Kansas picks up Opening Day victory against the Racers
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Redshirt-sophomore captain Brendt Citta blasted his first home run as a Jayhawk, as the Kansas baseball team defeated Murray State, 5-3, Friday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
It had been 633 days since the transfer right fielder last stepped in the batter’s box on a collegiate diamond, and that time away made his return to the field that much more enjoyable.
“I was excited to be back on the field,” Citta said. “To be honest, that whole first inning was a dream. To get back on the diamond, that was a surreal moment. Murray State’s pitcher (Trevor McMurray) left a fastball high in the zone and I saw it well. I put a good swing on it and the ball kept going.”
That two-run bomb paced the Jayhawks (1-0) to a three-run first inning and the 10th Opening Day victory for head coach Ritch Price to start his 16th-year as the team’s skipper. Couple that with a strong outing by junior righty Jackson Goddard, and Kansas had its recipe for success in the team’s 126th season opener.
“It is really tough when you are a baseball player to sit out a year like (Citta) did,” Price said. “I know he was excited to get back out there today. His work ethic, his commitment to the game and the way he has invested in our program since he has joined us has been absolutely special. It is not often you see a transfer get named team captain, and he has earned it. He brings the right intensity to the dugout that we need. It was a special moment for all of us.”
That special moment gave Goddard (1-0) the confidence he needed in his offense to go out there and control the game for five innings. The ace threw 97 pitches and recorded seven strikeouts while allowing two earned runs.
He turned the ball over to redshirt-sophomore Ryan Cyr for two and 1/3 innings before junior Zack Leban (1) came on for the five-out save.
“I was pleased with how we pitched today, given the conditions,” Price said. “We got what we needed out of the three arms we threw, and it was a good step in the right direction for our club.”
Offensively, three Jayhawks boasted multi-hit affairs. Citta finished the day 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. Junior left fielder Devin Foyle batted 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored while sophomore shortstop Benjamin Sems recorded two base knocks.
The two teams are back on the diamond Saturday morning, Feb. 17, for an early 11:30 a.m. first pitch. Fans unable to attend can watch the game on ESPN3, available at WatchESPN.com or streaming live on multiple devices via the ESPN app. In addition to a video broadcast, the contest can also be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Six hundred and 33 days: Redshirt-sophomore right fielder Brendt Citta’s last collegiate at bat came on May 25, 2016. In his first plate appearance after transferring to Kansas, 633 days later, Citta made his presence known. In the bottom of the first inning, Citta roped the Jayhawks’ first home run of the season with a two-run blast over the wall in left center. That four-bagger sparked a three-run first inning for Kansas.
Big-time K: Junior righty Jackson Goddard found himself in trouble in the top of the fourth inning when the Racers scored their first run of the game and loaded the bases. Goddard settled down and managed to strand all three runners on base thanks to a three-strikeout frame – the final coming on a three-two pitch for the backwards K.
One-for-One: Junior righty Zack Leban, in his first outing of 2018, picked up just the second save of his career when he closed out the final one and 2/3 innings against the Racers. Leban entered in the top of the eighth inning in a one-run ballgame. He fanned two of the six batters he faced in the 14-pitch showing to seal up the Jayhawks’ victory.
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