McKay and Six-Run Rally Lifts Jayhawks Over BYU, 10-4
PEORIA, Ariz. – Having already hit a two-run home run to tie the game in the fifth inning, junior outfielder Connor McKay scorched a line-drive double to the left center gap in the seventh inning, driving in two more runs and sparking a six-run rally for the Kansas baseball team to complete the comeback-win over BYU.
McKay’s four RBIs came at two of the most crucial times in the game, as the Jayhawks (1-0) trailed BYU (0-1), 4-2, when he hit is two-run bomb in the fifth and were tied, 4-4, when he hit his 2-RBI double in the seventh.
“I was really fortunate that at bat,” McKay said. “I swung at a bad pitch to start and then (Tommy) Mirabelli stole second, so at that time I was just trying to advance him another base. The next pitch I got lucky with a foul ball that was nearly caught and luck has it, the next pitch, well you know what happened.”
Two other Jayhawks tallied multiple hits, including senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge (2-for-4) and junior third baseman Aaron Hernandez (2-for-3). Eldredge and Hernandez each had a single, double and RBI, helping Wes Benjamin to his first win of the 2014 season.
Benjamin’s number was called to start opening day, and the junior left-hander battled seven innings for the win, allowing six hits, four earned runs, while striking out four.
“Wes really struggled with his fastball command and had no feel for his breaking ball today,” Price said. “To his credit, he battled and did a good job at finding a way to get that third out of the inning four-consecutive times, where if they put a base hit together, they knock him out of the ball game. I told him that a year ago he would have lost this game, but this year he has the experience and maturity to grind it out and put us in a position to win.”
The Cougars also started their ace, Desmond Poulson, who tossed a complete-game shutout against Kansas a year ago. Poulson lasted just five innings, giving up five hits and four runs. As for the BYU bullpen, combined it gave up five hits and six runs, spread out amongst five pitchers. Brigham Young’s reliever Chris Howard was credited with the loss, after tossing two-thirds of an inning and giving up a hit and two earned runs.
“I thought we handled the bat and executed our offensive game real well today,” Price said. “We had some clutch hits, and McKay stepped up big. He is one of the most talented players we have had since I have been at Kansas and he has the potential to be an impact player in this league.”
Adding to the KU hit and run total, freshman Joven Afenir recorded his first career hit and first career RBI all in his first career at bat as a Jayhawk. Michael Suiter added a hit and run of his own, while Tucker Tharp had a hit and two runs scored.
Senior relief pitcher Jordan Piche’ closed out the final two innings, surrendering just one hit and one walk facing just seven batters.
Kansas and BYU square off again for games two and three of this four-game series Saturday, when the two squads play a doubleheader starting at 12 p.m. (CST).