Potent Pitching Pushes Kansas Past Bears, 2-0
LAWRENCE, Kan. – In a night when runs were at a premium, the Kansas pitching staff struck out 13 Baylor batters on the way to its first shutout of the season, blanking the Bears, 2-0, Friday night at Hoglund Ballpark.
Pitchers from both squads were battling all night, but Kansas (20-26, 7-9 Big 12) fired the opening salvo in inning number one, and it would prove to be all that was needed, as junior left-hander Ben Krauth (7-3) went on to shut down Baylor (17-28, 6-13 Big 12) for seven-plus innings, striking out eight batters in the process. Kansas then called to the bullpen that continued to dominate, with Stephen Villines shutting the door for his 12th save of the season.
“I felt like I really got into a rhythm, (sophomore catcher) Michael Tinsley had a great game and was blocking everything behind the plate,” Krauth said. “My defense really picked me up on a few plays and the bats scored enough runs to win the game, and as I have said before, we have the best closer (Villines) in the country, I love throwing in front of that guy.”
The win marked the first shutout of the season for the Jayhawks and the first since April 25, 2014, when Kansas shut out none other than Baylor behind a stellar Friday night pitching performance from Jordan Piché; a one-hitter.
“I thought Ben was really special tonight,” head coach Ritch Price said. “He did a really nice job of commanding the fast ball in the zone and was able to throw his changeup for a strike and his breaking ball for a strike. When he has all three pitches working he can really keep you off balance.”
Senior right fielder Dakota Smith and Tinsley paced the Jayhawks with two hits and a RBI apiece, while senior left fielder Connor McKay scored both of KU’s runs.
Krauth was hot from the get-go, tallying three strikeouts in the first inning. The southpaw saw quick run support, as Kansas took to the bats early in the home half, grabbing the lead off a two-out RBI-single from cleanup hitter Tinsley, to break open the score, 1-0.
Things looked promising in the bottom of the fourth inning, with Smith and Tinsley leading off with back-to-back singles, but a bad luck ground ball right at the third base bag by first baseman Blair Beck induced the 5-4-3 triple play to end the inning.
The Jayhawk offense tacked on another run in the sixth after a leadoff double by McKay and a follow-up RBI-single to left from Smith to push the lead to 2-0.
Meanwhile, Krauth continued to stymie the Bears’ offense, striking out a total of eight batters through the first seven innings. Having thrown 99 pitches, Price elected to send the lefty back out for the eighth inning.
Krauth gave up a leadoff double but induced an infield popup for the first out and his day was done after seven and one-third innings. Price made the call to the bullpen to bring in junior right-hander Sam Gilbert, who faced just one batter, surrendering a walk, before being relieved by Villines, who struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam and preserve the shutout.
Villines returned to the hill to close out the game, where he set the Bears down 1-2-3 on three strikeouts, fanning all five batters he faced on the night and sealing the 2-0 victory for the Jayhawks.
“Ben is a stud, he has shown up every outing for the whole year,” Villines said. “He’s unreal. It’s always fun to pitch after him. We have all of the confidence in the world. We are swinging well, we are throwing well and our defense is unreal. We’re ready to take on the rest of the season.”
The Jayhawks and Bears square off again Saturday, May 2 at Hoglund Ballpark, with first pitch slated for 2 p.m. Fans are encouraged to stay after the game for “Movie Night at the Ballpark” in which Rookie of the Year will be played on the Hoglund Ballpark video board. The game will be made available to watch on ESPN3 or can be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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