KU Comeback Falls Short to BYU Long Balls, 11-10
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Senior third baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk’s career day at the plate was not enough, as the Kansas baseball team fell in dramatic fashion to BYU, 11-10, Thursday evening at Hoglund Ballpark.
Pidhaichuk paced Kansas (3-5) with a 3-for-4 effort at the dish with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. His efforts helped the Jayhawks take an early 4-0 lead in the third inning, but the Cougars (8-1) answered back the next six frames to score 11 – thanks in part to five home runs and nine extra-base hits. BYU freshman right fielder Kyle Dean led the way with a 4-for-5 performance with three home runs, five RBIs and three runs scored.
“Dean was one of the most high profiled recruits on the West Coast coming out of high school,” head coach Ritch Price said. “He had a huge night and that is the difference in the game. Obviously if you give up five home runs in a game, you are going to get beat.”
The Cougars kept KU off the board the majority of the game until the bottom of the ninth inning, when the Jayhawks strung together one final rally. Down six runs, 11-5, Kansas sent 10 batters to the plate to try and do the unthinkable – win the in its final at bats.
The inning set up nicely after junior catcher Michael Tinsley led off with a double in the left-center gap. Freshman left fielder Devin Foyle and junior designated hitter Marcus Wheeler drew back-to-back walks to load the bases with no outs. Sophomore first baseman Owen Taylor struck out and left it in the hands of Pidhaichuk to get the rally going.
Pidhaichuk drove a two-run single up the middle to cut into BYU’s lead, 11-7, and put runners at first and second with one out.
“We had great at bats tonight and that gives you a shot to be successful,” Pidhaichuk said. “I was seeing the ball well and just trying to have good at bats. Luckily I found some holes and the ball dropped.”
A pinch-hit situation followed and senior Joe Moroney smoked one down the right-field line for the RBI-double and pull Kansas within three, 11-8.
Then with runners at second and third, Cougars’ pitcher Mason Marshall failed the pickoff attempt to third base and the errant throw allowed Pidhaichuk and Moroney to score and make it a one-run ballgame, 11-10.
Freshman right fielder Rudy Karre followed and took a pitch off the elbow and junior centerfielder Joven Afenir singled up the middle to keep the rally going with runners at the corners.
However, sophomore shortstop Matt McLaughlin hit into the fielder’s choice at third and Karre was thrown out at dish. It was then left to Tinsley with two outs and runners at first and second, down a run. The lefty bat squared one up on the button, but right at Cougar left fielder Eric Urry, halting the comeback, 11-10.
“That was one of the most unique college baseball games you’re going to watch,” Price said. “When you look at the scoreboard – we score four and they answer with a three spot and then put up multiple runs over five innings.”
Even after getting buried early, Kansas never quit, even faced with its final out.
“That is an expectation we have here,” Price said. “When you play at Kansas, we expect you to play all nine innings regardless of what the score is. Our guys battled back and that could have been an unbelievable comeback win.”
The Jayhawks tallied a season-high 14 hits with four different players boasting multi-hit games. Pidhaichuk and Afenir each finished with three base knocks, while Tinsley and McLaughlin each had two. Afenir, Tinsley and Pidhaichuk each added a pair of runs to go along with their totals.
“Even our outs were hit hard,” Price said. “We had the bases loaded and McLaughlin hits a liner to center that could have been a two-run single in the eighth. Wheeler lines a ball in right center with two guys on in the seventh and it’s caught. In the last two innings, we hit the ball hard. That gives us something positive heading into tomorrow’s game.”
Redshirt-sophomore Jon Hander started on the bump and lasted three and 1/3 innings, giving up three runs off five hits. Price then called to the freshman, Zack Leban (1-1), who gave up five runs off eight hits in two and 2/3 innings.
BYU sent six different pitchers to the mound to keep the Kansas bats at bay. Michael Rucker started and gave up five runs in three and 1/3 innings before the Cougars turned to reliever Bo Burrup (2-1) for three and 1/3 scoreless frames. Keaton Cenatiempo tossed the final two outs to pick up his first save of the season.
Kansas and BYU meet again Friday, March 4, for game two of the three-game set. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. and can be seen live on ESPN3. Fans can also tune into the Jayhawk Radio network for a live audio broadcast of the contest via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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