Late No. 3 TCU home run stuns Jayhawks

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FORT WORTH, Texas – A seventh-inning home run by No. 3 TCU silenced the Kansas bats as the Jayhawks fell late to the Horned Frogs, 3-1, Friday night at Lupton Stadium.
KU (8-9, 0-1 Big 12) led the ballgame from the third inning on until TCU (13-4, 1-0 Big 12) knocked Jayhawk starter Sean Rackoski out of the game and tied it up in the sixth inning, 1-1. Rackoski’s night ended after five and 1/3 innings and a questionable safe call at first base, that ended up being the tying run in the frame.
“That was a huge play that happened,” head coach Ritch Price said. “If Rackoski gets us through the six, it is a 1-0 ballgame. We still had plenty of opportunities and couldn’t produce.”
TCU second baseman Cam Warner hit a slow chopper just passed the mound where KU shortstop Matt McLaughlin took a great rout to the ball and fired it to first base. The throw appeared to beat Warner down the line and first baseman Owen Taylor held the bag, but first base umpire Perry Costello saw it differently and made the safe call.
Instead of nobody on and two outs, Price called to his bullpen with one out and a runner at first and brought in lefty veteran Blake Weiman. The southpaw walked Horned Frog catcher Evan Skoug and hit Luken Baker to load the bases. The ensuing batter Josh Watson managed to line a pitch to left field where Kansas’ Peyton Grassanovits made a diving catch – one of three nice plays on the night for the redshirt-freshman.
However, because of the dive, Warner was able to tag on the sacrifice fly and TCU tied the game up, 1-1.
After another TCU single, Price made another move to bring in reliever Zack Leban (0-1) with two down and the bases juiced. Humming his fastball in at 95 MPH, Leban recorded the biggest strikeout of the game at that time by fanning Elliott Barzilli to end the frame and keep the contest knotted up, 1-1.
Leban trotted back out for the seventh and with one swing, the Horned Frogs took the lead. On an 0-2 pitch, TCU’s Ryan Merrill drove one deep over the wall in right field to take the lead away from the Jayhawks, 2-1.
“Leban did a nice job,” Price said. “Obviously they are a really good offensive club. This is a hard place to hit with the wind blowing in. The home run (Merrill) hit in the seventh inning, he absolutely smoked that ball.”
TCU tacked on another run in the eighth and took a 3-1 lead. Kansas showed a spark in the ninth inning and loaded the bases with one out to bring freshman James Cosentino to the plate. The rookie just missed a hanging curve and grounded into the four-six-three double play and allowed the Horned Frogs to exhale in a sigh of relief.
“We just needed a clutch hit and we had opportunities,” Price said. “We hit into three double plays today. In the last inning, I was pumped up Cosentino got to the plate. He just missed it – that is a ball he could have hit out of here. We have to bounce back tomorrow and find a way to win a ballgame.”
Sophomore centerfielder Rudy Karre led the Jayhawks with a 2-for-3 effort at the plate while McLaughlin drove in the only run for Kansas in the third inning – an RBI-single up the middle to score Cosentino.
The Jayhawks and the Horned Frogs continue the series Saturday, March 18, with first pitch slated for 5 p.m. Fans can watch the game live on Fox Sports Southwest or tune into the audio broadcast on the Jayhawk Radio Network via or on the official “Kansas Jayhawks” mobile app.
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