Bullpen Falters Late, Jayhawks Fall to BU, 6-3
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After seven and one-third innings of quality work by senior righty Drew Morovick, the KU bullpen couldn’t fire enough bullets to stay out of the big innings late, as the Jayhawks dropped game two of the weekend set with Baylor, 6-2, Saturday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
Morovick (4-4) steadied the ship through the first seven frames, allowing just two runs to cross home plate. The trusty hurler got into trouble after recording the first out in the eighth, and that’s when Kansas head coach Ritch Price called to the bullpen to get the squad through the remainder of the game.
The pen proceeded to give up two Baylor (18-28, 7-13) runs in both the eighth and ninth innings, digging a hole too deep for Kansas (20-27, 7-10) to climb out of.
“That was a good quality start for us,” Price said. “Drew went seven innings and holds them to three runs, which gave us an opportunity to win. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from him.”
The Jayhawks tallied eight hits on the day, but none was bigger than the two-out stroke by freshman designated hitter Owen Taylor, who mashed the first home run of his career in the seventh inning. Senior left fielder Connor McKay (2-for-5) added a single and a double, while sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley (2-for-4) drilled two singles as the duo finished as the only KU players with multiple hits on the day.
“We have two or three guys in our lineup that are doing well right now, but then we have two or three guys that are struggling,” Price said. “They have been impact guys for us all year and two weeks ago they were red hot. Now they are going through a little lull and hopefully they will break out of it tomorrow.”
The Bears jumped out the early lead in the second inning after clutch two-out hitting. BU first baseman Mitch Price started the rally with a one-out single through the left side and advanced to second after catcher Cameron Miller drew the six-pitch walk. Morovick buckled down to get the next out, but it was shortstop Justin Arrington who singled up the middle to drive in the first run of the game in favor of Baylor, 1-0.
Kansas had a prime opportunity to erase that run in the home half of the second frame, but a failed bunt by freshman shortstop Matt McLaughlin shook up the Jayhawks’ rhythm. Senior first baseman Blair Beck reached on a throwing error to lead things off. Sophomore centerfielder Joven Afenir roped one to center to put runners at first and second with no outs for the rookie infielder.
McLaughlin fouled the first bunt attempt down the left field line and stepped back in the box for another try. This time, however, McLaughlin bunted the ball straight back to the pitcher and Baylor was able to capitalize and throw Beck out at third to get the lead runner and keep the Jayhawks two bases from home. BU starter Nick Lewis (2-2) induced a groundout and a fly out to get out of the jam and keep KU off the board, 1-0.
Both hurlers threw up zeroes the next three frames, until Baylor tacked on another run in the sixth. Right fielder Adam Toth doubled down the right field line with one out before third baseman Duncan Wendel followed with a single to right to put runners at second and third with one down. Left fielder Kameron Esthay did a job and drove a ball to deep center field for the sacrifice and put the Bears on top, 2-0.
Morovick tossed up another zero in the seventh and KU’s Taylor did his due diligence to cut the Baylor lead in half, 2-1, after a two-out first-pitch bomb to right center. That home run was the first dinger of his career and pushed the Jayhawks’ season total to 28, five more than they had all of last year.
“It felt great,” Taylor said. “I wish we could have pulled out the win though. For me to come out here and be able to get my first career home run was really special. I will always remember that.”
BU took advantage of Morovick in the eighth, after the hurler gave up a leadoff single to left field. The only out the hurler could muster was on the sacrifice bunt, which moved the base runner into scoring position and ended his day after seven and one-third innings. Freshman lefty Blake Weiman came on in relief for the lefty-lefty matchup, but gave up the single through the right side after two pitches.
KU called to the pen again to bring in junior right-hander Sam Gilbert to close out the game. Gilbert gave up two runs off five hits in his one and two-thirds innings pitched, and allowed runners left by Morovick and Weiman both to score in the eighth.
Kansas rallied late scoring a run in each the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but the damage was done and the Jayhawks fell, 6-3.
The rubber-match of the three-game set against Baylor is set for Sunday, May 3, at 1 p.m. Fans can watch the action live on ESPN3 or tune into the audio broadcast on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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