Jayhawks Top Utes for Second Straight, 6-3
MESA, Ariz. – A quality start, timely hitting and scoreless relief pitching crafted the perfect recipe for success Friday night at Sloan Park as the Kansas baseball team won its second-straight game of the season, 6-3, against Utah in the Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge.
The win for the Jayhawks (2-3) came at the hands of a three-spot in the first inning and a Blair Beck home run in the second inning, his third-straight game with a dinger, to take an early 4-0 lead on the Utes (1-5).
“I’m honestly just trying to go up there and put a good swing on the ball,” Beck said. “Every time I walk to the plate, I am trying to keep the same routine.”
Beck’s jack marked the first time a Jayhawk hit at least one home run in three straight games since Brian Heere accomplished the same feat in 2010, something head coach Ritch Price can commend.
“It’s really something special,” Price said. “Brian Heere is one of the best players to put on a Jayhawk uniform, so he is in some great company. The impressive thing is they (all three home runs) have been absolute bombs and that ball today was crushed.”
That home run may have been crushed, but it was the bats of two other Jayhawks that did most of the damage at the plate. Sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley batted 2-for-3 at the dish with two RBIs and two runs scored, while senior left fielder Connor McKay boasted perfection in a 3-for-3 performance with two RBIs and a walk.
However, the offensive prowess for Kansas hasn’t been the issue, rather its showing on the bump, as the squad needed a quality start to preserve its bullpen after burning through six pitchers a day ago.
Senior right hander and the Jayhawks work horse, Drew Morovick (1-1) answered that call with a six-inning effort where he allowed three runs off five hits before turning the ball over to the KU pen.
“We had a great outing by Morovick and our pen was outstanding,” Beck said. “Add in the offense that we produced and the defensive effort we had, it was an all-around great team win.”
Morvick handed the ball to senior righty Colin Toalson for the seventh, before sophomore closer Stephen Villines came in for the two-inning save. The sidearm slinger picked up his first save of the season, striking out three batters in the process.
“Villines is our best guy,” Price said. “If they are going to beat us, they are going to have to beat our best guy. He goes out and pounds the zone with no fear and is one of the best guys in college baseball.”
Those three strikeouts brings his team-leading total to seven, and he has now retired the last 13-of-16 batters he has faced.
“It’s always fun to get out there and give our team a chance to win,” Villines said. “Everyone feels relaxed and settled in, and now we are just playing our game.”
The Jayhawks change sites to continue play in the Big 12/Pac-12 Challenge, as Kansas heads to Surprise to take on Washington State at Surprise Stadium, Saturday, Feb. 21. Junior transfer Ben Krauth will get his second start on the bump with a 5:30 p.m. (CT) first pitch. Fans can tune in to Saturday’s game live on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.