Late-inning Kansas heroics downs Missouri State
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A clutch RBI-pinch-hit single by sophomore Ty Denzer and a solid six innings from the bullpen lifted the Kansas baseball team to its first victory at Hammons Field since 2010 Tuesday evening, 4-2.
Trailing 2-1 in the top of the eighth inning, head coach Ritch Price called to Denzer with runners at first and second and two outs and the sophomore delivered with a single to center field. Junior catcher Tanner Gragg scored all the way from second and Kansas (13-15) stole the momentum from Missouri State (18-10).
“It was a complete team effort today,” Price said. “We knew we were going to need everyone, and everyone was ready. It was a great team win!”
Denzer’s single moved freshman Brett Vosik to third, representing the go-ahead run. The Bears made a pitching change to face sophomore centerfielder Rudy Karre. The first pitch from Jake Fromson (3-3) sailed to the backstop and a hustling Vosik slid headfirst under the tag at the plate and Kansas took the lead, 3-2.
An insurance run in the top of the ninth was all the Jayhawks needed after six strong innings from its bullpen capped off by the third-straight save in as many games by senior closer Stephen Villines (7). Five different pitchers, including Villines, combined to throw those six innings after a planned abbreviated start from freshman Ryan Zeferjahn.
“We knew coming into today we needed to keep Zeferjahn on a pitch count since he is slated to start Sunday with redshirt-junior Sean Rackoski out this weekend,” Price said. “After his three innings of work, it was a complete team effort. Guys came out of the bullpen and did exactly what we asked of them and I couldn’t be more pleased with how that group has pitched the last two games.”
Zeferjahn started the game and threw three innings on the bump, allowing just one hit in the 55-pitch effort. The pitcher by committee effort the final six innings allowed just one Missouri State run to score in the bottom of the seventh. After that, sophomore Zack Leban (2-1) threw one and 1/3 scoreless innings before Villines closed out the last one and 1/3 innings for the save.
Junior Jeider Rincon, sophomore Blake Goldsberry and junior Chase Kaplan piggy-backed off one another to get Leban the ball and seal up the Kansas victory – that marked the first at Missouri State since 2010.
“It’s funny, my son Robby [Price] called me today and said the last time we won [at Hammons Field] he hit a home run opposite field into the bullpen,” Price said. “I tried to figure out how long that was – it has been a long time since we won here. It feels really good to get one today.”
Junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin led all hitters with a 4-for-5 effort at the plate and was a triple shy of the cycle. He hit his second home run of the season in the third inning in between two singles. Then in the ninth, he roped a double down the left-field line. Sophomores third baseman David Kyriacou and left fielder Devin Foyle, Denzer and Gragg each added a base knock to round out the eight KU hits on the night.
Kansas continues it road swing by resuming conference play at West Virginia on Friday, April 7 at Monongalia County Ballpark. First pitch is slated for 5:30 p.m.
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