Jayhawks Swept at Oklahoma, 8-7, in Extras
NORMAN, Okla. – For the third time in four days the Kansas baseball team found itself in an extra-inning bout succumbing to the series sweep by the Sooners, 8-7, Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
Trailing 6-2, Kansas (11-20, 1-5 Big 12) rallied in the seventh inning to score three runs to cut the deficit to one, only to follow in the eighth to take the lead off a two-run single up the middle by senior left fielder Connor McKay; its first lead over the Sooners (22-12, 6-3 Big 12) since a blown four-run lead in the ninth Thursday night.
“We kept grinding and took advantage of their bullpen,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We played a good game offensively and battled back late in the game to take the lead. We never quit.”
The lead didn’t last long as the Jayhawks called to their sophomore closer Stephen Vililnes for the six-out save. The sidearm hurler pitched effectively in the eighth but surrendered a run off some bad luck baseball. A leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt and Oklahoma had the tying run in scoring position. Villines left a pitch up and Sooner second baseman Kolbey Carpenter smacked one to right field toward Blair Beck, who assumed the position after Price went to the bench to try and manufacture some runs.
Beck ran up on the ball and rifled it toward sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley, but the throw was a little up the line and Hunter Haley slid around the tag to tie it up in the eighth and make way for an exciting ninth.
Tinsley did his job in the top of the frame to get on with a single to right field. Beck followed and roped one on a line right at the right fielder for the first out of the inning. Sophomore centerfielder Joven Afenir followed with the bunt-single to third and put runners at first and second with one out, giving the Jayhawks a chance to retake the lead. Junior second baseman Colby Wright grounded to first, advancing the runners up a base with two outs for senior right fielder Dakota Smith.
Behind in the count, Smith tagged a ball on the button and hit a line shot to the opposite field where OU right fielder Taylor Alspaugh snagged it out of the air without taking a step to end the inning with the score still tied, 7-7.
After a leadoff single by Oklahoma first baseman Anthony Hermelyn in the ninth, Villines sat the next three batters down to give the fans what they wanted, free baseball. Defensive replacement Ryan Pidhaichuk led off the 10th inning with a single through the right side, but OU reliever and shortstop Sheldon Neuse (1-1) struck out the next three batters to send it to the home half with the chance of another walk off.
Kansas made another call to the pen and brought in freshman righty Brandon Johnson (0-1). The rook induced a quick foul out, before hitting the next batter. Carpenter drew the four-pitch walk to force another pitching change, this time to Kansas southpaw Ryan Jackson. The freshman worked fast and got ahead in the count 0-2, but Alspaugh hit the waste pitch up the middle for the game winning RBI-single to walk it off for the second time in three days for the Sooners.
“We are really competitive right now,” Price said. “We are right there. We were better this weekend than we were last weekend and our pitching took a big step forward.”
The Jayhawks tallied 14 hits on the day to round out a 32-hit effort on the weekend, while scoring 16 runs in the series. McKay (2-for-6), Tinsley (3-for-5) and Beck (2-for-5) boasted multiple-hit performances while seven other KU players tallied a hit. McKay added two RBIs to his season total with Tinsley and Beck each adding one.
Kansas starter Drew Morovick struggled with command through three innings of work, throwing 79 pitches against 19 OU batters. The righty gave up four walks and six hits, allowing four runs in the process.
The Sooners hit up Morovick for a run in the first after a single, walk and a single loaded the bases for Neuse. The shortstop drove one to deep left field for the sacrifice fly and drive in the first run of the game to put OU on top, 1-0.
Kansas tied it up in the third, 1-1, with a little help from the nine-hole hitter centerfielder Joe Moroney. The junior wore a pitch to get on base and showed off his speed with a swipe of second base to get into scoring position with no outs. Senior shortstop Justin Protacio did his job and advanced him to third on an infield groundout to first base. On the next pitch, Moroney took home on a wild pitch and cleaned the slate for Morovick to go back out in the third.
The KU hurler’s woes on the hill continued as the Sooners roughed him up for a three-spot to take the three-run lead in the third. Morovick allowed two-straight hits to leadoff the inning before recording his first out. A single and a double later, the Jayhawks found themselves in a three-run hole, 4-1.
Smith took the fourth inning into his own hands and hit a two-out bomb deep over the wall in left field to cut the Sooners lead in half, 4-2. The Jayhawks then called to the bullpen to bring in sophomore righty Sean Rackoski.
Rackoski set the tone early and worked back-to-back scoreless innings, including a one-two-three fifth. However, the Sooners’ offense attacked the hurler for two runs in the sixth to increase their lead, 6-2.
Kansas wasn’t done yet and rallied in the seventh to make it a one-run game. Protacio led off the inning with a single through the left side. McKay followed with an infield single to the pitcher to move runners to first and second for freshman Matt McLaughlin. The rookie third baseman scorched a fastball deep into the left center gap for the RBI-double and advanced runners to second and third for Tinsley with no outs.
Tinsley looked the opposite way and drilled one through the left side for the RBI-single, cutting OU’s lead to two. Beck kept it rolling and blasted a sacrifice fly to left field to bring in the third run of the frame and give the Jayhawks a fighting chance, 6-5.
Wright led off the eighth with a single to right field to start another two-run rally for KU. Freshman Owen Taylor followed with a one-out pinch hit single before Protacio drew the walk to load the bases for McKay. Then on the first pitch, McKay smoked one up the middle for the two RBI-single and give Kansas its first lead, 7-6.
Oklahoma tied it up in the home half after tagging KU closer Villines for a run.
After a scoreless ninth for both teams, the Sooners came out in the 10th and kept the Jayhawks off the board and turned around to win it in the home half with the walk-off RBI-single by Alspaugh, 8-7.
The Jayhawks are back in action this week Tuesday, April 7 and Wednesday, April 8 as they host New Mexico in midweek fashion. Both games can be seen on ESPN3 and heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.