Kansas Offense Completes Doubleheader Sweep of OU, 9-8
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Senior third baseman Tommy Mirabelli connected for the game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Kansas baseball team topped Oklahoma, 9-8, in the night cap of a Saturday doubleheader at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (19-23-1, 5-8 Big 12) loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth after Oklahoma (20-22-1, 6-11 Big 12) sent its junior stud Sheldon Neuse – who hit two home runs the game – to the mound to try and send the game to extra innings.
Kansas had different plans and found a way to score without registering a base hit. Senior second baseman Colby Wright led off the inning against OU reliever JB Olson (1-1) and reached base after being hit in the elbow. Junior centerfielder Joven Afenir followed with his second walk of the game and forced Sooner head coach Pete Hughes to call in his All-American Neuse.
Senior first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt and forced Neuse to try and make the out at third in which he was unsuccessful. That sent freshman Ty Denzer to the plate with no outs and bases juiced. The rookie switch hitter was forced to take a seat on a questionable strike three call and it was up to Mirabelli.
The corner infielder worked a 1-1 count and then connected with a fastball to mid left field. Wright, tagging all the way, beat throw home and the Jayhawks walked-it-off to sweep the doubleheader and win its first series against the Sooners since 2009, 9-8.
“I knew I was tagging the whole time and my first priority was to make sure I didn’t leave early,” Wright said. “Then it was all about running 100-percent effort as soon as I saw the ball go into the left fielder’s glove.”
Kansas scrapped out a run without a base hit in the ninth to win the game, but that wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the relief pitching the Jayhawks observed after starter Blake Weiman exited the game after two innings. Redshirt-sophomore Tyler Davis came on in the third and gave up just one run in four innings until the seventh.
Davis gave up a 0-2 base hit and then walked the next batter to bring up Sooner catcher Domenic DeRenzo. The rookie backstop took Davis deep for the three-run home run to tie the game, 7-7. Davis may have given up the three-run jack late, but the three scoreless innings he pitched kept the game at bay.
“It ends up being a great win with our club, especially with the backend of our bullpen,” head coach Ritch Price said. “Davis did a nice job. He went out there and picked up Weiman after a bad start. He goes four innings with just giving up a run, but unfortunately, gave up that late three-run home run that kind of masked his performance on the day. He kept us in the game. If he hadn’t given up the home run, he would have been the player of the game.”
Davis gave up four runs in four innings before turning it over to sophomore Casey Douglas to get out of the seventh. Douglas got out of the inning, but saw his night cut short after giving up a solo shot in the eighth that forced Price to bring in the lefty specialist in junior Jeremy Kravetz (1-0).
“We are obviously really shorthanded and I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” Price said. “And our bullpen was really short this game. I tip my cap to Kravetz. He came in and put up a huge zero for us in the ninth – great team win.”
That team win came after Kansas exploded for seven runs in the first three innings. Wright drilled a three-run homer to left in the first to ignite the offense. Junior catcher Michael Tinsley and sophomore shortstop Matt McLaughlin followed with RBI-singles in the second and then sophomore Owen Taylor hit a sacrifice fly in the third to help the Jayhawks build a 7-3 lead.
Oklahoma called to righty Alec Hansen to minimize the damage and he did just that. Hansen tossed five and 1/3 innings and struck out eight batters while giving up three runs after entering the game in the second inning. He was able to hand the ball to Olson for one and 2/3 innings before he hit Wright and walked Afenir to lead off the ninth.
“Hansen came out of that bullpen and put the four zeroes up,” Price said. “He gave them a chance to get back in the ballgame and he was dominant. He kept us off balance and made it hard for us to hit.”
The Sooners worked back to tie the game in the seventh and then again in the eighth, but Mirabelli ended it in the ninth with his sacrifice fly, 9-8.
The Jayhawks finished the game with 11 hits including three extra-base hits. McLaughlin (2-for-4) Tinsley (3-for-5), Afenir (2-for-3) and Mirabelli (2-for-3) each posted multi-hit days with Wright (3) and Tinsley (2) leading the way in RBIs.
Kansas goes for the three-game sweep in the series finale on Sunday with a first pitch set for 1 p.m. The 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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