Bison Blank Jayhawks, 5-0
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Cold, windy conditions plagued the Jayhawks, as the Kansas baseball team stranded seven baserunners Friday afternoon at North Charlotte Regional Park in a 5-0 loss to North Dakota State in the Snowbird Classic.
Kansas (3-6) battled the tough conditions and pounded out seven hits against the Bison (1-5), but a couple key NDSU double plays kept the Jayhawks off the scoreboard for the first time this season. The last time KU was shutout on a neutral site was March 16, 2012 in a 1-0 against Notre Dame.
“We had four hits in the first two innings and hit into two double plays,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities to score and it came back to haunt us when their pitcher settled in for the last few innings.”
NDSU hurler David Ernst, shut the Jayhawks out through seven innings, allowing six hits while striking out five batters in the 104-pitch effort, allowing just two walks.
“I have to pay their pitcher a compliment,” Price said. “He is a quality guy. He found his breaking ball and was able to mix his pitches. Guys were late on the fastball and he did an outstanding job keeping us off balance.”
The Jayhawks struggled offensively. Six different players registered a hit, but only managed to get a runner in scoring position three times, never advancing further than second base. Senior shortstop Justin Protacio tallied two hits on the day (2-for-4), while sophomore centerfielder Joven Afenir extended his streak to 11 consecutive plate appearances of reaching base safely, before striking out in the fifth inning to end it with eight hits and three walks.
KU senior right hander Drew Morovick tossed six and one-third innings for the Jayhawks, giving up four runs off three hits, but it was one swing of the bat in the seventh inning that he wishes he could get back after surrendering three walks to load the bases.
Bison catcher Juan Gamez took Morovick deep in that inning with the bases loaded to break open the scoring and put NDSU on top 4-0, before adding another run in the ninth to round out the run total for the day. That was the second grand slam allowed this season by the Jayhawks with Morovick now allowing one home run in each of his three starts.
Kansas couldn’t get anything going late in the game, especially off North Dakota State reliever Jay Flaa, who closed out the final two innings. Flaa struck out four of the eight batters he faced, allowing one hit and one walk.
“Their reliever was throwing 90-93 MPH and was pounding the zone,” Price said. “They had a lot of swagger after that grand slam, and their pitcher took advantage of it. It was a good learning experience for our club. We have been really good with the bats, but we just didn’t swing them well toward the end of the game.”
The Jayhawks are back on the diamond Saturday morning, Feb. 28, for game three of the Snowbird Classic. Junior transfer lefty Ben Krauth will get the nod as Kansas tries to take care of Northeastern at 9:30 a.m. (CT).
Fans can tune into the game live on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the Kansas Jayhawks official mobile app.
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