Young Kansas team powers past Omaha, 11-1
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Graced with six freshmen in the starting lineup, the Kansas baseball team erupted for 15 hits against Omaha to pick up its second win of the season, 11-1, Tuesday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (2-2) relied on three quality innings from rookie starter Ryan Zeferjahn (1-0) who lit up the radar gun from the very first pitch. Sitting 92-94 MPH, Zeferjahn used his fastball to overpower the Mavericks (1-4) in an abbreviated three-inning start.
“There is no doubt in my mind Zeferjahn is the real deal,” head coach Ritch Price said. “He would have been a top-five round draft pick a year ago had he not expressed so much interest in coming to school, and we are glad he is here.”
Zeferjahn worked three innings and faced 15 batters. He allowed just the lone run off five hits and a walk, all while striking out four batters in the 68-pitch effort.
“He has the makings to be one of the best pitchers at Kansas when it is all said and done,” Price said. “We will continue to use him in this midweek role and develop him as a young pitcher. Once he is ready, we will move him along to the weekend.”
Zeferjahn was able to work with ease, especially after his classmates sparked the five-run rally in the second inning.
Catcher Jaxx Groshans led the frame off with a walk, before second baseman James Cosentino singled up the middle. Designated hitter Kaimana Souza-Paaluhi laid down the bunt single and the bases were loaded with all freshmen, and another one due up at the plate, third baseman Benjamin Sems.
“This is my 23rd year at the Division I level, and this is the youngest team I have ever coached,” Price said. “We have to continue to play the young guys and develop them, but this class has the potential of being great once they get the necessary experience they need.”
In addition to the six freshmen in the starting lineup, another three found their way on to the field for a total of nine rookies playing out of the 21 Jayhawks that saw action. Seven of the 15 Jayhawk hits came from the bat of a freshman. Cosentino and Souza-Paaluhi boasted two hits and two runs a piece, while Sems, centerfielder Mateo Zunica and right fielder Brett Vosik each tallied one base knock.
Sophomore first baseman David Kyriacou led all hitters with a 3-for-5 effort at the plate with a triple and two RBIs. Junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin tallied two hits with three RBIs and three runs scored while sophomore left fielder Devin Foyle had two hits, two RBIs and a run scored.
Following the strong three innings from Zeferjahn, Price sent out junior lefty Blake Weiman for three innings of two-hit, scoreless ball, and then freshman Gabriel Sotomayor, junior Chase Kaplan and sophomore Zack Leban, to close out the final three innings and preserver the victory, 11-1.
“This is the deepest we have ever been in the bullpen,” Price said. “When you look at it, it is a Tuesday game and we ran five guys out there that threw 90-plus MPH. You have to win your midweek games as a power five conference if you want to make the NCAA Tournament, and we are aligned to be able to compete to do just that.”
The Jayhawks travel to No. 20 Stanford for a three-game series at Sunken Diamond, Feb. 24-26, before returning home to host Oral Roberts, Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Hoglund Ballpark.
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