Kansas Rallies Late to Defeat New Mexico, 10-9

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LAWRENCE,Kan. – Senior right fielder Dakota Smith and a disciplined offense paced the Kansas baseball team to erase a three-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth inning, clinching a 10-9 win over New Mexico Tuesday night at Hoglund Ballpark.
Smith led the Jayhawks with a 3-for-4 effort at the dish, including his third home run in five games, finishing the day with a team-high three RBIs and two runs scored.
“He makes an unbelievable difference in our lineup,” head coach Ritch Price said. “It allows me to move some guys around and still have some protection behind Michael Tinsley and Blair Beck in the middle of our lineup.”
The protection worked well as the sophomore catcher Tinsley tallied three hits on the day, but none bigger than the one in the bottom of the eighth to drive in the go-ahead run for Kansas (12-20, 1-5 Big 12) to send sophomore reliever Stephen Villines (2-2) back out in the ninth with the lead.
“Tinsley is swinging the bat as well as anyone in the country right now and he smoked that ball into right field to drive in the go-ahead run,” Price said.  “To put up a four-spot in the eighth and see Villines go back out after the weekend he had and close it out is really special too.”
KU rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, after New Mexico (16-14, 8-7 MW) hit up reliever Sam Gilbert, in his first outing in over three weeks, for three runs to take the 9-6 lead. Gilbert got out of a bases loaded jam unscathed in the seventh, before the Lobos tapped him for three runs off two hits in the eighth.
“Our bullpen has been really short without Gilbert,” Price said. “It was nice to see him get back out there after fighting some illness the past few weeks. It was asking a lot and it was a good outing for him.”
New Mexico was the first to strike in the first inning as catcher Cory Voss singled to center field to score a runner and take the lead, 1-0. The Lobos added to their lead in the second, scoring three runs off of freshman right-hander Brandon Johnson who earned his first career start on the bump for the Jayhawks.
Down 4-0 early, the veteran Jayhawks put their bats to work to head a big second inning rally. Smith smoked the long ball to right field to score senior first baseman Blair Beck, cutting the lead in half, 4-2. Junior centerfielder Joe Moroney followed suit with a single up the middle, driving in freshman catcher T.J. Martin around the bases to slash the lead, 4-3, while senior left fielder Connor McKay (2-for-5) ended the slugfest with a double to center, scoring Moroney and knotting the game up, 4-4.
Senior right-handed reliever Colin Toalson came in for the Jayhawks and quieted New Mexico bats, hanging a goose egg in the third inning to bring the Jayhawks’ offense back to the plate.
Smith continued with the hot bat in the bottom of the third to Tinsley and give Kansas its first lead of the game, 5-4.
New Mexico rattled Toalson in the fourth to score two runs to regain the lead, 6-5.
The Lobos’ lead didn’t last long as McKay stepped up to the plate with one out and blasted a homer over the right field wall to tie the game, 6-6.
Both teams held each other scoreless through the fifth and sixth innings with no hits or runs coming from either side.
The Lobos began to put their bats together in the top of the seventh as the Jayhawks opted to put their bullpen to work to close out the frame. Gilbert took the mound with one out on the board to strike out the first batter faced and relied on the defense to execute the third out, all with bases loaded.
The top of the eighth inning didn’t pan out in the Jayhawks favor as the Lobos were able to get ’em on and in, taking the lead 9-6. Kansas brought in Villines to replace Gilbert with one out on the board, but was unable to shut down the New Mexico offense. A pair of doubles down the left field line paired with a single to third looked to end KU’s chance at a win.
However, it was everything a comeback should be and more as the Jayhawks battled back in the bottom of the eighth to overcome a three-run deficit and take the lead, 10-9.
Smith started the party with a single down the right field line to get on base. Martin followed and reached second on a fielding error by New Mexico centerfielder Danny Collier. Junior third baseman Tommy Mirabelli singled through the right side to score Smith and advance the sophomore Joven Afenir to third, who pinch ran for Martin.
Freshman pinch hitter Owen Taylor reached second on a fielder’s choice to advance the runner to third as Wright reached on another fielding error to score Mirabelli and advance Taylor to third. Freshman shortstop Matt McLaughlin capitalized against a struggling New Mexico pitching staff with a single through the right side to score Taylor and tie the game up, 9-9. Tinsley followed and blasted a RBI-single to right field to put Kansas on top, 10-9, and it was Villines who shut the door to preserve the victory.
The Jayhawks are back on the diamond Wednesday, April 8, to close out the two-game series against New Mexico. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.
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