Iowa Long Balls Stun Jayhawks, 6-2
LAWRENCE,Kan. – Three Hawkeye home runs prove too much to handle as the Kansas baseball team dropped the series finale, 6-2, to Iowa Sunday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (9-14) did an excellent job of getting runners on base and in scoring position in the game, but failed to be effective at the plate when it mattered most. The lack of clutch hitting was the story of the game for Kansas, as they tallied nine hits and stranded seventeen baserunners; the most in the Ritch Price era. Sophomore right fielder Joven Afenir (2-for-4) and sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley (2-for-4) were the only two Jayhawks to have multi-hit performances on the day.
“We had an unbelievable number of opportunities to score,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We had some really bad at bats with runners in scoring position. Not taking advantage of those at bats is magnified late in the game.”
Senior righty Drew Morovick (2-3) started on the mound for the Jayhawks and lasted five innings, allowing 10 hits and four runs, including a solo homer in the second inning. Morovick has struggled with the long ball this year, giving up one in each of his five starts. Junior right-hander Hayden Edwards took over the pitching duties for the Jayhawks in the sixth inning, working two innings in total.
The Hawkeyes (14-5) were the first on the board after senior left fielder Kris Goodman crushed the solo shot off Morovick in the second. The Iowa offense found its second wind in the top of the fifth after hanging goose eggs in the two innings prior, mustering together four hits and three runs to add to the lead, 4-0.
Kansas was unable to capitalize on a shaky Iowa pitching staff in the bottom of the fifth and remained scoreless. The Jayhawks were presented with multiple scoring opportunities through the first five innings, including bases loaded in the bottom of the second, but was unable to execute.
Iowa took advantage of Edwards in the top of the sixth with a bomb to left field by third baseman Nick Day to put the Hawkeyes up 5-0. Designated hitter Dan Potempa nearly blasted another Iowa bomb to left, but left fielder Connor McKay made an impressive leaping grab over the wall to end the frame.
Kansas scored its first run of the day in the seventh inning thanks to a double down the right field line by Afenir to cut into the Hawkeye lead, 5-1.
Iowa bounced right back and raked its third home run of the game in the top of the ninth as right fielder Joel Booker stroked the long ball to left field to push the lead, 6-1.
“We hit a lot of hard balls today and it didn’t seem like the wind was working in our favor,” Afenir said. “They hit three balls into the jet stream to put them out,” Afenir said.
The Jayhawks mounted their best comeback effort in the ninth, after Afenir legged out a one-out infield single to second. Juniors Jacob Boylan and Ryan Pidhaichuk and freshman Owen Taylor followed suit with three-straight pinch-hit singles, loading the bases and cutting the Iowa lead to four, 6-2.
However, senior shortstop Justin Protacio grounded into the one-two-three double play to end the game.
Kansas will travel to Missouri State for a mid-week game on Tuesday, March 24, at Hammons Field. The contest is slated for 6:30 p.m. and can be heard on Jayhawk Radio Network.
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