Untimely hitting plagues Jayhawks at No. 23 Stanford
STANFORD, Calif. – Missed opportunities with runners on base forced a second-consecutive scoreless game for the Kansas baseball team as the Jayhawks fell to the No. 23-ranked Cardinal, 5-0, Saturday afternoon at Klein Field at Sunken Diamond.
KU (2-4) tallied just two singles through the first 14 innings played against Stanford (4-2) until junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin roped a double in the right-center gap to perk up the Kansas dugout in the top of the sixth inning. However, that jolt of life quickly vanished the next batter as the Cardinal stranded McLaughlin on base with a Mateo Zunica groundout.
“McLaughlin has played well all weekend,” head coach Ritch Price said. “He walked in here with some swagger about playing at Sunken Diamond, and has played well.”
One of the veterans and captains of this young team, McLaughlin made his presence known in his home state after stringing together good at bats at the plate and making routine play after play in the field. In eight plate appearances thus far, McLaughlin has seen almost 20 percent of the total pitches Stanford has thrown (47-of-251).
In addition, McLaughlin’s double in the sixth scored as the Jayhawks lone extra-base hit in two games.
“He’s dialed in,” Price said. “He knows how to work counts and see pitches. With so many young players on our team, it is important for our more experienced players to work counts and take the pressure of the young guys.”
That pressure Saturday afternoon appeared before the game even started after the Cardinal honored 41st-year head coach Mark Marquess as he enters his final season as the skipper of the Stanford program.
With such a special day for the players and coaches in the opposing dugout, it made it even more important for Kansas starter Jeider Rincon (0-2) to get off to a good start. The southpaw battled through three and 2/3 innings, giving up four runs off seven hits and two walks, pitching in and out of trouble each frame.
“When you pitch against a team that is a national power like Stanford, you have to mix your pitches,” Price said. “When (Rincon) was able to mix his breaking ball and changeup, and locate his fastball, he was productive. When the ball was elevated, that is when Stanford starting hitting the ball.”
Rincon exited the game with two outs in the fourth inning with runners at second and third. Junior righty Tyler Davis came on in the tight spot, and was able to record the strikeout to get out of the jam. Davis, and relievers Zack Leban and Chase Kaplan combined to throw the final four and 1/3 innings, allowing just a single run to cross the plate in the fifth.
“We were better today than we were yesterday,” Price said. “We made progress. Tomorrow we have to come in here and make some more progress. If we can do that, we can go home and take a big step forward during our long homestand.”
Outside of McLaughlin’s double, sophomore third baseman David Kyriacou notched the other two Kansas hits, both singles. His 2-for-4 effort at the plate along with three combined walks from left fielder Devin Foyle, first baseman Marcus Wheeler and second baseman James Cosentino gave the Jayhawks baserunners, but they weren’t able to convert.
The best scoring opportunity for KU came in the eighth inning. Wheeler and Cosentino led off the frame with back-to-back walks that sent two-straight freshman to the plate with a chance to drive in the first run for Kansas on the weekend. Right fielder Brett Vosik popped up to short before pinch hitter Kaimana Souza-Paaluhi popped up to the first baseman to send McLaughlin to the plate with two down. McLaughlin worked the count full, and on the seventh pitch of the at bat, he checked his swing and was called out by the home plate umpire Kellen Levy.
With that scoring opportunity squandered and the Jayhawks being shutout in consecutive games for the first time since 1981, Kansas will send crafty lefty Taylor Turski to the mound to try and steal a win before heading back to Lawrence. Turski kept then-No. 16 Virginia quiet through six innings, and Price hopes he can do much of the same Sunday in the series finale.
“I hope we get the same type of effort he (Turski) gave us against Virginia,” Price said. “Stanford struggles with the changeup and the breaking ball. We have to get ahead and mix pitches to where we don’t have to throw a lot of fastballs. We have the right guy throwing tomorrow. He will pitch to contact and not surrender any walks. If he can keep the ball down, we are going to be ok.”
The series finale against the Cardinal is slated for Sunday, Feb. 26, at 1 p.m. (CST). Fans can watch the game live on the Pac-12 Digital Network or tune into the audio broadcast at KUAthletics.com/Radio, or on the official “Kansas Jayhawks” mobile app.
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