Jayhawks Fall to UAPB, 6-5
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Second-inning woes were too much to overcome, as the Kansas baseball team dropped its final midweek-matchup at Hoglund Ballpark, 6-5, Wednesday night at the hands of the UAPB Golden Lions.
The Jayhawks are no strangers to late-inning rallies and the ninth inning against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (23-16, 16-6) looked to be just that, as senior left fielder Connor McKay drilled a solo home run to right center to bring the Jayhawks (19-26, 6-9) within one run. However, UAPB closer Andre Davis had different plans and closed the door in the ninth to end the hopes of a KU comeback, 6-5.
Kansas pounded out nine hits off four Golden Lion Pitchers, five off starter Ciji Ramos (2-1) through the first five innings. McKay (4-for-5) and senior right fielder Dakota Smith (3-for-4) paced the Jayhawks with a combined seven hits, while each driving in a run. McKay finished the day tying a career-high with three runs scored.
In its final midweek bout at home, KU decided build for the future and ran out a plethora of young guns on the mound. Freshman Brandon Johnson (0-2) got the start and gave up five runs in one inning of work, after failing to record an out in the second. Three other freshmen saw action with veterans, junior righty Sam Gilbert and sophomore closer Stephen Villines sprinkled in to give the Jayhawks a fighting chance.
McKay singled in the first inning for KU with one out to get its first runner on base. A Smith walk and a fly out by sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley moved the senior outfielder to third base with two outs. It was then a passed ball by UAPB catcher Gabe Munoz that allowed McKay to score from third and give Kansas the early lead, 1-0.
The Golden Lions came back in the top of the second and scored five runs off Johnson who was relieved by freshman Blake Weiman with no outs on the board. UAPB right fielder Vladamir Gomez started the slugfest, with a single up the middle to score two. Left fielder Jerimiah Figueroa followed suit, with a single through the left side to tack on another run and advance the lead, 3-1. Two other Golden Lions tallied RBIs in the inning to add to the damage, 5-1.
“We pitched four or five freshman tonight that are still developing, but they are getting better and making progress,” head coach Ritch Price said. “However, there are days like today where they can take a step back.”
Several freshmen were able to get on the mound and gain experience for the Jayhawks before Kansas went to its bullpen, eventually settling with junior righty Hayden Edwards to man the mound through two innings before Gilbert took over in the seventh and then turned it over to freshman Ryan Ralston and Villines to finish the game.
“These midweek games are great for getting our young guys experience and aiding in their development,” Price said. “They have been doing really well other than one bad inning that ended up being the difference of the game. I thought we pitched well tonight.”
The Kansas offense was stagnant through the next four innings until the Golden Lions pitcher, Ramos, found himself in a jam in the bottom of the sixth as the Jayhawks loaded the bases. Freshman shortstop Matt McLaughlin earned a free pass that scored Smith to cut the deficit, 5-2. UAPB turned to its bullpen for help, bringing junior righty Blake Estep to the mound.
The transition didn’t seem to faze the Jayhawks who began to use their bats to battle back into the ballgame. Junior designated hitter Steve Goldstein hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Tinsley, who singled through the right side to get on base. Kansas collected three hits and two runs in the sixth to inch closer, 5-3.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff tacked on a run in the seventh to add to its lead, 6-3, but the Jayhawks came back in the bottom half to once again chip away. McKay doubled to right center to get on base as Smith followed suit with a double down the left field line, scoring McKay to cut the lead to two, 6-4. Tinsley drew a walk to get on base, while senior first baseman Blair Beck reached on a fielding error by the third baseman to load the bases. UAPB opted for a pitching change, bringing in senior right-hander Kevin Walsh to quiet the Kansas offense.
UAPB then brought out senior closer Andre Davis to finish off the Jayhawks, but McKay had other plans, drilling the long ball to right center to bring the game within one, 6-5. Trying to muster up a comeback, Smith stepped up to the plate with one out on the board, hoping to keep the momentum alive and singled up the middle. With both dugouts chattering in anticipation, Tinsley grounded into a fielder’s choice. The pressure was then put on Beck to become the hero, but he was unable to execute and Kansas fell, 6-5.
The Jayhawks are back in action Friday, May 1, at Hoglund Ballpark as they host the Baylor Bears in a weekend conference series. The game is slated for 6 p.m. and will be available on ESPN3 and Jayhawk Radio Network.
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