Jayhawks Back on Track, Top Michigan, 6-5
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Effective at bats in the fifth inning proved to be the difference maker, as the Kansas baseball team snapped a three-game skid Friday afternoon with a 6-5 win over Michigan at Hoglund Ballpark.
With a young pitching staff and a recent bout with inconsistency on offense, the Jayhawks (7-11) needed to find a way to get back to their winning ways and grab some momentum as the non-conference schedule begins to wind down.
“It feels good to get the momentum back in our dugout and snap our three-game losing streak,” head coach Ritch Price said. “It was two power-five conferences playing here today and that was a great college baseball game.”
Six different position players contributed to the 10-hit performance by Kansas, with senior right fielder Connor McKay leading the charge, with a 3-for-5 effort at the plate including a home run and a double.
“I made some adjustments to my stance with the help of the coaches and my swing feels good right now,” McKay Said. “I felt good up there.”
Junior left-hander Ben Krauth (3-2) controlled the mound for the Jayhawks through six and two-thirds innings, striking out six Michigan players, giving up eight hits and allowing five runs.
“Krauth has gotten better each of his last three outings,” Price said. “He has gotten a better feel for both his changeup and breaking ball.”
Michigan (10-7) was the first to strike in the top of the first, putting a two-spot on the board to take the lead, 2-0. The Wolverines capitalized on a blunder by Kansas sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley, who sailed the throw to second on a steal to centerfield, scoring a run and advancing another baserunner to third. A double to left center by junior left fielder Cody Bruder drove in another run before Krauth worked his magic to get the strikeout and end the frame.
“Michigan is a quality team with a quality record,” Price said. “I really like their team.”
The Jayhawks, who have been quiet offensively during their recent games, had a booming performance in the bottom of the second with three hits and two runs to tie the game.
Senior first baseman Blair Beck got the bats going for the Jayhawks with a double to left field, followed by a career-first triple from junior designated hitter Steve Goldstein to score Beck, cutting the Wolverine lead to one, 2-1. The hits kept on coming as freshman third baseman Matt McLaughlin singled up the middle to score Goldstein and tie the game up, 2-2.
The middle of the Jayhawk lineup saw three up and three down to end the frame, stranding the lone baserunner.
Tinsley started the bottom of the third with a double to right center to earn his first hit of the game and spark a three-hit day. Senior right fielder Dakota Smith got on base with a walk from Michigan pitcher Brett Adcock (2-2). The Jayhawk offense was unable to put their bats to work and stranded both men on base.
Michigan catcher Kendall Patrick then smoked the long ball to center to tack on a run and get the lead back, 3-2 in the top of the fourth.
The fifth inning proved to be a big inning for Kansas offensively with six Jayhawks getting on base with three hits, three runs and the lead. McKay hit a leadoff double to start the offense, followed by junior second baseman Colby Wright wearing his 10th pitch of the season; he leads the Big-12 in on-base percentage.
Tinsley followed with the bunt-single to third to load the bases before Smith followed Wright’s trend, and wore a pitch to get on and score McKay, tying the game, 3-3. A pitching change by Michigan brought righty Jackson Lamb to the bump with the bases for the second time in the inning.
Beck roped an RBI-single to drive Wright home and give KU the lead, 4-3. Junior infielder Jacob Boylan pinch hit for Goldstein to score Tinsley with a single through the left side to push the lead to two runs, 5-3.
The Wolverines chipped away in the top of the sixth with one run and one hit to cut the lead back to one, 5-4. Krauth was able to dig himself out of a self-made hole to end the frame.
In the sixth, McKay smashed a dinger to centerfield for his first home run on the season and added to the lead, 6-4. Michigan opted for a pitching change thereafter bringing in righty Mac Lozer who silenced the Jayhawks offense.
“The home run was crushed,” Price said. “He has light tower power and all of the tools in the world, he just has to put it together mentally.”
The Wolverines put a run on the board in the seventh to cut the lead, 5-4. Junior righty Sam Gilbert came in to relieve Krauth to get the crucial last out of the frame.
Sophomore right-handed closer Stephen Villines (5) came on in the top of the eighth with a 6-5 lead and did his thing to close out the game and preserve the Kansas victory.
The Jayhawks are back at Hoglund Ballpark, Saturday, March 14, for game two of the three-game series against Michigan. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. Fans can watch the game live on ESPN3 or tune in to the live broadcast on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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