Late Kansas Rally Falls Short at No. 18 Texas Tech, 3-2
LUBBOCK, Texas – Quality pitching and stellar defense are not enough, as the Kansas baseball team falls to No. 18 Texas Tech, 3-2, Sunday afternoon at Rip Griffin Park.
After yesterday’s pitching debacle, Kansas (10-17, 1-2 Big 12) needed a quality start on the bump to have a chance at winning the series against a Texas Tech (18-10, 3-3 Big 12) team that scored nine runs off 12 hits a day ago. With that in mind, head coach Ritch Price turned to his most experienced pitcher on staff, senior righty Drew Morovick, and handed him the ball to start Sunday’s contest.
“After getting beat up yesterday, we needed a quality start,” Price said. “Morovick gave us an outstanding performance. He held them to two runs and we played solid defense behind him, which gave us an opportunity to play offense and try to win the game.”
Backed with a great defensive effort, Morovick battled through six and two-thirds innings before turning the game over to the KU bullpen. The hurler allowed just two runs off three hits and five walks in the 99-pitch effort. More impressively, he pitched his way out of a bases loaded jam in the second inning, where he gave up two hits and a walk before inducing the inning-ending double play.
“I thought Morovick did a great job on the mound,” Price reiterated. “He got himself into trouble in the fifth inning and was able to hold the damage to two runs. He also loaded the bases in the second inning with nobody out and got the strikeout and double play to get out of it.”
Seniors left fielder Connor McKay and first baseman Blair Beck paced the Jayhawk offense with two hits apiece, while McKay and junior second baseman Colby Wright scored each of KU’s two runs on the day.
Kansas wasted no time getting on the board in the first inning. McKay smoked a single to left field with one out to get on base before Wright drew the four-pitch walk. The duo took advantage of shaky first frame by TTU starter Ty Damron and advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. Sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley followed and drove one on the ground to the first baseman, driving in McKay from third for the quick lead, 1-0.
Texas Tech had a prime opportunity to get that run back in the second inning, after Morovick loaded the bases with no outs. TTU first baseman Eric Guitierrez singled to lead off the frame. Designated hitter Cory Raley drew the walk and shortstop Tim Proudfoot singled to center, loading the bases. The hurler buckled down and struck out right fielder Quinn Carpenter before throwing getting a ground ball to induce the four-six-three double play to get out of the inning unscathed.
Beck led off the fourth for the Jayhawks with a double off the wall in right field and looked to be the guy to add to their lead. Sophomore right fielder Joven Afenir dropped down a beauty sacrifice bunt to move Beck to third with one out, however, Damron sat the next two down in order to keep it a one run game in favor of KU.
The Red Raiders took advantage in the fifth and threw up a two-spot off Morovick to take the lead, 2-1. TTU third baseman Orlando Garcia led it off with a single up the middle. Morovick hit the next batter and surrendered back-to-back walks to give Texas Tech its first run of the day. Gutierrez drove one deep to right field on the next at bat for a sacrifice fly and scored the second run of the frame to take the lead for the Red Raiders.
Morovick went back out in the sixth only to sit down Texas Tech in order. He retired the first two batters of the seventh inning as well, before a two-out walk to TTU second baseman Bryant Burleson ended his day. Sophomore righty Sean Rackoski came on to get the final out of the inning as KU trailed, 2-1.
A gutsy call by Kansas third base coach Ritchie Price with two outs tied the game up, 2-2, heading into the home half of the eighth. Wright drew the leadoff walk to start the KU eighth. Tinsley flew out to right field for the first out of the inning before Beck rolled one over to Burleson for the second out of the inning. The speed of Wright advanced him to second on the groundout. Then with two outs, Afenir blooped one into shallow left field enabling Ritchie Price at third to wave Wright home, who slid around the tag to knot the game up at two.
Kansas brought on sophomore closer Stephen Villines (1-1) to face the heart of the Texas Tech order in bottom half of the inning. On the first pitch, Villines grazed Gutierrez to get the leadoff man aboard. A sacrifice bunt and a groundout later moved him to third with two outs. The Red Raiders went to the bench and brought in pinch-hit specialist Anthony Lyons for a two-out at bat. The hitter delivered and drove one to centerfield for the RBI and put TTU back on top, 3-2.
The Jayhawks mustered a little two-out magic of their own in the ninth. Senior shortstop Justin Protacio drew a walk to get the tying run on base. McKay blasted a single up the middle to put runners at first and second for Wright. However, Texas Tech went back to the bullpen and brought in closer Dominic Moreno to face the hot bat of Wright. On four pitches, Kansas saw the series slip away with a strikeout by its three-hole hitter giving KU its first conference series loss of the season.
Kansas is back in action Wednesday, April 1, as the squad treks south to in-state rival Wichita State, for midweek action. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m.
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