Eighth-Inning Error Costly in Loss to Michigan, 4-2

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – A defensive breakdown late in the game sparked a three-run Michigan rally, as the Kansas baseball team dropped game two of the weekend set, 4-2, Saturday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
Clinging to a one-run lead in the top of the eighth inning, junior second baseman Tommy Mirabelli dropped a routine popup to the right side of the infield that allowed Wolverine left fielder Cody Bruder to get on base, advancing all the way to second. A sacrifice bunt and a single through the left side by Michigan catcher Kendall Patrick knotted the game up, 2-2, and left Kansas junior reliever Sam Gilbert (1-2) rattled through one-third of an inning.
Already snapping a scoreless streak spanning seven and one-third innings with that unearned run, Gilbert struggled to spot up and walked the next batter to put runners at first and second with one out. A curveball in the dirt advanced both runners into scoring position before Wolverine shortstop Eric Jacobson smoked a two-run single to left field, throwing up a three-spot in the frame in favor of Michigan leading, 4-2.
“Obviously the error was a big turning point in the baseball game,” head coach Ritch Price said. “I think at the same time we had opportunities in the first seven innings, about four times with runners in scoring position and two outs and weren’t able to get a base hit – their guy kept getting out of jams. Sooner or later, if you don’t take advantage of scoring opportunities you’re going to make the mistake and give your opponent a chance and their guy clutched up.”
The Jayhawks (7-12) had plenty of chances to score, stranding nine baserunners on the day, two in each the sixth and seventh innings, respectively. Senior left fielder Connor McKay led the squad with his second-straight three-hit game, while sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley drove in both of KU’s runs with a two-run double in the third inning.
“I thought McKay played well,” Price said. “It is good to see him going the other way and it is good to see him taking advantage of his skill set. He caught the third baseman playing deep and laid down a really nice drag bunt, and then he smoked that ball in the right-center gap.
McKay finished the day with a double, an infield single to short and a bunt-single to third in five plate appearances. He also scored one of KU’s two runs on the day.
Michigan (11-7) started the game off on the right foot, scoring a quick run in the first inning off Kansas starter sophomore righty Sean Rackoski. The hurler threw eight-straight strikes to start his outing for two quick outs, before giving up three-straight singles and a Wolverine run.
KU answered in the third with Jayhawks’ third base coach Ritchie Price giving Tinsley the green light on a 3-0 count with runners at second and third and two outs. The gamble paid off as Tinsley rifled the ball into the right-center gap scoring both runners on base for the Kansas lead, 2-1.
“It was a huge at bat,” Price said. “He has been our best hitter with runners in scoring position and that was a situation where we wanted him to swing the bat. He got a good pitch to hit, he was on time and he hit a laser into the gap.”
However, that would be the only bright spot on the day for the Kansas offense as the Michigan pitching staff found a way to get out of jams with runners on base and shutdown the bats of a once potent attack.
Wolverine starter Ryan Nutof battled through six innings, giving up two runs off four hits in a 106-pitch effort. Michigan reliever Oliver Jaskie (1-0) set the table in the seventh with a scoreless frame, before turning the ball over to first baseman and closer Jacob Cronenworth (3) for the two-inning save.
The two squads meet again Sunday, March 15, for the rubber match of the three-game series. First pitch is set for 12 p.m., and can be seen live on ESPN3. Fans can also tune into the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio for a live audio broadcast.
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