Late Rally Ends Short at No. 2 LSU, 8-5
BATON ROUGE, La. – Five runs late proved not enough as the Kansas baseball team dropped its second-straight game to No. 2 LSU, 8-5, Saturday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium.
Trailing 8-0 in the sixth inning, the Jayhawks (0-2) scrapped out two singles to set the table for senior right fielder Dakota Smith to drive in KU’s first run of the game.
With runners at the corners and one out, Smith drove a sacrifice fly deep to right to score senior shortstop Justin Protacio from third and upset the shutout bid for the Tigers (2-0).
Junior third baseman Tommy Mirabelli took matters into his own hands in the top half of the seventh inning, contributing a three-spot with one swing of the bat. Mirabelli squared up a high-and-tight fastball and blasted a three-run shot down the right field line for the first bomb of his career and cut the LSU lead in half, 8-4.
“We had second and first, and I put myself in a two-strike count,” Mirabelli said. “All I was trying to do was put the ball in play and good things happen when you put balls in play. I put some backspin on the ball and took it over the fence.”
Head coach Ritch Price added, “It was nice to see, the kid has talent. He had a tough year last year, and it was nice to see him clutch up and put a big swing on the baseball.”
That three-run jack pulled Kansas within four runs and kept the game manageable late, especially after giving up a seven-spot in the LSU half of the fifth inning that dug an 8-0 hole for the Jayhawks.
LSU second baseman Kramer Robertson drove a single up the middle off of Kansas southpaw Ben Krauth to spark the fifth-inning rally for the Tigers. The squad combined for seven runs off seven hits, including two doubles, facing three different Jayhawk pitchers in the frame.
Krauth (0-1) cruised through the first four innings in his KU debut, giving up just one run off three hits. However, the three hits he gave up in the fifth ended his day after a 74-pitch effort that included two walks and two strikeouts. He was credited with four earned runs on the day.
The Jayhawks added another run in the eighth, after a one-out triple by senior Connor McKay. The left fielder drove one to the right-center gap and legged out the three-bagger to put himself in a position to score. Freshman first baseman Owen Taylor followed suit in his first career at bat and roped the first pitch he saw down the left field line for the RBI-double to cut the LSU lead to three, 8-5.
Kansas kept fighting late and managed to get the tying run to the plate in the top half of the ninth, after Protacio led the inning off with a single through the left side, one of his three hits on the day, and sophomore centerfielder Joven Afenir followed with a four-pitch walk. However, the Jayhawks couldn’t find enough to muster any runs and fell to the Tigers, 8-5.
“I was proud of the toughness we showed in our dugout,” Price said. “We were down 8-1 and had an awful fifth inning. But we fought and competed, and got the tying run to the dish in the ninth. All you can do then is hope for something special to happen, but we just came up short.”
The Jayhawks are back on the diamond for the final game of the three-game series against the Tigers, Sunday, Feb. 15, for a 1 p.m. first pitch. Sophomore right-hander Sean Rackoski is expected to make his first-career start for Kansas, while freshman righty Jake Godfrey will get the nod for LSU.
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