Late rally by No. 16 Virginia stuns Jayhawks

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The No. 16-ranked Virginia Cavaliers scored nine runs in the final three innings to erase a 6-0 deficit, as the Kansas baseball team dropped its final contest of the Charleston Crab House Challenge, 9-6, Sunday afternoon at Riley Park.
The Jayhawks (1-2) relinquished a six-run lead starting in the seventh inning, when UVA (3-0) knocked KU’s lefty starter Taylor Turski out of the game after he allowed one run in the frame. Junior reliever Tyler Davis came on and recorded one out, but gave up a three-run blast to put the Cavaliers in striking distance, 6-4.
Kansas then turned the ball over to its closer, senior Stephen Villines (0-1), to start the eighth inning. Villines gave up the lead-off single before recording back-to-back outs. However, Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith took him deep on a 2-2 pitch inside to tie the game, 6-6, and spark life back in the Cavalier dugout.
“(Turski) was special,” Price said. “I think that was the most exciting thing about today. He gave us six great innings, and when he breezed right through the sixth, we tried to run him out there in the seventh against the left-handed hitters he had success against. Unfortunately, he got off to a bad start and Davis couldn’t stop it. To their credit, they have three projected really high draft picks in that lineup, and before it was over, they really hurt us.”
Turski pitched six-plus innings, allowing two runs off three hits and a walk in the 81-pitch effort. Davis came on in the seventh and gave up the three-run home run, before junior lefty Blake Weiman induced the six-four-three double play to get out of the frame. It was then Villines’ game the rest of the way.
The sidearmer lasted just one and 1/3 innings, giving up five runs off six hits while striking out two batters. Those five runs turned a two-run Kansas lead into a three-run Jayhawk deficit and silenced the KU dugout.
“We looked at today like it was a great opportunity,” Price said. “You had the opportunity to play the 2015 National Champions and beat a team ranked in the top-20. I was pleased with the way we went about our business. We grinded and worked hard, and our energy level was high. Unfortunately, our pitching couldn’t hold on, but I have great faith in those relievers, and they will get the ball again. I trust them and they will get it straightened out.”
Prior to the nine-unanswered UVA runs, the Kansas offense exploded against Virginia ace Adam Haseley in the third inning to build a 4-0 lead. The Jayhawks followed suit against reliever Alec Bettinger, hitting him up for two runs in the sixth to hold a comfortable 6-0 lead.
Junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin led the way with a 3-for-5 effort at the dish with three singles and two RBIs. Sophomore third baseman David Kyriacou finished 2-for-5 with a RBI and a run scored, while freshmen James Cosentino and Peyton Grassanovits each scored twice.
“I was pleased with the way we played offensively,” Price said. “When you play a team ranked in the top-20 in the country and score six runs like that, we need to find a way to win a baseball game. We had some really good at bats early. We were physical with the bats against the left hander – that is their best guy. He (Haseley) won nine games a year ago.”
However, the offensive prowess couldn’t hold tight against a Cavalier bullpen that was responsible for nine of the 15 Kansas strikeouts on the day.
“Their bullpen completely shut us down,” Price said. “They came in and mixed in the breaking ball and dominated our lineup. We have to identify the breaking ball that is out of the zone and stay off of it.”
The Jayhawks open play at Hoglund Ballpark Tuesday, Feb. 21, as they play host to Omaha. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m.
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