Freshmen Lead Kansas in Win Over Northwestern, 6-2
EVANSTON, Ill. – On a cold, blustery day, three freshmen dug deep and paced the Kansas baseball team to a 6-2 win over Northwestern Tuesday afternoon at Rocky Miller Park.
Catcher TJ Martin and designated hitter Owen Taylor each blasted a home run, while lefty Blake Weiman (2-7) controlled the hill through three innings to pick up the second win of his career. The trio helped Kansas (21-28, 7-11 Big 12) snap a two game skid and win its sixth-straight game against the Wildcats (15-32, 5-13 Big Ten).
“It was nice to see those young guys start to make some progress,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We see it every day in practice that they are getting better, but you still have to transfer it to game speed. The three of them really played well today.”
Five different Jayhawks contributed to KU’s nine hits on the day, with four posting multiple-hit efforts. Senior second baseman Justin Protacio finished the day with a single, a double, a walk and two runs scored, while senior right fielder Dakota Smith posted two singles, a run and a RBI. Taylor finished with two base knocks, including his three-run shot, while Martin added a single to his bomb.
Weiman’s planned start ended after three innings, since the southpaw threw on Sunday, and that brought in junior righty Hayden Edwards to work the fourth, fifth and six innings, before turning it over to junior right-hander Sam Gilbert to close out the final three innings for his first career save. Edwards gave up a run off six hits, while Gilbert hung three zeroes in his 32-pitch effort.
The Kansas bats started right from the get go as Protacio drilled a double down the right field line to lead off the game. McKay moved him to third with a deep fly ball to centerfield and Smith hit a ground ball to the right side to score him from third and manufacture the game’s first run in favor of the Jayhawks, 1-0.
Northwestern answered in the bottom of the second scoring a run of its own. Weiman surrendered the leadoff walk before two NU singles drove in a run to knot up the game, 1-1.
McKay started KU’s second rally in the third with a lead-off double to left center. Smith followed suit with a single to straight-away center to put runners at the corners. It was a fielder’s choice up the middle by senior first baseman Blair Beck that scored McKay from third and put Kansas back on top, 2-1.
The Jayhawks kept rolling in the fourth thanks to two big swings of the bat. Martin led the scoring off with a solo shot to left field for the first dinger of his career. Taylor took a page out of the same playbook and mashed the second home run of his career, a three-run blast over the wall in right field, to increase KU’s lead, 6-1.
“That ball Martin hit was crushed,” Price said. “Taylor’s three-run homer was a hanging changeup and it was nice to see him stay on-time and on-balance, and drive it out of the ballpark. That was the biggest swing of the game.”
Northwestern sprayed 10 hits the final six innings, mustering just a run in the fourth off Edwards to pull within four, 6-2. The Wildcats had opportunities late in the game, but stranded nine baserunners in the loss.
The two teams close out game two of the midweek set Wednesday, May 6, at 3 p.m. Fans can watch the action live on the Big Ten Network Plus (BTN2GO.com) or tune in to the live audio broadcast on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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