Zeferjahn's career day paces Kansas to sweep of Texas Southern
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Sophomore right-handed pitcher Ryan Zeferjahn struck out a career-high 14 batters, as the Kansas baseball team completed the series sweep of Texas Southern, 7-1, Sunday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
Zeferjahn (3-0) pitched six innings for his third win in as many starts. The Topeka, native allowed just one unearned run off four hits and two walks in his 105-pitch outing. That lone run came in the first after a hit-by-pitch, errant pickoff attempt, wild pitch and then a passed ball.
After that sequence, Zeferjahn was as dominant as head coach Ritch Price has ever seen.
“That was his best start of the year,” Price said. “He had a pretty good outing last weekend, but today was the best he has thrown his changeup and breaking ball. After that first inning, he was just dominant out there.”
Zeferjahn’s 14-strikeout performance marks the most for a Jayhawk since Frank Duncan achieved the same feat against Mississippi Valley State in 2014, and is the most by any pitcher in the Price era.
Domination for Kansas didn’t just come in the form of the arm of Zeferjahn. Sophomore shortstop Benjamin Sems turned in an equally strong performance with his bat. The let-handed hitting Sems drove in a career-high five RBIs against the Tigers (2-9), but none more important than his three-run triple in the bottom of the second inning.
With bases juiced and two outs in the frame, Sems stroked the 2-2 pitch he saw into the right-center gap, plating all three runners on base. That swing flipped the tables on Texas Southern and gave the Jayhawks the lead they needed to complete the sweep.
“With that wind blowing the way it was again today, it was important to capitalize with the bases loaded,” Price said. “That takes the pressure off you and then you can relax. It was a tough two days to hit the way the wind was playing.”
The conditions may have limited the hitting, but didn’t deter Kansas from chalking up another two triples – the third and fourth triples of the weekend for the team. Sems rocketed that three-run three-bagger, and sophomore catcher Jaxx Groshans added a RBI-triple himself in the bottom of the seventh.
“That might be the most triples I have seen in a weekend in the 16 years I have been here,” Price said. “The way the wind was playing, if you hit the ball down either line and it got knocked down, it would roll all the way to the corner.”
Sems finished the day with a career-high in hits (3) and RBIs (5), including a three-run triple and a two-run single. Sophomore second baseman James Cosentino was the only other Jayhawk who boasted a multi-hit performance as he finished the day with a single, double and a run scored.
Kansas is back in action Monday, March 5, for the first of a two-game midweek set at No. 3 Florida State. Fans can watch both games on ESPN3, available at WatchESPN.com or streaming live on multiple devices via the ESPN app. In addition, the contests can also be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Effectively wild: In the first inning of his six-inning outing, sophomore righty Ryan Zeferjahn hit a batter, threw the ball away on an errant pickoff attempt and then tossed a wild pitch. Then with a runner on third, sophomore catcher Jaxx Groshans let one get away from him on a passed ball and Texas Southern scored its lone unearned run of the game. After that sequence, Zeferjahn settled down to strike out 14 of the next 21 batters he faced.
Three-run triple: After hitting his first-career home run against Texas Southern a season ago, sophomore shortstop Benjamin Sems notched the first triple of his career to plate a trio of baserunners. That swing of the bat gave Kansas its first lead of the game and all it would need to complete the series sweep against the Tigers. In 17 at bats against TSU in his career, Sems connected for seven hits, including a triple and home run, and in the process, has driven in 11 RBIs and touched home four times.
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