Jayhawks Fall Short in Opener at No. 2 LSU, 4-1
BATON ROUGE, La. – Junior second baseman Colby Wright reached base in three of his four plate appearances as the Kansas baseball team dropped the season opener to No. 2 LSU, 4-1.
Wright scorched two singles in his first two at bats and took a free pass on a hit-by-pitch but the rest of the Jayhawks’ (0-1) bats were kept at bay, especially with a little help from the Tigers’ (1-0) defense.
“I thought we battled them well,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We hit three balls on the nose and they made three plus-defensive plays to take the hits away. Then (Jared) Poche’ settled in during the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and completely dominated us.”
Poche’ (1-0) held Kansas scoreless through six innings of work, allowing just two hits, both at the hands of Wright.
On the bump for KU, senior right-hander Drew Morovick (0-1) made his first-career Friday night start in front of a sellout crowd of 11,122. The hurler tossed six innings and gave up four runs on five hits in the loss. It was the one swing in the second inning that proved to be the difference maker, digging a three-run hole the Jayhawks couldn’t climb out of.
“The first inning I was a little nervous, but after that first pitch, it kind of just went away,” Morovick said. “I felt comfortable out there and if you take away one swing, we were right in the ballgame.”
That one swing came at the bat of LSU catcher Kade Scivicque in the second frame. Even in the count, 2-2, Morovick left a slider up and Scivicque hit it square and drove it over the wall in left field for the three-run shot to put the Tigers on top early, 3-0.
“The three-run homer was a huge swing in the baseball game,” Price said. “Morovick gave us six quality innings and kept us in the game, but that one swing was devastating.”
The three-run bomb dug a hole early, and LSU followed with another run in the third to build a four-run lead. Kansas couldn’t seem to buy a run until late in the game when the Jayhawks found some life in the eighth inning.
Freshman third baseman Matt McLaughlin, in his Kansas debut, worked a one-out walk to give KU some life late in the game. Sophomore centerfielder Joven Afenir scorched a double in the left-center gap to score McLaughlin from first and put the Jayhawks on the board, 4-1.
“It felt good to get out there and have the opportunity, especially here at LSU in front of arguably the best fans in college baseball,” McLaughlin said. “I was glad to get that first one (run scored) out of the way and I am looking forward to many more in the future.”
Sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley tried to get it going again for KU in the ninth with a lead-off double, but LSU closer, Jesse Stallings (1) closed the door with three-straight strikeouts.
Despite the loss, a lot can be learned from an early game against a top-ranked team.
“We came here to get better each and every day of the weekend,” Price said. “We didn’t do a great job taking away the fastball today, but in all honesty, we haven’t seen pitching as firm as that.”
Wright added, “You come in and play the No. 2 team in the country and you have to remember the little things. Skip (Coach Price) touched on it in postgame, you have to remember the little things, the game within the game, that is baseball.”
The two squads are back at Alex Box Stadium Saturday, Feb. 14, for game two of the weekend series. Kansas junior college transfer and southpaw Ben Krauth is expected to make his debut on the bump, while LSU is likey to throw freshman righty Alex Lange. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. Fans can watch live on the SEC Network + or ESPN3, or tune in to the Jayhawk Radio Network for a live audio broadcast.
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