Second-inning blunder plagues Kansas in loss to Liberty

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CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Liberty Flames plated two unearned runs in the second inning after freshman third baseman Benjamin Sems overthrew first base, as the Kansas baseball team dropped game two of the Charleston Crab House Challenge, 6-1, Saturday afternoon at Riley Park.
The Jayhawks (1-1) and Flames (1-1) played even early through the first inning and a half, until a two-out error by Sems in the bottom of the second sparked life in the quiet Liberty bats.
With a runner at second and two down, Flames designated hitter Payton Scarbrough hit a routine chopper down the line to third off Kansas lefty Jeider Rincon (0-1). Sems made a nice scoop, but launched the ball over first baseman David Kyriacou’s head, allowing an early Liberty run, 1-0.
The extended inning paved way for a Liberty double down the left field line to put runners at second and third. On the next pitch, Rincon was called for a balk and the Jayhawks found themselves in an early hole, 2-0.
“It was a huge play in the game,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We had a chance to get out of the inning and Sems made a bad throw. To compound that, Rincon turns around and balks in another run with two outs. One mistake led to two mistakes and Liberty picked up a two-spot.”
Flames’ starter Caleb Evans (1-0) kept the KU bats at bay until the fourth inning, when Kyriacou and sophomore centerfielder Rudy Karre led off the frame with back-to-back hits, including a single and a double. However, a missed opportunity arose with runners at second and third and no outs, and Kansas mustered to score just one run off a one-out RBI-groundout up the middle. That RBI by freshman second baseman James Cosentino cut the Liberty lead in half, 2-1, and proved the only score for the Jayhawks on the day.
“With as many young players as we have in our lineup, we have to capitalize when we have scoring opportunities,” Price said. “We end up with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning, and only score one run. That is part of the process. I walked in today and played two more freshmen, who made their first college start. I knew it was going to put some pressure on those guys, but I know the only way I am going to get them to the next level by the end of March is to keep running them out there.”
Price started three freshmen in the lineup against the Flames in Sems, Cosentino and right fielder Brett Vosik. In addition, Kyriacou (11) and junior catcher Tanner Gragg (14) have seen limited action in their time as Jayhawks. Mix the inexperience with a veteran starter in Evans, and the Kansas bats were silent throughout the course of the game.
“Evans did a really nice job mixing his pitches,” Price said. “He was pitching 88-89 MPH and was able to spin his slider in there for a strike. It kept us off balance. I think that was the difference in the game. Then they used a veteran bullpen and pitched to contact, and we were not good with two strikes.”
Evans pitched five and 1/3 innings before the Flames called to Shane Quarterley for two and 2/3 before closer Jack Degroat came out for the ninth. The Jayhawks managed just four hits off the trio, including the double by Karre, the lone extra-base knock.
Rincon tossed four and 1/3 innings giving up four runs, two earned, off three hits and two walks. Sophomore righty Jackson Goddard pitched the next three, giving up two runs off five hits and two walks. Classmate Blake Goldsberry recorded the final two outs of the loss in 17 pitches.
The Jayhawks wrap-up play in the Charleston Crab House Challenge Sunday, Feb. 19, when they take on the No. 16-ranked Virginia Cavaliers. First pitch against UVA is slated for 9 a.m. (CST).
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