Seventh-inning rally lifts Kansas to win over Shockers
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Jayhawks scored five runs with two outs, including a four-run seventh inning, as the Kansas baseball team defeated in-state rival Wichita State, 8-6, Tuesday night at Hoglund Ballpark.
Kansas (15-17) trailed the Shockers (16-16) by two runs heading into the bottom half of the seventh and were set to face WSU reliever Codi Heuer (1-1). The Jayhawks managed to load the bases with two outs before junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin and sophomore Devin Foyle reached on an RBI-hit-by-pitch and seven-pitch RBI-walk, respectively.
That left the tie game in the hands of freshman designated hitter Jaxx Groshans. Second on the team in RBIs with a handful of clutch hits already on his resume, Groshans drove a 1-2 pitch into right field for the two-run single and gave Kansas all it needed to win its eighth game against Wichita State in its last nine tries.
“Groshans is second on the team in RBIs and he has had some really big hits for us,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We need him to swing the bat and protect those three guys ahead of him in the lineup in order for us to be a good offensive club. If he starts being as consistent as he is capable of being, we are going to be a lot better offensively.”
That single by Groshans may have won the game for Kansas, but it was the long ball by both teams that did most of the damage on the day. Combined, both squads hit four home runs – two on each side.
Wichita State used a two-run blast in the second inning by Trey Vickers to take the early lead, 2-1. Freshman right fielder Brett Vosik erased that in the bottom of the third with a solo shot to tie the game up at two runs apiece.
“It was good to see Vosik finally get one,” Price said. “He does it daily in practice. I have been waiting for that first one, and he got it at a good time. Now I hope he gets on a streak and it continues into the weekend.”
Then in the fifth, WSU managed to put Kansas in a three-run deficit, 5-2, thanks in part by another two-run home run, this time by left fielder Luke Ritter.
That three-run hole didn’t faze senior first baseman Marcus Wheeler and he took it upon himself to cut that lead to one, 5-4, after he put a charge into a ball in the home half of the same frame. On a 2-1 pitch, Wheeler drove one deep over the wall in left field for the two-run shot – his first of the season.
“Those two home runs by Wichita State were smoked,” Price said. “I’ll tell you what, all spring we have been playing here and the wind has been blowing dead in and it has been cold, wet and damp. It was really nice to see the ballpark play fair tonight and see some players really rail some balls.”
The seesaw back and forth between the two clubs forced each team to use its bullpen to its full capabilities. A total of 12 different pitchers were used between the two squads, with only Wichita State starter Keylan Killgore throwing more than two innings (4.0).
Kansas junior Tyler Davis (1-1) picked up his first win of the season after two innings of relief, while senior closer Stephen Villines earned his eighth save of the season as he finished out the ninth with two strikeouts.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The long ball: On a near perfect night for baseball, a combined four home runs were hit – the most at Hoglund Ballpark this season. Wichita State scored four of its six runs via the long ball, while three of the eight Kansas runs can be attributed to the two four baggers the team hit.
First for Vosik: With one swing of the bat, Vosik tied the game up in the third inning with his first-career home run over the wall in right field. That home run marked the second by a rookie this season as freshman second baseman James Cosentino hit one in his first collegiate at bat at The Citadel (Feb. 17) on opening day.
Two-out lightning: With two outs, Kansas loaded the bases in the bottom half of the seventh inning down two runs and McLaughlin due to bat. Wichita State made a call to the bullpen and brought in reliever Clayton McGinness. The Jayhawks managed to tie the game up, 6-6, without swinging the bat. McLaughlin wore a pitch for the RBI, before Foyle walked to drive in another run. It was then the bat of Groshans – who is 2-for-2 with the bases loaded – that drove a two-run single to right field to put Kansas on top, 8-6.
Kansas continues its brief homestand when Oklahoma State visits Hoglund Ballpark April 13-15 for a three-game conference matchup. Thursday’s contest can be seen live on ESPN3, while Friday’s game will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1. All three games will also be available on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official “Kansas Jayhawks” app.
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