Late-Inning Rally by GCU Stuns Jayhawks, 12-4
PHOENIX, Ariz. –A mix of stagnant offense along with uncharacteristic defensive miscues plagued the Kansas baseball team Tuesday night at Brazell Stadium, as Grand Canyon put together a late rally to close the door on the Jayhawks, 12-4.
Kansas (4-8) junior second baseman Colby Wright led the offensive attack with two hits, two RBIs and a run scored against the Lopes (10-3), with six other Jayhawks recording one hit on the day. Senior right fielder Dakota Smith added two RBIs to his base knock to round out the scoring for KU in the contest.
“When you look at the scoreboard, we had four runs in the first two innings off of six hits,” head coach Ritch Price said. “It’s hard to win when you don’t score the last seven innings and only get two hits. We just couldn’t put together any quality at bats in a row.”
Junior righty Hayden Edwards (1-1) started on the bump for the Jayhawks and lasted four and two-thirds innings. The hurler gave up five runs off eight hits, including a first-inning bomb by GCU right fielder Brandon Smith. Freshman lefty Blake Weiman came on in the fifth and tossed three innings of relief, giving up six runs.
“Hayden got into trouble, but at the same time, he got out of trouble,” Price said. “He came out of the ballgame and held them to five runs – it wasn’t a quality start, but it was good enough to give us a chance to win. If we would have continued to swing the bats, we would have had a chance to win.”
KU wasted no time chalking up runs in the first inning, after freshman third baseman Matt McLaughlin, Wright and sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley combined for three-straight one-out singles to load the bases. Smith followed suit with a single of his, driving in two runs to give the Jayhawks the early lead, 2-0.
Grand Canyon answered back quickly with back-to-back singles in the home half of the opening frame. With one out, Smith smoked a first-pitch fastball from Edwards over the wall in left center for the three-run shot to take the lead for the Lopes, 3-2.
Kansas rallied for another two-spot in the top of the second. Sophomore designated hitter Marcus Wheeler led off the inning with a single through the right side. Junior centerfielder Joe Moroney hit into a fielder’s choice to switch places with Wheeler and senior shortstop Justin Protacio singled through the left side to put runners at first and second. Then with two outs, Wright launched a ball deep to left center driving in both ducks on the pond to regain the lead for the Jayhawks, 4-3.
The Lopes chipped away for one in the bottom of the fourth and one in the bottom of the fifth to regain the lead, 5-4. Edwards gave up three-straight singles, including two bunts to load the bases with no outs. Edwards buckled down to induce the sacrifice fly to right field before Moroney fired it in to get GCU centerfielder Garrison Schwartz trying to tag up from first for the double play.
Price made a move to the pen and brought in Weiman with two outs and a runner at third. The move paid off as the rookie struck out Lopes’ first baseman Rouric Bridgewater looking to get out of the jam and keep it a one-run game, 5-4.
However, Grand Canyon roughed up Weiman over the next three innings, scoring six runs off six hits, and forcing KU to go to the pen again. This time, Price brought in the freshman righty Casey Douglas for the final one-third inning. The Lopes scored one last run off Douglas to end any chance of a KU comeback, 12-4.
GCU righty Mick Vorhof come on in the sixth and threw four innings to pick up the save, holding the Jayhawks both hitless and scoreless the remainder of the game.
Kansas and the Lopes are back on the field Wednesday, March 4, for the final game of the mid-week set. First pitch is set for 3:30 p.m. (CT). Fans can listen to the game live on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official Kansas Jayhawks mobile app.
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