Jayhawks Turn the Tables, Beat Wildcats, 6-3
MANHATTAN, Kan. – In front of a sellout crowd at Tointon Family Stadium Saturday afternoon in Manhattan, the Kansas baseball team pounded out 13 hits en route to a 6-3 win over K-State in game two of the three-game conference series.
The Jayhawks (20-11, 4-4 Big 12) relied on some huge defensive stops to strand 11 Wildcats (18-12, 2-3 Big 12) on base, and get out of two bases loaded jams. Four different Kansas players tallied multi-hit efforts with junior left fielder Michael Suiter (2-for-5), senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge (2-for-3) and sophomore second baseman Colby Wright (2-for-4) each driving in a run and scoring once.
After a disastrous 10-0 loss last night, KU called upon junior right-handed hurler Robert Kahana (2-4) to get the Jayhawks back on track. Kahana tossed six innings, allowing just one run off three hits and five walks in the victory. Junior righty Drew Morovick came on in relief for one and two-thirds innings, while freshman side-armer Stephen Villines closed out the last inning and one-third for his third save on the season.
Quite the opposite of last night’s performance, the Jayhawks started the first inning with four-straight hits off K-State starter Jared Moore (5-2), including two bunt singles. Junior shortstop Justin Protacio led off with a double down the left field line, before Wright beat out the bunt single. Suiter followed with a flare to centerfield, driving in the first run of the game, 1-0 KU. The Big 12 RBI leader junior right fielder Connor McKay followed the trend, legging out a bunt down the line at third to load the bases and give Kansas its fourth hit of the frame.
However, back-to-back fly outs by junior designated hitter Dakota Smith and senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp shrank the possibilities of a big inning for the Jayhawks. Junior first baseman Blair Beck had a different idea, extending the KU lead, 2-0, after drawing the RBI-walk. With three ducks on the pond, junior third baseman Aaron Hernandez drilled one straight into the ground for the fielder’s choice to end the inning, stranding all three runners on base.
K-State answered in the bottom of the second attempting a huge inning of its own. Designated hitter Tanner DeVinny led off with a single to left field, before advancing to second on the ground out by right fielder Mitch Meyer. DeVinny then took third on the wild pitch and scored on the RBI-fielder’s choice by second baseman Carter Yagi cutting KU’s lead in half, 2-1.
The Wildcats then managed to load the bases with one out, thanks to a throwing error and walk issued by Kahana to bring up their best hitter, centerfielder Ross Kivett. However, the Jayhawks showed a huge defensive presence with an unconventional five-two-three double play to end the threat and keep the lead, 2-1.
Kansas tacked on another run in the fourth inning after K-State committed three-straight errors to start the frame. Hernandez reached second after a deep fly ball to centerfield was dropped by Kivett to lead off the inning. Eldredge laid down the sacrifice bunt to move Hernandez to third, however, a bad throw kept him at first with no outs. Protacio followed with the four-pitch walk to load the bases before K-State right fielder dropped Wright’s deep fly down the line, scoring Hernandez from third and giving KU the two-run lead, 3-1.
The Jayhawks ended the fourth, stranding two runners on base after Suiter grounded into the fielder’s choice double play and freshman right fielder Joven Afenir, who replaced McKay, flew out to left field.
After a scoreless fifth, Afenir picked himself up after that last at bat and smoked an RBI-single to centerfield with two outs in the sixth inning to give the Jayhawks the three run advantage, 4-1, and knock K-State starter Moore out of the game.
The Wildcats called upon freshman reliever Jake Fromson out of the pen to face Smith with two outs. On the second pitch of the at bat, Smith roped one through the left side, driving in Suiter, who reached on a single to right, from second and pushing KU’s lead to four runs, 5-1. Tharp followed with a laser off the bat, but it found the glove of Meyer in right field to end the inning, stranding two runners on base.
KU scored its last run in the top of the seventh inning, before Kansas State rallied with a two-run eighth. Morovick got two quick outs to start the frame, before surrendering a walk to DeVinny and an RBI-double to Meyer. Catcher Blair DeBord followed with an RBI-single to left field, cutting into the Jayhawks’ lead, 6-3.
Kansas then called upon Villines to record the final out of the inning, but it didn’t come easy. After a single and a walk by the freshman loaded the bases with two outs, Hernandez flashed the leather at third with a game-saving dive to rob Kivett of a hit and get the out at second base to strand all three runners and preserve the 6-3 victory for the Jayhawks.
The final game of the rivalry series will be played Sunday, April 6 and can be seen on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel and Cox 22. Frank Duncan will take the mound for the Jayhawks with first pitch slated for 1 p.m.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.