Kansas Blanked By No. 15 Bears in Midweek Tilt, 3-0
LAWRENCE,Kan. – It took seven and two-thirds innings to register its first hit of the game as the Kansas baseball team was shutout in a midweek tilt with No. 15 Missouri State, 3-0, Wednesday night at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (15-22, 3-6 Big 12) surrendered a three-spot in the second inning to the Bears (25-8) and that was all MSU needed as Kansas lost its eighth-straight matchup with Missouri State dating back to March 30, 2011.
“I’m really disappointed in our club offensively tonight,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We had some really bad at bats. That is the thing I am disappointed in the most. We are leading the Big 12 in hitting, but you wouldn’t know that after tonight. How we swing the bats has been the strength of this team.”
The strength of the Jayhawks tallied just two hits on the night, one in the eighth inning and one in the ninth, while drawing six walks. Sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley connected for a single up the middle in the eighth and junior designated hitter Steve Goldstein drove one to center in the ninth. Freshman shortstop Matt McLaughlin added two walks and a hit-by-pitch as part of KU’s seven free passes on the day.
Sophomore righty Sean Rackoski (1-3) started on the hill for Kansas and lasted three innings, giving up all three runs off five hits and four walks. Impressively enough, the part of the KU attack that has been shaky at best all season, its bullpen, buckled down to throw six shutout innings of relief.
Missouri State reliever Sam Perez (4-1) matched the effort of the Jayhawk bullpen and threw six and two-thirds innings, allowing just the two KU hits on the day and a walk while striking out four batters.
“The young man that came in relief today just dominated us,” Price said. “He pitched great and kept our bats at bay.”
Rackoski made quick work of the Bears in the first, but found himself in a jam in the top of the second as the Bears loaded the bases with a two-out walk and two singles. MSU first baseman Justin Paulsen singled up the middle, breaking open the scoring and getting the Bears the early 3-0 lead.
Cheray struggled in the third, surrendering three walks before Missouri State head coach Keith Guttin made a call to the bullpen to bring in junior right-handed pitcher Sam Perez, ending the starter’s day after just two and one third innings.
Perez would go on to strikeout senior first baseman Blair Beck and force senior right fielder Dakota Smith to line out to second to get the Bears out of the bases loaded jam.
The third inning would prove to be the best chance for Kansas to scratch a run across the board as Jayhawk bats were stymied by the pitching of Perez through the next four innings, never getting a runner past first base.
Kansas was unable to put a hit on the board until Tinsley came to the plate with two outs in the seventh inning. Tinsley ripped a ball into center field to try to get things going, but his efforts were futile. Beck flew out to center following the hit, leaving Tinsley stranded on first.
The bright spot to an otherwise gloomy day would be the pitching out of the pen for the Jayhawks. Rackoski lasted three innings, allowing five hits and four walks, along with the three runs in the second, before Price and associate head coach Ryan Graves made the move to the pen.
“Sean was really good in the first inning and got the first two outs before they put three runs on the board in the second,” Price said. “We needed him to give us some good reps, so he can help us in the weekend. We intended for him to pitch five innings, but we took him out after three.”
The relievers came in and did their job, starting with one inning of hitless pitching by senior right-hander Colin Toalson. Junior righty Sam Gilbert followed suit by providing two innings of no-hit relief allowing just one walk.
KU’s third reliever, sophomore southpaw Jeremy Kravetz pitched one inning, giving up one hit in his appearance, before freshmen Ryan Jackson and Ryan Ralston came in to finish the game off. Jackson worked one and two-thirds innings, before Ralston finished off the final Bear batsman with two pitches.
“Our pitching has made progress within the last few weeks,” Price said. “We were better Tuesday and Wednesday of last week and then really good on the weekend, and I think it carried over to tonight. They got a three spot up and then our bullpen found a way to put seven zeroes up.”
Kansas looked all but finished in their last chance to put runs on the board as Smith and sophomore centerfielder Joven Afenir were retired quickly in the ninth before Goldstein stepped to the plate.
Goldstein fell behind quickly, 0-2, but found a way to get a hit off of the dominant Perez for the Jayhawks’ second hit of the game. Third baseman Tommy Mirabelli stepped to the plate as the last hope for Kansas, but struck out swinging to end any hopes of a two-out rally.
The Kansas Jayhawks are back in action Friday, April 18, at Hoglund Ballpark as they host Texas in a three game weekend series. The game is slated for 6 p.m. and will be available on ESPN3 and Jayhawk Radio Network.
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