyr gave us a great outing and Leban was outstanding. I can’t tell you how proud of the pitching staff I am. They gave us an absolute great showing today, and that is all I can ask for.”
The five scoreless frames by the bullpen came to fruition with help of flawless defense. The Jayhawks have had their trouble with an all dirt infield, averaging 4.25 errors heading into tonight’s game. That didn’t faze the infielders as they made every play that was hit to them, recording 11 assists in the process.
“We were absolutely awful defensively on dirt Tuesday and Wednesday,” Price said. “Our infielders worked hard the last couple days to prepare themselves and they were tough enough to flush that performance at Grand Canyon. Tonight, you look at that scoreboard, we had six runs, 13 hits and no errors. The reason we won that ballgame is because we didn’t make an error.”
The Jayhawks and Bears continue the weekend Big 12 matchup on Saturday, March 24 with a 2 p.m. first pitch.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Six up, six down: Sophomore reliever Gabriel Sotomayor bridged the gap to the backend of the Kansas bullpen facing the minimum in two innings of work. The righty retired all six batters he faced in his 26-pitch effort, recording one strikeout. That allowed head coach Ritch Price to save his dynamic duo in redshirt-sophomore Ryan Cyr and junior Zack Leban for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Back pick: Perhaps the biggest play of the game, sophomore catcher Jaxx Groshans picked off a baserunner in the top of the ninth inning with Kansas clinging to a one-run lead. BU left fielder Nick Loftin led off the ninth with a base hit, but got picked off first with one out, after Groshans scooped an errant fastball in the dirt to his right side. That gave junior closer Zack Leban a clean slate with two outs to do his thing.
Errorless on grass: After a tough showing on a dirt infield at Grand Canyon earlier in the week (March 20-21), the Jayhawk infield scooped and fielded every ground ball that was hit, playing flawless. Even the tough plays and hard shots were no match for their gloves, especially freshman third baseman Skyler Messinger who racked up five assists.
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