Big Innings Plague Kansas in Series Loss to Baylor, 14-4
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Two Baylor crooked numbers in the early innings and three home runs late proved to be the difference maker as the Kansas baseball team dropped the series finale to the Bears, 14-4, Sunday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (20-28, 7-11 Big 12) trailed right from the get go as BU (19-28, 8-13 Big 12) hung a three-spot in the second inning, scored another three runs in the fourth inning and topped it off with seven runs in the final three frames. If that wasn’t enough, seven of Baylor’s 14 runs came from the long ball, as KU surrendered three home runs throughout the course of the game.
“When you are pitching as many guys as we are, if you are not locating down in the zone and leave the ball elevated, it is going to get crushed,” head coach Ritch Price said. “The positive thing for us is those guys have talent, they are just young and inexperienced.”
Sophomore righty Sean Rackoski (2-4) saw himself on the wrong end on both of the three-run innings, as the hurler’s day was done after four-plus innings. Rackoski faced 24 batters, including three in the fifth inning where he gave up three base knocks without recording an out. Of the seven runs he allowed, six of them were earned after his throwing error on a routine bunt situation proved detrimental in the fourth frame.
Senior first baseman Blair Beck and senior right fielder Dakota Smith paced the Kansas offense with multi-hit performances, while three other Jayhawks had their hands in the squad’s seven hits. Beck finished the day with a single and a home run, while Smith added a single and a double of his own, while both tallied a RBI and a run scored.
“The reason we struggled this whole weekend is because we have so many guys struggling at the plate,” Price said. “The only way we are going to win is if (senior right fielder) Connor McKay, Beck, Smith and (sophomore catcher) Michael Tinsley are impact players. If three of those guys are struggling in the same weekend, we are not going to score and you saw that first hand this weekend.”
Rackoski found himself in trouble early in the second inning after allowing the first two BU hitters to reach base by way of a walk and a single up the middle. Then on a 0-2 count, Baylor designated hitter Darryn Shepperd pulled the outside fastball and got it up in the jet stream to left field for the three-run home run and hang the game’s first crooked number, 3-0.
The Jayhawks took one back in the home half of the third thanks to some infield magic. Freshman third baseman Matt McLaughlin singled up the middle to get things going before taking second base on a wild pitch. A fielder’s choice by redshirt-sophomore designated hitter Marcus Wheeler moved him to third and then a RBI-single up the middle by junior third baseman Tommy Mirabelli cut the Bears’ lead by a third, 3-1.
It was the same story in the fourth inning for Rackoski as he wrote in the second, allowing the first two batters to reach base. However, this time, the hurler botched the throw on a sacrifice bunt attempt and the ball went soaring into right field. One runner scored on that play, but a groundout and another hit later, and the Bears’ took the five-run advantage, 6-1.
After another Baylor run in the fifth, the Jayhawks battled back in bottom of the sixth to pull within four runs. McKay led things off with a single through the left side to reach base safely for the 35th-straight game. Smith rode the momentum and scorched his double to the right center to score McKay and put himself in a prime position to do the same. After back-to-back groundouts by KU batters it looked as if Smith was going to be left stranded at third. However, a wild pitch by BU starter Daniel Castano (3-5) gave up the easy run and Kansas cut into the lead, 7-3.
It was all the Bears down the stretch as Sheppard smashed his second dinger of the game, and season, in the seventh and was followed up by BU defensive replacement Aaron Dodson with his third bomb of the year in the eighth. Baylor scored seven runs in the final three frames compared to the one run that Kansas pushed across the plate. That one run from KU came from the bat of Beck in the bottom of the eight, as he rocketed his seventh home run of the season out to left, but the damage was already done and the Jayhawks fell, 14-4.
KU is back in action Tuesday, May 5, as they travel to Evanston, Illinois, for a two-game midweek set with Northwestern before flying directly to Fort Worth, Texas, for the final road series of conference play at TCU. First pitch Tuesday is set for 3 p.m. and can be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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