Jayhawks Bounce Back Against Northeastern, 6-4

Final Box (.pdf) | Notes (.pdf)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – After being shutout in the Snowbird Classic a day ago, the Kansas baseball team relied on its mound presence to find its way back into the win column against Northeastern, 6-4, Saturday morning at North Charlotte Regional Park.
“When you get shut out, you have to find a way to bounce back,” head coach Ritch Price said. “If you don’t, it can turn into something where you do not score for 12 innings, 13 innings or more, and you can get stuck in a rut.”
The Jayhawks (4-6) dug themselves right out of the rut thanks to three solid performances on the bump, with junior southpaw Ben Krauth (1-2) getting the nod and his first win at KU following his six-inning outing. Krauth gave up eight hits to the Huskies (2-5), who managed three runs off the crafty lefty, while striking out five of the batters he faced.
“It feels good,” Krauth said. “Confidence was huge today. (Sophomore catcher) Michael Tinsley was a wall back there all game. Throwing to him is like throwing to my dad. Having confidence in your catcher makes pitching less stressful. When you know you can throw anything and he’s going to block it, it makes it easy to go out there and pitch.”
Senior righty Colin Toalson came on in the seventh inning and faced four batters, before turning the ball over to sophomore closer Stephen Villines (2) for the two-inning save. Villines gave up one run off one hit, while striking out two batters in the process of collecting his second save on the season.
“Krauth went out there and redeemed himself after last week, Toalson gave us a shutout inning and Villines came in and was special at the end,” Price said. “It was a great bounce-back performance from the pitchers.”
Combined, the Jayhawks’ pitching staff stranded 11 Huskies while allowing just one extra-base hit.
Kansas scored six runs and blasted eight hits off Northeastern starter Nick Berger (1-2) to knock him out of the game after five innings of work. NU turned to reliever Nick Cubarney to close out the final three frames where he faced the minimum and struck out two batters.
Senior captain first baseman Blair Beck and junior second baseman Colby Wright paced the offensive attack for Kansas with two hits apiece. Wright finished the day 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Beck scorched two singles and drove in two runs in four at bats.
“Our guys are so talented with the bats,” Villines said. “It makes it one-hundred times easier for the pitchers to go out there with confidence when they put runs on the board. The team is doing a great job of scoring runs and putting us in a situation to win.”
Northeastern jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first, after a leadoff double by catcher Josh Treff, a passed ball by Tinsley and a single by designated hitter Cam Hanley.
KU answered back in the third inning by hanging a crooked number on the scoreboard. Wright got the momentum going with a one-out single. Tinsley smoked a double to left center to score Wright, before McKay singled to put runners at second and third for Beck.
Beck ripped the 2-0 fastball down the left field line, driving in both Tinsley and McKay to put the Jayhawks on top, 3-1.
NU got one back in the fourth, before Kansas erupted for another three runs in the home half of the fifth, with a little help from a Huskies’ error. Sophomore right fielder Joven Afenir singled to get the ball rolling and Wright followed suit with a double down the line in left. Tinsley kept it going with a walk to load the bases for senior left fielder Connor McKay.
With the infield in, McKay grounded into the fielder’s choice, but an errant throw to the plate by Northeastern third baseman Mike Piscopo allowed two runners to score and leave the door open for another big inning. Junior designated hitter Steve Goldstein launched one to deep centerfield for the sacrifice fly to drive in Tinsley to round out the scoring in the frame and increase the Jayhawks’ lead, 6-2.
NU fought back to plate a runner in the sixth and a runner in the eighth, but a good mix on the bump by Villines preserved the Kansas victory, 6-4.
KU wraps up the Snowbird Classic Sunday, March 1, at 10:30 a.m., as the Jayhawks take the field against Boston College. 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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