Late No. 19 Sooner rally stuns Jayhawks

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NORMAN, Okla. – No. 19 Oklahoma scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to overcome a one-run deficit as the Kansas baseball team’s sweep attempt ended in a 7-6 loss at L. Dale Mitchell Park Sunday afternoon.
The Jayhawks (19-20, 8-7 Big 12) walked a season-high 11 batters and hit another three Sooners (28-15, 6-6 Big 12) issuing 14 free passes on the day. OU took full advantage of those free passes in the bottom of the eighth inning after a leadoff walk by junior reliever Blake Weiman (1-1) and a one-out hit-by-pitch by senior closer Stephen Villines loaded the bases with Kansas clinging to a one-run lead, 6-5.
Oklahoma centerfielder Steele Walker squared up a Villines’ fastball and roped it up the middle for the two-run single and ended all hopes of the first-ever Jayhawk sweep in Norman, 7-6.
“Any time you give up that many free passes, it is hard to win a game,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We were fortunate that we had a chance late to overcome it.”
Neither starting pitcher lasted more than two and 1/3 innings with OU’s Dylan Grove exiting the game in the first without recording an out. Kansas hit up Grove for a four-spot in the frame after he walked two batters and hit another two. Sophomore third baseman David Kyriacou followed with a two-run single and KU took a four-run advantage, 4-0.
Even with the early lead, Kansas starter Ryan Zeferjahn couldn’t find his rhythm on the mound and struggled through two and 1/3 innings. He walked five batters and let Oklahoma back into the game by giving up four runs off three hits. It took four different relievers after Zeferjahn for Price to find some consistency on the mound and that came in the arm of sophomore Zack Leban.
Leban worked one and 2/3 innings – the most by any KU reliever – and was tagged for the tying run in the eighth.
Kansas couldn’t find an answer for OU reliever Devon Perez, who shut down the Jayhawks for four innings, before they regained the lead in the top half of the fifth inning.
Freshman second baseman James Cosentino rocketed a one-out double, junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin wore a pitch and sophomore left fielder Devin Foyle walked to load the bases for the hot bat of Kyriacou. The Kansas third baseman mimicked his first at bat and drove another two-run single virtually to the same spot in right field and Kansas was back on top, 6-5.
“It was good to see Kyriacou get it going today,” Price said. “We need him to turn it around and we saw a little bit of that today with his career-high four RBIs.”
Even with the 14 free passes, Kansas was able to stay in the game thanks in part to its defensive effort. The Jayhawks turned two inning-ending double plays with runners on base and had two huge plays in the seventh that gave them their only clean inning of the day. Kyriacou had a diving stab at third for the first out and sophomore centerfielder Rudy Karre robbed a sure triple with a diving catch on the run at the warning track for the final out.
“We turned two double plays to get out of innings with runners on base,” Price said. “As much trouble as we were in with all the walks and hit batters, we still made some really big plays to get out of innings and give us a chance to win late.”
That effort fell short in the home half of the eighth when Villines grazed OU catcher Renae Martinez to load the bases for Walker, who came through and ended the Sooners’ seven-game losing streak, 7-6.
Doubled up: Kansas matched a season-high by turning two double plays in today’s game against the Sooners. Those two, two-out combos came with runners on base and ended back-to-back scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively.
Dropped foul ball: Junior catcher Tanner Gragg dropped a routine popup behind the dish in the second inning that led to a Sooner walk to load the bases. The next hitter Zeferjahn faced worked another walk for the RBI and Oklahoma scored its second run of the game.
Career day: Kyriacou boasted identical two-run singles in the first and fifth innings, respectively, to collect a career-high four RBIs on the day. Prior to today, Kyriacou had just one hit on the weekend and hadn’t driven in a run since a two-RBI performance at then-No. 3 TCU (March 19).
Kansas continues its road swing as it travels to Arizona for a two-game midweek set at Grand Canyon April 25-26, before returning to Hoglund Ballpark to open up an 11-game homestand with Baylor, April 28.  
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